3/27/2007

Are we Sparta or Athens?

Are we Sparta or Athens? When I caught sight of this heading by Lim Cheng Tju I immediately burst out laughing. I instantly recalled the jokes that an invading army would be stalled by the massive traffic jams in Bangkok while another invading army would laugh itself to death when starring down at our soldiers. Now comparing ourselves to 300 Spartans who fought themselves to death, without asking for a cent more, or the creativity and imagination of Athens, a vibrant and intellectually stimulated city, are we having a drink too much? In a country that is driven by monetary rewards, when every decision is made on monetary terms, when citizenship rings hollow, when the citizens are happily being replaced by foreigners that have little emotional attachments to this island, where can one find the passion like the spartans or the creativity of Athens? The callous input of foreigners to boost up our population is as good as undermining the whole foundation of nationhood. The immigration patterns of today, the motivation, and how the immigrants would immerse themselves and set roots in a new country are very different from the past. To use our immigrant historical background as a justification for more immigrants is a dangerous starting point. We were created out of accident, out of a historical past where nationhood was not our choice. Even the USA was a historical accident. But to try to repeat the same formula is a very simplistic approach to nation building. We are just thinking about numbers and ignore the social glue that needs to bring the diverse people together as one. We have tried that for 40 years and still without much success. The influx of foreigners would only weaken whatever we have built in nationhood. There must be value and passion in the people. Philip Yeo was angry that Singaporeans, especially the young scholars, did not have any value with regard to being a citizen of a country. They think self and money. And in his fit of dismay he said to the effect that money would be better spent on better foreign talents. This is true when value and passion are not important. Just buy talents. And talents that can be bought with money can also be bought by others. That is what foreign talents is all about. It is about their market value and which country offers the best value. We are heading towards a society that has no root, no value, no passion, but only money. Yes, we are creating a culture of mercenaries. Or should we ask, where is the passion?

7 comments:

newSgean said...

Redbean, I am one of the new citizens. Accident or no accident is not relevant. The fact remains if not for immigration, Singapore wouldn't be where it is today. It is a bit rich for someone whose forefathers were immigrants themselves to now deride new immigrants the same opportunities once afforded to their ancestors. I also take exception to your use of the word callous. In what way is my becoming a new citizen callous to you as an exisitng citizen ? Can I also say that your forefather's coming to Singapore was callous to the exisiting population then ?

redbean said...

good morning newsgean,

welcome to the blog.

there was no state called singapore in that sense in the early days. it was a colony whose existence depended on its value and contribution to the colonial master. the island was only an accessory. immigrants were allowed in to serve the temporary occupier of the land. and if they did not serve any purpose, they would not be allowed in.

my second point is that if you have been brewing a cup of fragrant coffee, and you decided to pour in another cup of anything but coffee, what will happen to your coffee?

immigrants per se is not a problem. the problem is in the numbers and the pace in which the numbers are added.

when you add more water to your coffee, little by little, you can still control the mix and the taste. but when you pour in more water than your coffee, all at once, you are not going to get your desired coffee.

i am not against immigrants. it is how it is being done? it needs to be carefully spread out over time. anyone who promise that nothing will go wrong at the rate we are going is talking through his nose.

my parents came to this island because the colonial masters had no qualms on how it would affect the natives as long as it served their interests. the colonial masters were simply mercenaries and thought of themselves first, not the interests of the inhabitants.

do we want to do the same thing? we are the new natives.

newSgean said...

Redbean, analogies at best only serve as illustrations, they become fallacious when used as a basis for a principle, as you have done. Let's just stick with the facts. The fact remains that Singapore is a country of immigrants. The only difference between your parents and me is that they were brought in by the British, while I was invited by the government of Singapore. I and all the other new immigrants, be they PRs, citizens or EP holders have as much right to be here as your parents when they first came. We did not arrive in a boat, under the cover of darkness but we came here fully complying with the relevant and prevailing laws of the country. For me as a citizen, I have the same rights and privileges that you have. You have no more right to question my place in this country any more than I have to question yours. Let us all get on with our own lives.

redbean said...

hi newsgean,

i think you need to read carefully what my post is all about. as a foreign talent, i expect you to be at least able to comprehend what i am writing here. i have nothing against the immigrants or new citizens. and once you are a citizen, you have all the rights of a citizen and i have not question that.

to put it simply to you, i am questioning the govt's policy on bringing in new citizens in big numbers and within a short span of time. i am not even against the govt's policy of bringing in immigrants.

do i make my position clear?

as for new or old citizens, the international practice, as established by the western powers, is that finders keepers. and the person who arrives first becomes the owner, excluding the natives of course. i say this with a big dose of cynicism.

when you want to discuss an issue, you must first be clear in what the issue is all about. otherwise you are barking up the wrong tree.

let me repeat my position. i disagree with the methodology of the govt on bringing in new immigrants. what has that to do about me questioning your rights as a new citizen?

newSgean said...

Redbean, you should read your original post yourself before chiding me for not understanding the issue. Did you not describe that the government's welcoming of immigrants as callous ? Do you even know what the word means ? Well, let me tell you in case you are a little vocabulary-challenged. It means insensitive to the feelings of the locals like yourself. Does that not imply that you feel that the new citizens have somehow made your life a little uncomfortable ? And does that not also implicitly question our position in the country, since it brought such uncomfort to you ?

redbean said...

'the government's welcoming of immigrants as callous'

this is exactly what i am saying. read this carefully and think about it. just because you happen to be an immigrant and part of the equation does not mean that my statement is questioning your right or you are making me uncomfortable.

i am concern about what kind of consequences we will have to live with in the future under such a policy. and the cause of the consequence is this policy, not the fault of the immigrants.

can you differentiate that?

a glutton overeats and suffers from over eating problems. it is not the food that is the cause of his problem, but the over eating. you are the food, the policy is the overeating.

if you still can't get this, i dunno what to say anymore.

Matilah_Singapura said...

More like Sparta. (socialist)

If S'pore adopted the Swiss model, it would end up more like Athens (freedom).

The People have chosen to fuck themselves up and that's that.