After hearing the Prime Minister’s National Day Rally speech a few days ago, I couldn’t help wondering what actually is our Singapore’s dream and success story?
Though the Prime Minister has tried to bring in live testimonies of Singaporeans making it in their own personal capacity to the audience, he didn’t really successfully helps the nation realised what is the true Singapore’s dream.
A friend also wrote to me saying that she couldn’t really felt inspired by his speech which carried alot of propaganda and feel-good message but lacking depth and hope for those who are being left behind in the meritocratic chase.
Moreover, more significantly, I have never seen Singapore so divisive before in my life and it is indeed worrying so having a common Singapore’s dream will hopefully unite the country together.
But what is the Singapore’s dream in the first place?
To the many foreigners who flocked to our small island state lately, their personal dream is probably more direct – to make a living in our country and hopefully settled down nicely with a job and family with citizenship rights.
How about for those native citizens who have live their whole lives here?
Is the Singapore’s dream all about the 5 Cs – condo, credit card, car, cash and include all material things?
Does the average Singaporean measured how successful he is by how much money he has in the bank account and the number of toys he can show off?
Is the Singapore’s dream merely wrapped up with the huge dollar sign or have we discovered our own unique Singapore’s dream yet?
Which brought me to the next relevant question – do we even have any notion of our own Singapore’s dream in the first place?
Surely, the Singapore’s dream can’t be just the concern with the dollars and cents only…
That will be really shallow!
I used to watch movies showing how Asian and European migrants made a bee line to the United States in order to chase after the American dream.
There is something to seek after – a middle income lifestyle, passions to realise and dreams to fulfill.
For ourselves, we probably have taken over the place of the Hong Kongers now as the number one society that values money above all else.
I have seen how family members sued each other over property dispute especially when the rich dad has passed away.
I have been to gatherings with friends and they talked nothing other than the stock market, property price and the type of cars they drove.
I used to feel very lousy when I have to go off in a church friend’s car after our weekly cell meetings in the evening.
Most of the guys drove and it made me felt that I am useless and not belonging in the mainstream.
Even churches could not escape the claws of the materialistic hold as I heard of a pastor now staying in the multi-millionSentosa Cove and the prosperity messages seem to be very popular in many mega churches nowadays.
Even our famous monk Ming Yi went for expensive holidays abroad and bought branded bags for his stuff!
I guess for many Singaporean right now, having enough money to last the whole month may even be a problem in our high-inflation low-salary-base society – let alone go and reflect on our own Singapore’s dream.
Someone has also told me on Facebook this morning, when I asked the same question on our own Singapore’s dream, that maybe we should follow the lifestle of the Bhutans who are happy despite the lack of infrastructure and apparent poverty prevalent in the third world country.
She said plainly: “We should learn from Bhutan nationals. Although their country is not rich but they are happy. We shouldn’t be too materialistic.”
I remembered 20 years ago when I was newly married, my wife asked if my civil servant pay check of $2500 a month can substain the whole family.
She was also working then but could only brought in less than $2000 a month.
We were about to have our baby daughter then and finances were top-most on our mind and our dream then was to earn enough for the whole family to survive on.
We were thrifty then and didn’t even drive at all in Singapore as cars were still beyond us.
We were happy then as a small family unit but something was missing within me as I was rather unhappy and also struggling with the meaning of life.
We were also working harder and later but there was not much communication within the family.
The fatter bank account did not really translate into happier relationship for the family and cracks were already happening in the marriage.
Meanwhile, we have moved to a condo, got the services of a foreign domestic helper and could travel quite a bit.
Maybe as one gets older, you tend not to focus too much on the physical stuff and more on things of the intangible.
So do our Singaporean’s dream changes over our own time line and it is constantly shifting?
When I was a young student, I used to study hard to try and enter the university but when I couldn’t make the cut, I felt that the Singapore’s dream was beyond me.
How could one make it in life if you don’t even have a university degree?
I spoke to my boss about any potential for a promotion exercise in the near future and sensing a negative reply, I decided to leave the civil service after serving them for eleven years.
What was my Singapore’s dream then as a 32-year-old non-graduate about to start a new family on my own?
Frankly speaking, I was really frightened then as I have a $143, 000 mortgage to pay off on the new HDB executive flat and a baby on the way.
To cut the long story short, I worked very hard and eventually wound up in the high-commissioned insurance sales for a few years - making quite a pile actually.
I attained all the goals set out and ended up achieving MDRT twice in four years.
I remembered cashing in a $32, 000 check for a particular successful month and took the whole month off to rest.
I went twice to Europe and the US with my family for holidays and conventions during that awesome period - I truly thought that I have achieved the Singapore’s dream then.
Singapore was my home and it has provided me such abundant opportunities to make money!
Of course in any transaction, there was a trade-off and I lost much valuable time at home.
I realised that my daughter was distancing away from me alot and I began to stay at home more sacrificing quite alot of deals in the process.
I wanted to make up for any lost time I had with my young daughter before it is too late.
Soon I lost my interest in making money and left the insurance business altogether five years after I have started.
Did I lost the Singapore’s dream when I forego the cash cow in my job and subsequently suffered alot while I searched out my own life’s meaning ?
Now – 20 years later with no family and any substantial cash savings in my acocunt – am I deemed a failure by the society?
For the record, except for the loss of my family, everything has worked out well and truly beyond my wildest dream.
I would never have written another better script for my life right now.
Of course, losing my family has been a very painful experience but I have learned to live my life despite that setback.
Life is probably trying to live it well when you couldn’t have it everything your way.
Though I may have diverted from the money-focused Singapore’s dream, I have personally achieved much more meaning for my life – even though I have no proper income for the past four years.
Sometimes, when you have little you tend to cherish what little that you have.
I have found much more happiness helping others and will carry on doing what I love for the rest of my remaining years.
I know that this is probably my own personal dream – so can anyone tell me what actually is the Singapore’s dream?
Written by: Gilbert Goh