I read with great consternation the article, ‘Ang Moh’ explains why people hate Singapore‘. Not least because its title does not in any way shape or form describe its contents but because it is an utter simplification of problems faced by Singaporeans and the so called racist and dangerous other cities in the world.
Yes, I do not deny that Singapore is a very well run country and that despite its cons, there are still more pros to living here than in many other cities the world over. I can also understand why the constant complaints uttered by Singaporeans who seem to lead such charmed lives can seem tiresome to someone who may not have had the luxury to live in a relatively safe and prosperous city which many Singaporeans do take for granted.
However, had Mr Shawcross made fewer sweeping assumptions on the grievances of Singaporeans and the long suffering lives of those who have to live in other parts of the world, this article would have been a whole lot more credible.
As a Singaporean who has worked and lived in both New York and London for years, I would have to strongly disagree that the UK or the United States of America are countries that are rife with crime and racism. Yes, of course there is racism – there will be racism anywhere. At the same time however, there are laws in both these countries that outlaw racism! Besides, the populations in both these countries are fairly educated on racial issues. Let’s not forget, the United States of America is the country that voted for Obama to be President two times! London has also just overwhelmingly voted for Sadiq Khan to be its mayor.
Singapore on the other hand, has to date never had a Prime Minister who is not Chinese.
Unlike Mr Shawcross, I have not found that “everyone in England will always have that friend with a story to tell about racial conflict in public places.” Neither do I think of England as a country that is riddled with hate crime – Quite the opposite actually!
What I have discovered is that England, like any other country has biases towards people on the lower income strata and that prejudices tend to stem from that. It is unfortunate that past racism may have contributed to certain racial groups being on the lower income strata (which is the subject of another article). However, to lump this whole issue into one that is simply based on race is misleading and not an accurate reflection of the times.
Or perhaps I have experienced a different England from Mr Shawcross.
I am heartened and proud to hear that Mr Shawcross has chosen to live in Singapore. But what I cannot abide by is his sweeping generalisation as set out below:
“I’m saying this objectively, because amid all the freedom, the welfare, the ‘quality of life’ that Singaporeans seem to admire about Scandinavian countries, or for some odd reason, the US and the UK, I sincerely doubt that any person with the desire to be in a competitive, fast-paced, ultra modern, yet clean, safe and economically solvent country would have any other options other than Singapore.”
This must surely be a statement that is made based on many assumptions some of which cannot ever really be fully substantiated. It is therefore curious that it should be made by an economist for whom data, numbers and facts are sacrosanct? How is this objective?
He goes on to say “It has become a theme now that young Singaporeans are becoming increasingly enchanted with Western ideas of freedom and yet they’ve not actually lived in those countries long enough to get an idea of what that sort of freedom is about.” Yet another sweeping statement! How many Singaporeans has he spoken to? Of those, how many have lived overseas and for how long? Has Mr Shawcross committed any time to finding these things out before making these assertions?
I take on board his sentiments that some Singaporeans may not come across as grateful as they should be. Yet, I do not think it is anyone’s place to presume that anyone who complains does so out of ignorance. Nor do I think that a lack of freedom of speech is directly related to the need to maintain racial harmony. That is akin to saying that every single PAP politician is excellent because most of them are. Surely the reality is far more nuanced?
There are no simple solutions for layered problems and everyone will have different preferences. While I respect Mr Shawcross’s admiration for Singapore and am proud of Singapore as a Singaporean, a more measured slant without the lambasting of other countries would have made this more credible.
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