Thoughts on the National Day Rally and the Singapore Memory Project

[This isn’t a critical analysis of the rally, but a personal response to it – so if you’re looking for a point by point detailed analysis and evaluation, you won’t find it here.]

The Rally is always a time of good news and for the first time, I actually felt that there was a piece of good news that affected me directly – the rise in income ceiling for purchasing a flat. That was definitely worth celebrating. Other moves like the modified age ceiling for PCPS were definitely worth celebrating, but not something I feel strongly about yet.

At about 9:10 p.m., the Rally moved away from being about facts and figures and started to become truly a ‘rally’, where PM Lee started to engage our hearts and let us realise that we too have a part to play.

I was particularly excited about the Singapore Memory Project by MICA because this was the exact proposition of my Pre-U Seminar team this year. We realised that it was important for us to build a culture of story-telling in Singapore so as to retain a strong sense of history. This idea is not original or new as it was taken from Warren Fernandez’s ‘Thinking Allowed’ (written almost 10 years ago), but I’m glad the government is finally picking up the ideas of some of its best thinkers – outside of the government.

However, the two stories that were chosen for display – the Bukit Ho Swee inferno and the Malaysia cup – had really little resonance for me – and I believe, for most of the younger generation, that is the case too. I do recognise that these events were significant, but the Bukit Ho Swee inferno was from a completely different era and social situation as compared to what we have now. And as many respondents on Online Citizen’s FB page indicated, we no longer have the same national pride as 1994 as our football team comprises of many foreigners. It’s also unfair for me to comment on the ‘connection’ with Malaysia cup as I wasn’t and am not interested in soccer.

I sincerely hope that the Singapore Memory project will not go back and recover narratives of WW II, the Maria Hertogh Riots, the merger and exit from Malaysia etc, because unfortunately, these stories have little resonance now. And these are the stories we keep repeating to our younger generation. I really hope it will uncover stories and heroes from our present day, from the 1990s onwards at least – stories that our young can truly and meaningfully relate to. These stories might reveal some ugliness in our current society, but they are real.

For me then, the ‘rallying’ part of the Rally wasn’t quite effective and left me feeling rather disconnected.

I’m sure more will unfold over the next few days about the facts, figures and effectiveness of the policy changes mentioned in the Rally. I do have my opinions and reservations about the policies and data presented, but I’m sure someone with more expertise and knowledge will present something either in the online or offline spheres over the next few days.

Beyond the specific measures, schemes and upcoming developments mentioned in the speech, I picked out a few salient themes in the Rally:

1) The government has heard what people on the ground are saying and want to continue hearing what you have to say. In fact, the people’s voices are so important that we are now working on a project to compile 5 million personal stories of Singaporeans.

2) The government has been working hard and will change some of its policies in response to what we have observed and heard. However, do note that a) the changes will take time, b) with some of these changes come certain tradeoffs.

3) The government alone cannot change Singapore. We need everyone to play their part from the ground-up to build the Singapore that we want.

4) The government must avoid becoming a welfare state and it needs to cultivate a sense of self-reliance amongst its nation and as a nation too. Unlike EU nations, nobody will come to Singapore’s rescue when we are down.

5) There is a lot to look forward to in Singapore’s future.

These 5 key themes were more effectively conveyed for me than the rallying call at the end.

Logically and on a policy level, I can understand and see that the government is working to connect with us, yet on the heart level, I’m not quite sure if they are any closer to us than they were before and during the General Elections. However, the Singapore Memory Project gives me some hope that an attempt is being made. Now, let’s hope it will be a successful one.

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Unique Snack!

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My relative came back from Thailand and bought a rather unique snack – dried durian pieces! 

I’ve eaten the much thinner version of durian chips, which are pretty much like your tapioca or potato chips in terms of texture and shape just with a different flavour. However, this is the first time I’ve tried a durian snack in this form.

How does it taste? It actually tastes pretty much like the real thing, just more powdery and dry. It’s packed with the fullness of durian flavour and you can imagine them just sun-drying a piece of durian to produce this, though I’m sure the process must be more complicated!