A note from a 21-year-old
Ah. What a world of difference since then. And how strange, especially because I started YouthInk a little less than a decade later, having forgotten most of the fire and passion that youth can bring.
I laugh a little at the pomposity of the language, the warped logic and gaping holes in reasoning, but inside, I think my heart breaks a little to "watch" this young soul so impassioned and alive. And I fear I have become exactly what I hated so much in 1997. To keep this memory alive just a little longer, and to remind myself what could have been, am going to be rather maudlin and retype it. So bear with me here. If you're reading this, I must think you are rather special since this blog is so completely unknown and outdated :) I must have told you the address to it.
Well, it's a strange period in my life, where again, I have to re-examine what it means to be alive. A job that pays the bills (well), is perfectly respectable and yet ultimately, makes me feel completely empty is part of this. I am thankful for the job but you know what, it doesn't matter a whit whether I am there or not. I am not making the slightest difference. Perhaps I overthink and overestimate myself, and maybe I should be happy that i have something where the bills are paid, I get to go to Yoga, I have great colleagues and a great boss, but there is fundamentally something missing.
Yet I fear to let this security go. I know I need the $, for all the trappings of a middle class life, I am cash poor and very worried about the future.
I wish I knew the answers. And I hope one will come to me soon.
But let me give you the insight of a 21-year-old anyway. Actually, I think I would have been 20 going on 21. Ahhh. I feel old again now.
OF RIBBONS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
A few months ago, NUS students created a stir of sorts when they opted not to use technical surveys to make their point. Instead, they bravely elected to wear little pieces of ruban noir, twisted into half mobious bands in a non-vocal yet visible protest against a realignment of the fee structure of tertiary education.
Yes, it was the Black Ribbon Protest (BRP).
Reaction was mixed. Some rapped the students for being "selfish"; painting them as self centred individuals who could not see the larger picture. Admonishing them with the well-known adage "put society before self". Many others dismissed the BRP as meaningless and attributed it to youthful folly. Even more predicted the quick end of such juvenile access. Indeed, this dire prediction was tellingly accurate. Barely two days later, The Straits Times ran an article about how the BRP was fizzling out. Apathy had replaced indignation; the symbol had run aground. It was a sad day as some undergraduates expressed a reluctance to wear that simple black band. A warped fear that some sort of reprisal would befall them if they openly "revolted".
In our reluctance to take on responsibility for decisions, our culture of compliance to the general norms, we may have become complacent. The government continually exhorts us to keep excelling in our competitive advantages, decrying the price of falling behind. But the very fact that we need such constant reminders is a penetrating insight into the apathetic and almost nonchalant attitudes that many of us possess with the actual mechanisms of the country. Ultimately, everyone wants to own property, vehicles and consumer goods, like everyone else. Of course, coffeeshop talk still runs amuck with vicious whisperings of various faults of the system, and the administration, or whatever you might please. And yet, for all the talk and bravado, there is no action. And no better plans.
Because you know, we really have nothing much to holler about. We don't talk of starvation, but whether we will be able to upgrade to a larger flat or condominium. We don't worry about the country erupting into flames of war but which category can our kids fall under in the Primary One registration. We have peace, stability, prosperity, efficiency; the very foundations of our country had been judiciously laid down and planned.
We of the latter generation stand to reap what they have sown and yet we clamour for more benefits, more tax rebates, more, more, more...
Our outstretched hand belies the hard work and cautious planning that has gotten us to this stage, we hardly think about our integrated society even as Northern Ireland tries yet once again to resolve decades of bloodbath between racially homogenous people separated by religion.
Forgive me if I sound a tad moralizing, believe me as I reread this article I am typing out at 2 am. It sounds as if I am on a moralistic high. It's just that sometimes the insane obsessions of our culture with grades, schools, upgrades,"kia-suism" (to use the vernacular) are frankly disturbing. However, I can hardly claim to be immune to this desires for prosperity and elitism myself. I want to drive a faster car (a Porsche Boxster would be nice) note from 2010 nat: i think i was part-time driving a then 19 year old 600 cc Subaru with holes in the floor which was the family car. it did not have hubcabs cos my dad sold them for some cash, but it ran a perfectly respectable 70 kmh top speed. It could however not get up the benjamin sheares bridge without completely depressing the pedal to the metal on 1st gear. hey we were poor but i had dreams!
I want to live in a bigger apartment. I succumb to mass mentality and irresponsibility too. But that does not exclude me from a difficult recognition - a social awareness and the responsibility that comes with it.
Perhaps in hindsight the BRP can be seen in a positive light. For a long time, nobody would have even bothered to try to send a signal. In a way, this may symbolize the awakening of our civic-minded potential. Instead of it being a manifestation of the egocentrism and indulgence of youth, the BRP perhaps signals the younger Singaporeans' needs for greater accountability, greater participation and ultimately, a greater role in the decision-making process. This is not unlike the vision that our Prime Minister spoke of when he contended for the development of a civil minded society in Singapore.
But I think we must get a few things right in the beginning. We need awareness and conciousness. Without them, we are bereft of a fighting chance to prove our mettle.