Today’s post is about the top 5 reasons why Singaporeans are brainwashed and okay with it. By highlighting the top 5 propaganda themes we are subjected to daily and how we are perfectly OK with it, the corollary is my greatest hopes and wishes for the nation moving forward.
Because change can only happen when we step out of our comfort zones.
So here they are:
Propaganda #1: Singaporeans are told that it is good to always work hard. So we are OK with working hard all the time, even if it sometimes doesn’t make sense.
Singaporeans are told that hard work is always a virtue.
From young, we are told that it is bad to play computer games and always good to study hard.
At work, we are told that it is great to good to do overtime work, even if it is unpaid. Because doing overtime work shows your great dedication to the company!
Frankly I regard this “virtue of always working hard” as the number 1 enemy to productivity. You see, the economic formulae for “productivity” is–
“output per period/ number of labour hours per period”.
So if you do overtime work that is not paid, it is not declared on the balance sheets and hence not included in the denominator of the productivity equation. If that is the case, then we fool ourselves into thinking that we are really quite productive, when in fact we’re actually working ourselves to death, lol.
So my fellow Singaporeans–I’d love to encourage you to work hard with a vision and/or a strategy. Use your brain. Don’t work hard blindly for cheap wages.
Eh, by the way, some Finnish elites really do see Singapore as a place with “cheap and educated labour”. And then we find them condescendingly in Singapore doing business. FYI, my fellow Singaporeans–Is this something we can really be proud of?
Propaganda #2: Singaporeans are generally OK with the bad living conditions imposed on foreign workers.
This is quite terrible, and it is even more terrible when it is normalised.
The thinking is: Since they are foreign workers, they are not part of us. Who cares? If they don’t like to work in Singapore, they can just leave!
Some professor even won the top prize for writing how shit the living conditions of foreign migrants are in our country. I cannot find the link now and will update when I find it. I think that is opportunistic writing, but not without basis. Anyway here is an easier, non-academic version on this issue to read. This version on discrimination is also not bad.
Am I OK with the said terrible living conditions? Actually I am not. But I have become “not ok” because I’d seen how it is like in Nordic countries–foreigners, while on one hand obviously not equal to locals, are on the other hand in general treated better than the way we treat our construction workers and domestic helpers.
I hope this will change, and I think change comes from starting to see that there can be a better, more humane alternative.
Propaganda #3: Singaporeans are generally OK with huge income gap in the country.
*Sigh*. It’s almost akin to us not questioning elites. Actually, this income gap might be taxing for some of the elderly, especially when they don’t have enough for retirement and are forced to work. This might be once again normalised in our society, so we don’t feel that it is not right.
I dunno leh. On the one hand, economists like Thomas Piketty says via his book “Capital in the 21st century” that a huge income gap is bad for the nation’s long run sustainable economic growth.
Is there an alternative? Apparently yes. According to our DPM Tharman, our current taxes actually benefits the middle-class in Singapore:
If the decisions of elites can never be questioned at any cost, then would there be more SGD800,000 rubbish bin centres in future?
Propaganda #4: Singaporeans are generally OK with a lack of freedom of expression.
I met Roy Ngerng in Norway and we even had coffee during one of the lecture breaks. Roy is not a bad person–I respect his passion, and somehow I tend to get the impression that he is being used. This feeling must have been mutual, because on hindsight, he probably thought that I was a PAP spy.
For people who don’t know who Roy Ngerng is, he basically made some statements which cannot be verified against our prime minister, got sued for libel, and lost the case. So, whenever I think about freedom of expression these days, I think of Roy.
Roy has since unfriended me on facebook after the 2015 elections/rallies, where I showed myself blatantly as a supporter of PAP policies. What I learnt from the rest of my journalist friends is that they are unanimously blocked by him, so I guess being unfriended shows a huge sign of respect towards me.
Okay that’s besides the point. In Singapore, the mentality is that “As long as we have good economic results, it’s ok to shut up.”
