(Emphasis mine! -Visa)
People have asked me what my vision of Singapore is. But I think I first have to lay out my vision of its people – people who are no longer stranded in the boxes of an impersonal state’s construction, but who are willing to venture out of those confines to lay down the grounds for their own lives and prosperity. People who have ownership of the terms of their citizenship, instead of having those terms dictated to them without so much as a by-your-leave. People who are mature enough to be trusted, who are dignified instead of patronized, who are able to use their ‘1st World’ educations not just for material benefit but for the purposes of self-determination, which is fundamental to the nature of human existence.
I envision a people who govern themselves through the constructs of their shaping; independent yet responsible media, judiciary, legislative and executive arms of the state, ballot box, labour unions. Where they are the foremost judge and jury, where the government must be held accountable to them, and prove themselves capable to be their representatives, instead of the other way around. People who are proud to call themselves Singaporeans, engaged and aware of their nation and their countrymen.
Singapore, then, is a nation I have always envisaged as a child who went to sleep and, without knowing it, grew to be a man. In his slumber he aged, matured, became strong-limbed and nimble, powerful and beautiful, and yet remained imprisoned in his lethargy. Sedated by peace and numbed by comfort, he was content to lie mute, deaf, non-assertive. But of late his sleep is restless, disturbed by ugly images. His once-blissful dreams have been tinged with unease. Something has gone wrong. Something is not right. And he stirs – a little finger trembles here, a heartbeat quickens there – and soon he will awaken. His eyes will open and he will discover that he has autonomy over his self, his person, that he has power invested in those hands.
And he must do this before a child’s cradle turns into a man’s grave.
Only Singaporeans can awaken their nation. Only they can unpack the boxes, sort out the mess, throw away the rotten and tidy the dishevelled. Only they have the ability and the sheer will to effect change. Our country is a child no longer. It is a fledgling nation no longer. It has an identity, a consciousness, a name, a face. It must no longer be treated as an infant, unable to discern nor fend for itself. Else, if we turn away, if we stir but do not wake, then we run the risk of losing our chance to see the world – to see ourselves – as who we can be, not who they tell us we must be.
Labels, labels, boxes and labels. Stayers, quitters, 3rd world, 1st world, old, young, skilled, unskilled, English-educated radicals, Chinese chauvinists, neighbourhood, elite, moderates, dissidents, Chinese, Malay, Indian, Others. I see Singaporeans. And until we see ourselves, how do we staunch the rotting, how do we cease the diaspora, the dispersion of people emigrating from our homeland, disillusioned, discontent, now apathetic?
Until we awaken, how do we learn how to live?