I’ve shared this anecdote so many times that I feel like an old man typing this out.
When I was a kid in primary school, I experienced strong racism from the Chinese for being Indian. “Black”, “smelly”, “curry” they called me. (Yes, pity me and the other minorities in my generation – we suffered and grew stronger from it)
Ten years later, my youngest sister studied in the same primary school, and she said the foreigners were the ones suffering from racism. We Indians had become part of “the gang” already. The foreigners were being verbally abused with phrases “go back to your India!” and “Chinaman!”
(Hooray to that! We love Singapore now! haha. kidding)
In my humble opinion, the tipping point came during the National Day Rally in 2004. Lee Hsien Loong, in his maiden address to the nation, made it clear that Singaporeans were not procreating enough and that we would need migrants to cover up for the shortfall. I think the flood gates opened soon after that and the trains became unbearably crowded and housing prices shot up.
So now, 7 years later, we have a presidential hopeful campaigning on the premise of “Think Singaporeans First”. I regard Tan Cheng Bok as an astute politican. He has been gunning for presidency since June 2011, and quit the People’s Action Party in May. With so much time to plan, he even came up with an iPhone app for himself!
TCB observed, and accurately so, that there is a deep nationalistic under-current in Singapore. I wonder what would have happened if he had remained with the PAP during the General Elections. Could he have done a “George Yeo” and told the PAP to wake up?? Personally, I doubt so since he was just a backbencher but it is some food for thought.
The unanswered question to TCB’s election manifesto is “If Singaporeans first, then foreigners how?” I am sure this must be running through the minds of all the Filipinos, Banglas, Indians and Chinese etc here. I think TCB will win because his nationalist manifesto is the catchiest and resonates with the public better than anyone else. (although he really does have an ugly symbol which may work against him) If he wins, I fear that TCB might turn out to be a very divisive president and split the society into “Singaporeans” and “non-Singaporeans”. Of course, it won’t happen overnight, but it could be a tipping point in societal relations – just like how the NDR was. But I’ll leave it to him to prove me wrong.
Presidential politics aside, what does it mean to be Singaporean exactly? I was surprised by the sentiment I observed after NDR 2011. LHL announced an increase in the number of university places for Singaporeans only – and many people commented back “New citizens also Singaporeans what!“. (Having chaired over a Citizenship Ceremony for new citizens, I would like to use this chance to categorically state that 70% of new citizens are usually Malaysians).
So if having a pink IC doesn’t qualify you as a Singaporean, then what does? Being kiasu? Using tissue to chope? Going for NS (for guys)? Speaking Singlish?
Singapore is now 46 years old, and I think we are now at a flux in terms of nationhood. Most Singaporeans (the old citizens) already have a set of similar experiences and common ideals. In a society that prides itself on multi-culturalism, we do not have any similar religion (we have many majority religions) or race (one dominating race and three other protected minority races). What we need is a set of universally accepted norms and lifestyle. It does not need to be articulated in clear words, but as long as it exists we have a chance of standing up strong to the tide of foreigners.
I believe we are halfway there – Singaporeans now value their way of life. Multiculturalism, being kiasu, queueing, NS, hawker food, MRT, ERP, HDB, PSLE, O-level, streaming, etc etc – they are now precious.
And thus, in retorspect, you have to say a big thank you to Lee Hisen Loong and the PAP. Great job!!! If they hadn’t opened the floodgates back then, would we still have had enjoyed curry yesterday??
P.S. I think the state media and rulinga party are absolutely despicable with regards to the whole Chinafamily-cannot-stand-the-smell-of-curry-issue. Firstly, it sidelines the story in a small box at the bottom of a very politically correct and politically motivated article. Then when the matter is made big online by smart citizens, Law Minister and friends come out in a big force to say that the matter is seven years old, it has been blown out of proportion and that there are many untruths circulating around about it. The day after the event, the Straits Times publishes a big picture on the front page with the organizer eating curry with a migrant from China.
WTFFFF. Dear PAP, SPH and Medicorp – I know you love Chinamen, but if you don’t want the issue to get out then why publish it in the first place??? –“
Anyways, the whole event really sums up why I love Singapore – primarily becuase I love curry! hahaha. kidding of course.