Singapore has many problems, but when you really think about it, our problem is with our software.
As a country, we have unbeatable hardware (infrastructure), it’s our software that isn’t catching up and is causing us grief.
Those of you who have used Windows Vista will understand, until Microsoft got their shit together and debuted WIndows 7, it didn’t matter if you upgraded your graphics card, your RAM, your motherboard or overhauled your entire computer. The system just sucked. Blue screen of death, things behaving stupidly, you name it.
That’s exactly what is wrong with Singapore. We’re basically a superpowered gaming PC running on a wonky version of Windows Vista and we need to move to Windows 7 or 8, or a Mac… Basically, it doesn’t matter how much the people and government try to upgrade our hardware, build more malls, houses and open spaces, our problems will still remain until we get a software upgrade.
So what is wrong with our software?
What is a country’s software?
A country’s software are its people and here is, in my humble opinion, the core of what’s wrong with our people (mind you there are so many other things I have to say about the society in general).
If you try to list it all out, it’ll take me all night, but I realized it boiled down to three symbiotic factors.
- Insensitivity towards humanities and language
- Shaming culture
Industrializing has helped Singapore achieve its present status, but those days have passed, our economy has been overhauled but our education culture hasn’t. We consistently place math and science in a superior position to language, arts and humanities. I’m not even going to go into how that damages the self-perceived value of our young due to this system and just focus on the results of this culture.
We are technically a bilingual, even multilingual country, but as anyone who has lived here will vouch, in practice, we aren’t. Vast majority of this country speak these languages brokenly and it makes you wonder what is our genuine literacy rate if we raised the standards for what literacy would constitute. Yes, math and science are universal ‘languages’, but being weak and therefore insensitive towards language, arts and humanities leads to one fundamental detriment in life. You can’t appreciate non-materialistic things in life.
Many things in life that fulfill a human being aren’t materialistic. Like the setting sun, acts of kindness, a touching piece of music or a book. So many people’s lives in this great world are brimming despite the lack of material goods in their lives. War photographers, although live a hard life, have a very full life. New age farmers, missionaries, activists,all these people live happy and fulfilled lives although their lives are necessarily luxurious. What opens up your mind to these, what in Singapore would be considered a ‘non-traditional’ way of life is through things like books, talks, productions etc. You need a certain level of sensitivity towards humanities and language and arts to really appreciate these things and appreciate life beyond the simple materialistic context that Singapore has dictated.
This leads to the second point, narrow-mindedness. It’s not really the people’s fault that hey are narrow-minded, they simply are unable to comprehend greater things. It’s like asking a color blind to differentiate shades of orange or pink, they just CAN’T. It’s hard for them to understand that people can be happy with a life that isn’t led by materialistic fulfillment, that isn’t what is traditionally right. So homosexuality? Art as a career? Sorry, not going to find too many supporters in the mainstream society here. Sad to say, a lot of the people here still stubbornly subscribe to the ‘Success is defined by the amount of money you make’ and ‘If I am successful I will be happy’ doctrine. I’m just going to end this point by saying that our economy is way too small for every person in Singapore to make the amount of money they desire to live what they would consider a happy life.
Which leads to my third point, shaming. If your only source of happiness in life is materialism, and the chances of probability dictate that you are unlikely to fulfill that source of happiness anytime soon, what do you do to make yourself feel better? Put other people down. By putting other people down and making yourself feel superior, you don’t feel so bad about not achieving the level of success you need to be happy. With nearly every other person in the society shaming and putting the next person down, I’m really not surprised that we’re a very unhappy country. It’s like a pot full of negativity.
Now these three factors come together to become a vicious cycle and people are perpetually unhappy.
Of course, I hate it when people complain and never discuss solutions, so here are solutions.
Now I am aware that the solutions are not perfect, but nothing in life is, all you can do is implement solutions and resolve problems along the way.
So anyways, to break the cycle, you need to open people up to new, positive values. In personal opinion, the following few are good places to start:
- Happiness advantage
- The world is your oyster
- Redefining success
First of all, we need to let people know that you don’t need to be successful to be happy, you’re more likely to be successful if you ARE happy. Second, we need to stop looking inwards, people need to see the world as the place where they can make money, a lot of lifestyles not possible because of Singapore’s size are also more possible abroad. Finally, we need to redefine success for people. Cars, houses etc. These aren’t success. They can be. But so can being a good person, or being a supportive parent etc.
Of course in addition to that’d it’d be nice if we just overhauled the entire education system, get some famous people to come to Singapore and tell the current adults in the society that success isn’t the minor box they’ve dictated, allow wider labels as to what ‘Singaporean’ constitutes, increased wages, get our public transport more efficient and stop getting parents to use their children’s grades and achievements as measurements of how successful they are as parents.
But that’d be asking for too much.
So there, just 3 not so little things.