As a foreigner looking at Singapore, what I see outside looking in is a highly developed and very prosperous society where everything generally works. So to be honest, when I saw Steph Micayle’s video “Why I am Not Proud to Be Singaporean”, I was a bit taken aback by her candidness.
I realize, in hindsight, that I should have been able to get rid of the naive thought that there is such a thing as a perfect, or even just an ideal society that exists today. I’ve been to Singapore a few times, and I should have realized that they have their own problems, the likes of which, unless you have lived there for some time, are not very obvious.
I am not writing here in order to give a rebuttal to her points. Rather, hats off to her for being able to speak out amidst a society, an environment – one I had an underlying hunch about, which she confirmed – that is still not very comfortable with the idea of speaking out against it, and/or expressing oneself in an unconventional manner.
To give credit to Singapore, from an outsider’s point of view, the system that works, the discipline, the work ethic, and the operational excellence that have become a trademark of their culture are all outstanding. The dark side of it, however, comes out when you realize that freedom of expression is very limited in such a society. There is indeed a price to pay – both social and financial – for progress, prosperity, and a high standard of living. No wonder Singapore was termed a “fine” city before.
Whether Singapore should loosen up with regards to freedom of expression, or stay with what works is a topic best left to Singaporeans, and one I do not wish to discuss. Ultimately, they have to discover for themselves the path they’ll take as a society in the future.
It all comes down to what any single entity’s cherished values and priorities are. Obviously Ms. Micayle’s own clash with those of Singaporean society’s. Towards the end of the video, you will hear her mentioning that she will move out of Singapore soon, presumably to Australia where she has previously lived.
If your values and priorities clash with those of the society where you were born, you always have the option of looking for and moving to a place which caters to them. As an example closer to home, a lot of my countrymen simply have given up hope of a better life back home, and moved to greener (and cleaner) pastures.
For those of us Filipinos who are still here, well, life simply goes on. In our own little ways we work towards changing our society, but at the same time realize that it is an uphill battle, one against a culture, a society, and several institutions – all dysfunctional – that have resisted change for centuries.