In this article, I am going to explain why most baby boomers in Singapore are skeptical when it comes to creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation. Most importantly, why their beliefs are detrimental to our nation growth – especially in youth and next generation development -even though they may seem like good as in protecting their children and grandchildren from most traditional Asian families’ perspective.
Just as the upcoming Transformers – The Last Knight’s slogan said in its preview poster – Rethink Your Heroes, it basically means that in order to understand the present, we have to rewind and rethink back to the past which resulted in their current way of thinking and insistence that future descendants think and do likewise.
For your information, baby boomers are basically those born in the 1960s and earlier. Which also means they are our parents, grandparents and great grandparents etc.
Though I mentioned my country in my last article, that was more of the recent and current situation. Now I am going to take you back 50-60 years before that resulted in the transpire of such events.
To begin with, when Singapore opened its doors for free trade and employment opportunities, our forefathers come all the way down from China, India and Malaysia in search for better jobs and pay. Not just for themselves but for their families who are suffering poverty in corrupt-plagued homelands. Like most of us, they are very open to different opportunities be it working for others or even setting up their own businesses just to make ends meet for themselves initially but long-term income for their families and children gradually in the long run.
But three things happened which derailed their plans and resulted in their short-term safeguard but long-term narrow-minded perspectives.
The first is that Singapore is originally founded and developed by Sir Stamford Raffles from United Kingdom. Whose his intentions are out of goodwill, the same cannot be said of his countrymen who see themselves superior to all Asians and intend to exploit them for their gain.
As in outsourcing the work to them to generate maximum profits and yet paying them peanuts which can hardly pay their rent and utility bills let alone put food on the table and send the money back to their families. Many of them – especially Chinese coolies – turned to opium smoking as a way of reducing their stress and workload they have to face every single day just to make enough money which never happens. Hence they are born poor and eventually died poor which is not their fault regardless of what other people may think. Even though they are in the right place at the right time, their ignorance and willingness to listen and do what others say – in particular the British -blindly leads them to the path of no return.
Secondly it is because of the World War II that resulted in Singapore being targeted for bombing and occupied by the Japanese for their agenda. The fact that my country is being surrendered and sold out by the British government without a hard fight speaks volumes about their cowardice, incompetence and selfishness. Our late founding father and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew was a young student back then who was stopped by the Japanese for checking inspection and kicked about even when he did as told. That also resulted in his resolution of wanting to make our country a better place that our people can proudly proclaim as home rather than being exploited by British and Japanese.
That was what made him venture into politics and through his fiery speeches of providing a better life and throwing out the British who had by now turned corrupt and inefficient due to their complacency in ruling Singapore and even more so after World War II despite reclaiming it from the Japanese with the help of Americans.
Because most of my people and forefathers as in Chinese, Indians and Malays were poor, they strongly believed and supported his vision even though our nation was widely dismissed as we were the smallest country and regarded as a little red dot in Southeast Asia that was not known to many countries except major powers like United States, United Kingdom and surrounding neighbouring countries.
Despite Lee’s political People’s Action Party or PAP in short winning the General Elections in 1959, we were still under British control. After lengthy negotiations with the British in their territory, a treaty was signed and Singapore gained independence in 1965.
However there was one major problem that was overlooked by Lee and my forefathers.
Besides being the smallest island, Singapore had no natural resources. As in oil, gas and money for rebuilding. Given the fact that most of our people back then were uneducated and reduced to low paying jobs, the only way to make Singapore rise again – as it once had upon being founded by Raffles – was to leverage on other countries in their resources required for our survival. Not just our forefathers but their children and future generations as well.
Beginning with our neighbouring country Malaysia. However, the government there had a condition which Lee found it hard to abide by. Which was to give priority to Malays over Chinese and Indians. Because Lee saw our country as multi-racial which made us unique, he wanted the priority to be given to everyone. Which was to be treated with dignity and respect not just the way we lived but in our education, jobs and housing. That resulted in major differences and heated exchanges which eventually resulted in Malaysia backing out and Singapore had to feed for itself.
