”This country has no soul,” they will assert. “Authoritarian state, patriarchal Confucianism” they avow. And our Leading Playwrights, Poets and Artistes, if you listen, will usually parrot the same tune too. It’s a trendy tune, catchy with the sonorous weight of decades. What is Singapore to Prague, to Vienna, to New Yawk, to Amsterdam?
”This country has no soul,” pronounces the International Traveller, here on a Stopover for a few days, because Singapore is just a Little Red Dot. Convenient.
“It’s clean though. Very sterile.”
But excuse me.
Excuse me, have you ever sat down at the kopitiams, arguing with the uncles about football, politics and that Idiot at the Shop?
Have you sipped the awful tartness of a Kopi Siu Dai, or sighed at the immaculate perfection of a wetly pungent Hokkien Mee?
Have you walked down the steamy alleys of a wet market at 6 in the morning, half-nauseous with the confused odours of towgay and cuttlefish and freshslaughtered chicken?
Do you know the panic of a PSLE mother, at the confluence of expectation and exception; or do you simply scoff and mutter Great Expectations sarcastically?
Have you walked quiet and serene down the obscure jettys; or gotten lost on a Navigation Exercise deep in the fern-infested secondary rainforests of Mandai?
Do you know the Forbidden Hill and its legends; do you know our Great Fires and fearful plagues? Have you listened to the stories of the shopkeeper, or the laments of a lonesome aged mother, locked up because she can no longer walk?
I haven’t. Not entirely. But the Soul of a country does not reveal itself overnight, or even overyears.
It is gleaned in the quiet murmurs of loveswept evenings. It is discerned in the dusty patterns of archaeological digs. It is felt in the changing, shifting splendour of time and tide and people. And often, it is lived.
This country has no soul?
No: I think you have no ears, no eyes, no time, and most of all, you have no patience, to know a young nation only 51 years old.
“For this is where, I know I’m home.”