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The Garden of Eden: An analysis of why Singaporeans and Finns think so differently.


Have you ever thought about why Singaporeans and Finns think so differently? I’d thought about this before, and in the end I concluded that it’s because of the differences in attitude towards nature.

So today I am going to use the Garden of Eden as an analogy to illustrate the differences in premise/ foundation of thought by Singaporeans and Finns. Some other day this week I will write about this poem 桃花源記 by Tao Yuan Ming, to give an analysis of why Finns might be in general suspicious of foreigners.

“What exactly is the garden of Eden”, you might ask. Here is a biblical description of it:

“The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. —Genesis 2:9

So let me ask you a simple question:

What is the function of the garden of Eden?

Did God create the garden of Eden for human beings to nurture each other, or did God create the garden of Eden for human beings to fight each other, such as life becomes the survival of the fittest?

Seriously, just take a moment to think about it. Why did God create the garden of Eden, and why did God include a stupid tree of the knowledge of good and evil there? What’s the function of the tree? Is it to celebrate the beauty of free choice and will, or is it done purposely to cause Man to sin?

Most Finns will answer that the garden of Eden is created with the intention to nurture. There is no need to worry, because you can find all you need in the garden. There is no lack of food, water and clean air. People help each other out. Singing, dancing, relaxing in the sun, watching leaves fall from trees are appreciated. Basically you do things because you feel like it.

Are you suddenly unemployed? No worries! You’d be employed soon, because the garden nurtures. You’d somehow get help from nature, or from the community. There’s no need to worry that you’d die from poverty–the state provides and nurtures.

On the contrary, most Singaporeans will answer that it doesn’t matter what the garden of Eden is created for. Just look at the garden now–what is–the modern day earth. It IS a battle of survival of the fittest, there is lack, you can’t anyhow sing in this damn garden because it doesn’t make you money. We should chop down trees to build more buildings to generate more money and profits just in case we lack in future!

The continual propagation of “Singapore only has natural resources” contributes to this “lack” mentality of self-reliance. You have to earn your own keep here. There is no such things as “unemployment benefit”–you have to work to get something. If you are poor, you seriously won’t be able to survive with a peace of mind in Singapore. A wise way to progress is to be elitist and really be very, very rich. Basically, this implies that what is more prized is when you do things even when you do not feel like it. Along the way, if you do too many things you don’t feel like doing, but society expects you to do because it is “progress”, then you will lose a sense of what you like and who you are.

The analogy of the garden of Eden explains why “progress” to Singaporeans is interpreted as “greed” to Finns. Both Finns and Singaporeans work really, really hard. But when the average Finn work hard, the motivation tends to be intrinsic. When the average Singaporean work hard, the motivation tends to be external.

It’s very simple. If you see the garden of Eden as nurturing as a typical Finn would, then a person taking more flowers for himself “just because” is interpreted as Greed. But to the average Singaporean, if I take more flowers for myself, it is because I fear that I would run out of flowers in future and die. So I have the ability to stock up, and it is therefore progress.

Why is there mistrust between Finns and Singaporeans sometimes? It’s simply because they don’t recognise this difference in the premise of thought. And as there is more and more lack in Finland, due to the shit economy, more Finns are starting to even doubt the original “nurturing” intention of the garden of Eden. Does intention even matter, or should Finns play by the games of “survival of the fittest”?

I had this professor at Aalto, and he once said that “Nobody is against the welfare state system in Finland, we just have to find a way to fund it.” I had always found the phrasing very weird, and thought it was bullshit. You see, this sounds like a typical public-relations statement to justifying elitist sentiments, and disproportionate wealth.

But after understanding the differences in premise of thought, I think there is great wisdom to what he is saying. He is probably saying, “We should always keep in mind that the garden of Eden is to nurture, even IF we are facing lack due to the current prolonged recession. We must think hard of how to get additional revenue for the country.”

The simple answer to this additional revenue is via exports market.

Why hasn’t Finns tackled the exports market much yet? The answer is because (1) Finns are in general suspicious of foreigners; (2) Finland is located at a rather isolated area in Europe.

I will write about exactly how to to tackle overseas expansion more quickly in my next post (when I have time this week), by analysing the Chinese poem 桃花源記.

P.S. If you ask a Singaporean about trees, an average Singaporean will tell you that “trees are trees”. But if you ask a Finn about trees, I think they can tell trees apart, even by names.


  1. It’s interesting that Adam and Eve got kicked out of the Garden because they gained knowledge. Perhaps ignorance (innocence) is bliss and knowledge is suffering. Haha. The more we know, the more we judge about what’s good and what’s bad, and the more we try to justify our own actions and intentions and impose our own beliefs on others. Perhaps the way out of this mess of worldly knowledge is personal wisdom.

    ignorance (innocence) = bliss, knowledge = suffering, wisdom = peace.

    I find your analogy of the Garden interesting, especially because I don’t know any Finns at all. Opens a different perspective. It also reminded me of our last General Election.

    I think one of the main roles of government is management of limited resources – the art of distributing, allocating and saving – to ensure survival and existence of the nation. But humans don’t just want to exist (especially when stomach is full); they want to live and be happy.

    And if we truly want to be happy, we can’t just focus on limited physical resources. They’re limited and there’s just no perfect way to distribute and allocate them. Sometimes the more we think about limited resources and who has what, the more unhappy we become.

    Yet there’s also another treasure of resource that our human spirits can thrive on. It’s infinite and freely available. Perhaps we can call it spiritual resources. For instance kind words, like please and thank you. It doesn’t cost a thing. And if we say such words with sincerity, the giver and recipient are happy.

    And spiritual resources don’t belong to just religious organizations. They belong to everyone. We don’t have to believe in any particular God or gods to be kind and compassionate. I’m not sure if we will ever return to the ‘Garden of Eden’, because innocence once lost can never be found. But perhaps with personal wisdom, we can tap on our infinite spiritual resources and grow our own Garden of Peace in this world.

    Haha, enough of my rambling. Thanks for your post!

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