I do agree with this guideline which has transformed our nation from third world into first. However, moving forward, should our next 50 years be governed this way? Would the restriction of freedom of expression stifle creativity and innovation? Or would freedom of expression lead to the unnecessary incitement of racial hatred in an already unstable world?
Actually I don’t have the answer. My general guideline however, is that with freedom of expression comes great responsibilities.
And then again, sometimes it isn’t about responsibilities you know. Because anyone can call anyone else a “slut, bitch, bastard, blablabla”–but if you know that you are not any of the names called, why do you care enough to sue ah?
So I think this point is linked to the Singaporean masses who tend to be reactive. And being reactive is not necessarily a weakness, you know. It just shows us what sort of pressures we are subjected to. In our fast-paced society, we are always told that we are not good enough, and to want extraordinary things and make a lot of money, more than the average person.
But hor–If negative terms are untrue, can’t you just ignore ah?
Perhaps we can learn to remember to breathe and relax sometimes.
Propaganda #5: Singapore is the best country on earth.
Well this is not propaganda but real to me. 😛
I also happen to think that the National University of Singapore is the best school in Asia, and that our Singaporean universities are top universities globally. These statements are once again verifiable.
So don’t let anybody voodoo you into thinking otherwise for tertiary and executive education. 😛 Check the rhetoric: are they verifiable via statistics and rankings, or are these rhetoric just fluff? Why choose foreign when you can get a better deal locally?
Do remember we still have a heavy colonial mentality in Singapore. Wake up, Singaporeans. Just because a person is white and foreign does not mean that he/she is smarter/richer/more ethical than Singaporeans–us, a society that I am so proud of because we are truly multiracial and multicultural. So snap out of the colonial mentality and start being critical. White folks are necessarily smarter and more innovative? My ass lah. Please verify your biases before you part with your $$$, if not you’re really asking for it.
Learn to be proud of yourselves, fellow Singaporeans–preach Singaporean-ism and go global!
Happy 51st Birthday, Singapore! When you guys are happily celebrating national day, I’d be in our summer house in Finland slacking. 😀 Have fun!
As a context: this post is inspired out of two reasons.
Last year, my Finnish friend Michael and I got totally vilified online when we wrote detailed economic commentaries on Finnish politics. You can find his blog here. So now, he repents and starts to blog passionate posts about…Tolkien.
I used to highly recommend his blog to Singaporeans and my very smart boyfriend who wish to read up about
how nonsense er, I mean, fascinating Finnish politics and why Finland’s economy is still not doing well after 8 years and even dubbed the “worst performing economy in Europe” by WSJ. But yeah, both Michael and I quit commenting on Finland’s politics after we were convinced that no amount of commentary is going to change status quo.
We also had people telling us that we should just shut up when all we are pointing out is simply: Contrary to political rhetoric (which cannot be verified in reality through facts-checking or statistics), there are no austerity measures in Finland (which can be verified in reality because ‘austerity’ is an economic terminology).”
So, does that not tell you about the heart of the masses? Yet today, I am writing this post because I think I can find Singaporeans who are open-minded enough to consider what I am saying.
The second reason is because recently, I had a really mean comment written to me by a Finnish person whom I used to respect. He wrote that I “don’t have dignity” because I base a lot of my arguments on “cultural themes that are familiar to me”. The implication is that I regard people as stupid.
Actually I don’t disagree that I base a lot of my arguments on this blog on differences in culture, but I disagree with the conclusion that I have no dignity. I do agree that I can go deeper in my analysis to focus more on the evil of human nature, how power corrupts people, how sometimes all leaders think about is their own image and how everything, when combined, makes me want to puke–yeah, all about human nature which transcends culture.
So before I get flamed by anyone, I wish to issue a caveat: “Singaporeans” here is a term used to refer to the combined result of the societal pressure on people living together in this geographical place called “Singapore”, as an imagined community.
Hope you have enjoyed this read. 🙂