I'm currently reading a book titled "The Assassin's Gate" by George Packer, about the politics of the Iraq war and I realised something about Singapore.
We have no interesting people here. Parker talks of how he met an Iraqi intellectual in exile in the US, who envisioned a new democratic Iraq, and how he was highly educated, extremely intelligent and an idealist.
And I realised, we will never meet characters like that in Singapore, which makes life here so devoid of ideals, and overwhelmed by pragmatism. Pragmatic economic survival is all we know because we have never met people who are victims of ideological struggles.
"Ideology" to us is fluff, "Human Rights" is a dirty word and "Democracy" is a sham.
"We are nothing without economic prosperity" - the government never fails to remind us. And over time, if the only people we are exposed to are bankers, financiers and businessmen (and ok...institutionalised artists), we will come to fully and utterly internalise this myth.
Economic prosperity is a drug. Look at us Singaporeans. We have had economic prosperity for decades. Are we happy? No. Are we better people? No. What are we? We are bored and unfulfilled, constantly plagued by the insatiable desire to have more, buy more, own more and spend more.
I remember when I was living in India, South Africa and Europe, I felt like ideas were real and I could live with less. I met with people who were children of refugees and political exiles from Iran, Palestine, parts of Africa etc. To these people, ideology was the stuff of life. It was what they lived for and what they lived by.
What do we as Singaporeans live for? Do we even know what we live by?
Call this a whim of the young middle class generation. I think its far more than that. Our parents lived through different times. They suffered poverty first and now prosperity. We started out with prosperty but suffer a poverty of mind. Do we not have a right to change that?