Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Remaining Time

You are born in KK. You go through pre-school. You go through kindergarten. You enrol in a primary school. Tuition classes begin. Extra classes in English, ballet, piano, on top of normal curricular subjects. You sit for your PSLE. You enter the secondary school based on your PSLE results; if you fail you enter the ITEs. You study hard through O'levels, you go to either a polytechnic or JC. Or your education can end here. Or if you are really good, you through-train to A'levels. For the boys, you go to NS. For the rest, it is university or work. After university, you work. You find a mate. Get married. Get a place, probably HDB. Take a loan. Work through 40 plus years. Attend weddings, attend funerals. Probably watch thousands of movies. Go for bbqs or blading at East Coast Park. Make love. Go for holidays. Have children. You retire at 65 plus. Collect your CPF. You get sick. You pass away. Your ashes finally laid to rest at Mandai columbarium.

And along this life process, the Singapore political system, through its institutions and instruments of the state, imbibes you with the proper values, the proper beliefs, the proper behavior. Your outlook is schooled, your life road submitted to the vagaries of the needs of this Singapore system. Engineers, biomedical, life sciences, PPE, MBA. As this system requires, so too the available paths on your life path. As the system requires, so your humanity is gradually leached. As this system requires, so you become that little more de-humanised.

What is there to cherish in Singapore? Its a simple answer. Your life outside the system. Your tranquility in those moments of peace when the system's tentacles cannot reach you. Your secret exercise hang-out at Seletar reservior. Your secret fishing spot at MacRitchie. Your little overgrown garden. Your balcony on a crisp early rain-washed morning. Your session in front of the computer, tapping wildly away at your blog, your discussion forum. Your moments with your children, without the blemish of life's worries planted across their delicate brows. Your favorite zi char stall, with your buddies and a couple of beers after a game of football, basketball. Your moments when you are you. Your humanity. Your existence. Your life.

Why do Singaporeans leave? Not only those leaving to the first world countries. But those Singaporeans who leave for developing countries. In Thailand, Vietnam, Uganda, Mongolia. Why? What is the allure of that foreign land? Is it the suspense of encountering new rules, new cultural continuities, new options, new possibilities? Do they hate Singapore? No, more, they are terrified of Singapore, of its system and what it represents. An epitome of dehumanity. Why do they leave? Not to recover but to rediscover life.

There is little or no suspense in Singapore where the system of rational outcomes, economic needs supersedes all of life's imperatives. It is this need which requires security. It is this need that precludes participatory politics. It is this need that determines existential continuity in Singapore. We cannot question this rule. And without question, questioning, we lose that gram of humanity which accrues through the years we co-mingle with this system. When the time comes to retirement, reflexion and the shock of system withdrawal is too late. We can only remember the moments of life at that secret spot, at that first kiss.

Reader, you asked what is there to cherish in Singapore. There is much and there can be more.

But will the system permit this?

For those who left, they cannot wait for the system's answer.

Because they know, life is lived on remaining time.

Quote of the Day --

"To be happy is to be able to become aware of oneself without fright." -- Walter Benjamin


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Because they know, life is lived on remaining time."

absolutely true, great touching post

3:27 AM  
Blogger X-=][BPS][=-X said...

Nice Post, Meaningfull

5:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am that reader who posed you the question. Thank you for your reply.

I am interested in the problem of the self. You speak of two manifestations of the self: the first which seeks shelter from the intrusions of the state, and the second which seeks to express itself via the state through participatory politics.

My sense is that for you, the latter truimphs the former. Is that correct?

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice one. May this reach many people and lead them to realisation, and subsequently, action.

9:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think there are 2 kinds of people in this world. Those who get it or more attuned, and those who don't. While many foreigners love Singapore Inc. A huge number don't. And this is regardless of race, and the countries they come from - first world nations or developing ones. They cannot explain it. One of them told me, by reading the news, watching the people. The authoritarianism, something foreboding and controlling. And he sensed this only 2 months after arriving in Singapore for the first time.

12:46 AM  
Anonymous Onlooker said...

Time and tide wait for no man. As they will be the one who tell the truth when the old bones and skeletons are brought to light and laid to rest.

9:18 AM  
Blogger xenoboysg said...

anon 911,

in the modern condition, that which we term "progress", the potential of self beecomes limited; the two conditions you set on my understanding of self is perhaps too narrow.

to me personally, the self and its actualisation depends on the availability of options. Without options, possibilities, paths, the self can realise only a stunted potential within the parameters of available options.

the modern condition as it is already places tremendous limits on our modern self; in sg the limits are far more severe. concomitantly our potential is stunted. for many in sg there is no choice; they have to accept the conditions of existence in sg. for the fortunate, their choice is to leave.

this is not right.

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love this post. thank you so much.

and we must be patriotic - more filial to leave Singapore than to shape it to what we want, for only the (dreaded) opposition can do so.

5:56 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home