Finding Singaporean National Identities


Sometimes I like to watch the show Britain’s Got Talent. I am amazed by the diversity of talented people in the Great Britain and even shocked at their tolerance of the ‘lousy’ performances in the audition. I feel envy that how could the British create such an opened environment to provide the special soil for different talents to grow. There is a huge transformation in the cityscape in Singapore year by year, but is there a big change in the soil for different talents to flourish? When I was living in the Netherlands, I found that the Dutch is very practical people with great visions. I often hear that they say because of the Netherlands is a small country in Europe, they have to learn different languages and to be opened in order to compete and to survive. The Dutch do tolerate or even love what might be deemed ‘lousy’ arts on their streets. Owing to the remaining influence of the past glory of British Empire and the policy to accept different kind of talents and migrants, London is still a very attractive city to people from the previous British colonies. These are some of the important factors that have made Amsterdam, London or Paris (apart from their museum legal/illegal collections) to become the great cities in the World.

Singapore is always a place for immigrants from China and India since the British colony era due to the need of workers and business activities to build the city state.  Depending on the current governmental policies, the industrial scale of ‘manufacturing of talents’ will change from time to time. More accurately it could be termed as ‘engineered’ talent. In contrast to the Netherlands embracing the diversity, Singaporeans often follow the tone of the government about being focus on what people do to survive and to compete. Depending on the perspectives in defining the success in building of a city, Singaporeans and their government may still be right in their approach to build a great city. Owing to the lack of history of the country, and the limited policies of the government to promote diversity in different living aspects, Singaporeans are still searching for their own identities for defining a true Singaporean.  I do not find they have the right approach to become a great nation. Let me illustrate my point from  a few examples from movies industry of different countries. I love Bollywood movies, the Indians make such a good movies with people happily dancing and singing everywhere, the movies have great stories too. However, this is not the reality in everyday life in streets of India. The Japanese are very serious people, and with a very polite manner in their daily life. Their movies often depict many funny characters, and very active interactions and communication among characters in the movies. Many countries’ movies have such ‘imaginative’ and ‘good wishing’ elements to bring hopes beside entertainment to their people. Singapore dramas and movies often reflects the reality of the daily life of Singapore, the way they communicate, the local accent, the specific terms they used, and the right moral stories, and some other characteristics that can be defined as ‘Singaporean-ness’. Most surprisingly the people are often very proud about this ‘uniqueness’. To me, the movies and the dramas are just a metaphor of a greater implication of creativeness in a society.

One thing I feel very respect about the show of Britain’s Got Talent is the way in accepting everyone as special and important. Simon Cowell might be the main judge and the person who created the show, but this does not mean that he is the only voice to decide everything. Even the two presenters in the show Ant and Dec could have their own opinions in the show. These have made sure that there is a diversity in opinions in the show and to make it more interesting for the audience.  The healthy soil to nurturing talents is in diversity of our living environments, cultures, and voices. The development of talents comes from the bottom (the people) to the top to produce the great leaders, and from the top to the bottom to nurture diversity of talents. For Singapore, or any country that wants to define their own national identities, which path should their people choose to lead their nation to be one of the greatest?




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