Sunday, 29 March 2015


Singapore has been in a week of mourning for Lee Kuan Yew and I have seen a side of Singapore I never knew existed till now.

Throughout the week, I never left school because I had no need to. I went for class, then went back to Tembusu. Today, I finally stepped out of my UTown bubble to head to town, and saw that LKY's face was everywhere. At the bus stop, on buildings, on newspapers -- everywhere.

Singaporeans are known for many things: being kiasu, being one of the most unhappy or selfish people in the world, loving to queue for anything, having no freedom, the list goes on. Lee Kuan Yew's death and the response that followed brought out both the good and the ugly.

Never before have I seen Singaporeans unite so strongly for a common cause. 

People across all generations, from the senior citizens to teenagers to parents bringing along their kids, are willing to queue for hours just to pay their respects at the Parliament House. I know Singaporeans love queuing, but never to such an extent. When you see 80-year-olds queuing for hours under the sun, you realise how much this man has impacted us. This week, we put aside our many differences and come together to pay our respects and show our gratitude. Regardless of race, language or religion.

Individuals and organisations are giving out free food, free drinks, setting out chairs, doing anything within their means to make the long queues more bearable. A university student distributing 20 McChicken, bought with his own money. Random strangers voluntarily picking up the trash in the aftermath. As cynical as I might be, this time I choose to believe that such actions were done out of their own goodwill, without expecting any recognition or reward. 

I think this Singapore spirit is something we can see for ourselves. My poor attempts at describing it will never fully capture what each individual personally feels, so there is no need for me to explain further. 

Unfortunately, this also brings out the ugly side of our Facebook generation. 

(lol the CNM geek in me)

Being the cynical person that I am, I sometimes question our reasons for wanting to pay respect in person. I do not doubt that everyone who turned up did so with good intentions, but surely the motivations vary. 

I guess the pioneer generation feel most strongly since they experienced the transformation firsthand -- they knew what Singapore was like before he stepped in and took action. This was the man who led them, during Singapore's infancy and through the hardships, into what Singapore is today. 

Meanwhile, I also wonder if some of us are also slightly enticed by the novelty of it all, or perhaps motivated by the fear of missing out (FOMO), in addition to our well intentions. 

It is fully understandable, with everyone being so interconnected these days, to be sucked into the hype. Everywhere on social media, you see people sharing about their visits to the Parliament House or sharing related news and articles. I saw someone post seven photos on Instagram after one visit to the Parliament House (oh wait, I see that he has uploaded several more today). This is a truly historical moment for Singapore, and the significance has been compounded by social media. 

There is nothing wrong with being partly motivated by the hype, but I think we need to learn where to draw the line. While I'm sure this is a history-textbook moment that everyone would like to document their involvement in, there is no pressing need to whip out your phones when paying respect. There is a time to share and there is a time to keep your phones away.

Just look at that.
It's as if they were at a concert.
I think that photo sums up my point rather succinctly. 

Also: herd mentality.

Anyone who points out something negative about LKY gets flamed. Even articles that take a neutral stance get flamed. They can do so in the most objective manner, without showing disrespect for him, and still be faced with criticisms and insults. (Is it an abomination to point out that LKY did not transform the country single-handedly?) It is as if people refuse to acknowledge that nobody is perfect and LKY was no exception. 

In class, the prof mentioned that surely this is not the mindless and unthinking Singaporeans LKY would like to see. And surely LKY himself would acknowledge that he was not perfect. 

I guess I can understand where they are coming from - perhaps it felt disrespectful to say anything but nice comments about someone who just passed away. Wrong timing, maybe?

I think we all need to learn where to draw the line. Outright disrespect is unacceptable (*cough* Amos Yee *cough*), but we should not reduce ourselves to mindless individuals incapable of thinking rationally or being too fearful of backlash to be objective. 

Regardless, I guess the good outweighed the bad. While certain responses leave us with much room for improvement, they do not override the incredibly heartwarming Singapore spirit that we have been witnessing this week.

I find it rather heartening that, after all he has done for us, we are able to come together in his death to pay tribute. It's like his final gift to Singapore.

All these years, we wondered what our 'Singapore Identity' is and can never seem reach a conclusion. Perhaps this is it.

So many tributes and articles going around on social media, but I particularly loved this one for its wit and bitchiness, hee.

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