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?