A country is not just owned by the elderly who have paid their debts to their nations but also by the youth whose lives are being shaped by it. In this open letter, fourth-year History major at Yale-NUS College Ng Qi Siang, shares some of Generation Y’s mantra for their beloved Singapore – “Singapore cannot take its success for granted.”
Complacency is the devil, says Ng, who says that in order to “ensure our continual progress as a nation, we must never become too smug about our achievements and congratulate ourselves that we inhabit the best of all possible worlds”.
“Progress requires a frank acknowledgement of weaknesses and continual innovation to find new ways to overcome these challenges.”
While Singapore’s progress over the last 50 years, from gaining independence to becoming a world centre for business and technology is a “miraculous achievement that we should rightly be proud of,” said Ng, we should eschew the biased views – “patriotic feelings should not be mutually exclusive with acknowledging and critiquing Singapore’s flaws”.
In a previous commentary, Nanyang Technological University undergraduate Wong Wing Lum talked about accepting and embracing Singapore as it is, urging fellow millennials to adopt a positive point-of-view instead of citing its flaws and complaining about its deficiencies to foreigners.
She said that such actions would be “unpatriotic” and showed no respect for having lived “privileged lives” in Singapore. All this negativity, she said, would affect our upstanding reputation as a country.
Ng agreed with Wong that young people need to show appreciation for having grown up in a stable, wealthy and developed country like Singapore. However, Ng said that succumbing to complacency would be the wrong move for the fast-moving country.
“Development has brought its own set of challenges that our country must urgently grapple with in the years to come.”
One area that Singapore cannot afford to lose its edge in is education. Singapore’s education system is of top quality, ranked by the Program of International Student Assessment (PISA) as one of the highest in the world.
However, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, who also conduct the PISA tests, 86 percent of students deal with pressure-induced anxiety over performing well in school. This pressure comes from their schools, parents, peers, the country and themselves.
The government has tried to shift the focus from grades to holistic development, but Ng says that the “kiasu” attitude towards education is still strong in over-achieving Singapore.
Singapore has many areas for improvement, and Ng says that “we risk falling into complacency and overconfidence” if we do not acknowledge where we can be better.
“Loving one’s country means to desire its continual improvement over time, necessitating that we never rest on our laurels in building a more inclusive and prosperous Singapore.”
“We should take care not to become so obsessed with protecting past achievements that we stop believing in future possibilities.”
Ng says that becoming complacent blocks our minds from progress, from technological innovations and global best practices, which could potentially lead to “socio-economic stagnation” in a world where many countries are hurrying to catch up with Singapore.
Instead, Ng cited what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong calls an attitude of “divine discontent”, to “always not be satisfied with what we have, always driven to do better” as a benchmark for Singaporeans to never settle and always push upward and forward.
Ng says that the key is to remain objective. Love Singapore, yes. But “only by adopting a spirit of humility and openness can Singapore hope to enjoy another half century of progress and prosperity in an increasingly uncertain future.”