I will be leaving for China in slightly under 10 days. It is going to be a journey of uncertainties, fear and challenges. My father is still not doing well, and there are other things I worry for my family while I am gone. And yet one thing manages to supersede and suppress all those emotions – my fear and worry for our nation, my nation, Singapore.
We live in an age of lies and denial, irresponsibility and incapability, delusions and distractions. And in this international climate where the globalisation, our greatest source of progress and prosperity, is being touted as a false song – we choose to divide and bicker amongst our very small nation instead of trying to unite against an unfavourable, or outright dangerous future, that is approaching. The blatant and relentless xenophobia our people have displayed betrays the Malay roots that the nation has long forgotten; Malay not in the British sense, but the Malay one. The one that never bothered to pack people into neat little categories to create opportunities for hatred and discrimination; but instead plays relatives with all, albeit we do not know whether it was always genuine or not.
And the reason for this outcome, for me at least, is that we never did truly decolonise. We embraced the ideas of our colonial masters wholeheartedly – those about the meaning of life, of truth, and of success; of borders, of division, of race and other forms of categorisation – as we saw them fundamentally inseparable from the political and societal systems, and bureaucratic institutions they have left us, like a rule of law, democracy and meritocracy. We cannot be meritocratic without the racial categorisation, that’s a sentence that hurts my mouth when I say it.
And the new masters, those who attend school in the colleges of Cambridge learning the thoughts of our British Masters, spend their entire life defining their philosophies within the discursive constellation of that Imperialistic notion of truth. In turn, we create not a nation of explanations and conclusions after long periods of debate and deliberation, but a nation of justifications that builds its arguments from its perceived truth, rather than seek for its own truth like many other new nations have been doing. In the tumultuous post-WW2 world, it is no wonder that Singapore, a nation that accepted the old truths as doctrine, led the charge in economic and infrastructural growth when all the other nearby nations spent time searching, pondering and picking up pieces. But here we are, 50 years after the separation, after being constantly rejected by a newer world that we do not understand, unable to properly market our worth in this arena because we have never stopped to think, what being Singaporean truly means.
But those who oppose the new masters, are nothing but sheep reared in the same farms as everyone else were. They reject the continued rule, they correctly accuse the authoritarian and unfair nature of politics that will hinder freedom and democracy for decades to come, but like all the other sheep, they do not understand why. For it is not the party that we must tear down, but the ideas of those elites, those ideas that are spread via education, recited by its civil servants, chanted by the marching troops, and broadcasted over all forms of media. You can never escape those words that fertilise and cultivate your being as long as you stay here, trapped in this tiny world.
For that I am glad that I am leaving. Sure, I am going to walk into another world where rules and restrictions are a plenty too, but it is also a world that is more chaotic, harder to micromanage, and completely impossible to silence. It will be a world to find new opinions, sharpen my brain to play the corporate games of the real world, and brighten my eyes to discern who can and who cannot save this nation. But the political war is not one I wish to engage myself in, not because I think I am incapable, but because I think there are others who are in better positions to take charge of that part of our grand reform.
And I believe that change, this time, will come from within the ruling party. Again, this is where all the oppositions get it wrong – the fault is that elites are electing elites, and not that the masters themselves automatically become elites once elected. Amongst the regurgitating robots rattling rhythmic rhymes, will rise a man who understands that privilege comes not from who you are, but who your parents are; not by your gender, race, religion, but because of class. He has eyes that can see into cracks of our archaic systems that those born with ruby and sapphire spoons cannot. And I wish he wins that war, and make my job a bit easier.
Whether he succeeds or not, that will not change my quest one bit. As even if state and society is reformed, and we take a step closer towards a true meritocracy, there are still other systems to deconstruct. We need to take apart the systems that allow people who are old and unwilling to commit to change precisely because they are old, to hold paradigm shifting power knowing that they will do nothing with them. Systems that allows blatant discrimination of people along any arbitrary lines the bureaucracy manages to imagine up, then hidden behind the justifications of tradition and rules of law written by the taxing hand of the state. Systems that turn the people, who are supposed to keep its state in check, into the very cultists of authoritarianism that pray and wish and perform rituals for the state to remove more of their rights. Systems that take and never return. Systems that promise but never have to fulfill them. Systems that are beyond law and justice. The list goes on; it will be as futile to list all those problems in this speech, as it is to attempt to destroy all of them in one lifetime. But it does not mean we can just sit around and wait for miracles to save our nation. For what we have been the past 50 years, I will say we are almost out of that amazingly good luck.
And for that I must leave. But I will be back, as soon as I can, and we will make this country great again.