Those reasons I highlighted above explained why survival was considered as immediate priority in my country. Unfortunately because everyone wanted to make a lot of money and yet uneducated when it came to money management and delivering value to one another in order to make the money, the income inequality transpired and resulted in political unrest. Lee decided to make a harsh stand by suing and imprisoning most of his opposition opponents in order not to allow the past events of communist strikes against British resurface again and affected political stability.
Those events made our forefathers believe strongly that in order to survive, they should have a good education upon which they should study hard, good jobs from which they can get good pay, get married, being able to provide for families and retire happily. Due to their bad experiences of being exploited by British and Japanese, they strongly believed that as the one and only way to survive and live happily was through those and dismissed all forms of creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation as evil traits which will bankrupt and led Singapore to the dark side of the force as frequently phrased in Star Wars movies.
Yet when they were with their children and grandchildren, they liked to ask them what they liked to be when they grew up. At first glance, it might seem they liked to know but the truth was they saw children and grandchildren as young, naive and ignorant beings whom they can make fun of. Yet when they grew up and were ready to go to school, step into workforce and marry, they placed strong expectations and high burden on them as in continuing their lineage. As in doing what they were told and forget about whatever ambitions and passions they might have had as kids as those were dark influences that could turn them to be as corrupt and complacent as British and Japanese.
And given the fact that other countries imposed conditions on Lee and his ministers for free trading and creating jobs for Singaporeans. As in providing the same for those countries’ civilians when they come to Singapore be it play, study or work.
That resulted in an unlikely scenario.
A great place for foreigners to live, study, work and even set up their own businesses in whichever venture they wanted.
But a bad place for my people to live, study and work hard in jobs that are limited to hard labor, administrative, engineering, medical, mechanical and trading which were in abundance but very few jobs on arts, creativity and entertainment. Even though Arts And Crafts were one of the school subjects we studied, it was widely dismissed by most parents and ministers back then as jobs of such nature had no future since artists do not earn and also considered as bringing Singapore back to the dark days of poverty in the 1950-60s.
Anyone who went against those were perceived as unfilial and disrespectful to their elders, families and government. In other words, anyone wanting to pursue their passions but not within the hard labor, administrative and trading are judged to be rebels and villains.
Because of the need for survival, strong emphasize, pressure and workload of endless homework was placed on children as early as 7. This resulted in the highest number of them suffering from myopia and wearing spectacles. And when they reached secondary or high school by international standards, more pressure was added on them and they have to change their spectacles regularly as their shortsightedness increased.
When I said shortsightedness, I do not just mean not seeing clearly and have to wear glasses to improve their vision. But lacking vision and passion to pursue what they once have as children. Despite having a wealth of qualifications, knowledge and ideas, they are resigned to doing jobs their parents and grandparents want them to do rather than going all out to pursue and succeed in what they want relentlessly.
And when they are married and have kids, the situation is even worse as their financial burden becomes heavier with just one income source and numerous expenses as in housing, daily expenses, children education, medical welfare etc. Out of every 10 parents with kids at local toys store, only 2 to 3 actually bought toys for them. Simply because most cannot afford and needed to prioritize what they spent.
I have also seen those who spent their whole lives working just to make ends meet. By the time they retired and children working to support them, their minds become completely defragmented and forgetful. They have forgotten what they like and want to do as children and youths. Instead they spend the rest of their time looking for friends and rekindle their good old days which are not possible as their friends also have their own family obligations and busy with their own problems.
With that said, those are my reasons why most baby boomers in Singapore are skeptical about all forms of change and preferred to be in their designated comfort zone our founding father Lee and his PAP worked hard to build.
Though there was nothing wrong with that at glance, there was everything wrong with the way they imposed their beliefs on the younger generation. On what used to work in the past but are no longer applicable. The world has changed and so must my country in accordance with the trends instead of leveraging solely on other nations simply for survival.
There will be many people from my country who disagree with my views. Especially those from elite rich and upper middle income families who have never experienced hardship but only knew from reading books and watching TV and internet.
But it is still important for me to share with you for your better understanding of my country Singapore. Even though it is now developed and prospering in economy, most people are limited in their beliefs and drive, being overdependent on government, lacked wealth creation and money management skills simply because they are conditioned to study hard, work hard and retire with just your job income by our forefathers simply because of their beliefs and bad experiences in the past.