Second book launch: Hard Choices

Hard Choices Front_Ver 2

Dear friends, I just wanted to share some thoughts from my second book launch this past Tuesday. If you want to find out more about the book’s content and cover, please see my earlier post here.

I really enjoyed the launch. As in, it was genuinely fun. Lots of banter up on stage between Donald Low, my co-author, David Skilling, the moderator, and myself before the event. Engaging conversation and audience questions throughout on a range of important and sometimes emotive subjects, from Goh Keng Swee’s doubts in 1972 about Singapore’s emerging economic model to the recent uproar over the mooted Philippines Independence Day Celebration in Singapore this June.

If you are keen to see what you missed, here is a 22min video of the session.

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Letter from India: Gatka

Note: This is an on-the-road blog post. To find out more about why I am on this trip, please read, Next book: From Kerala to Shaolin. In the interest of clarity, although I wrote most of this letter when in India, I am actually clicking “Publish” when in S Africa, where I am visiting my wife for a few days.

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A continuation of Letter from India: Philosophies

Buses

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 8.11.07 AM

By the time Kirit and I reach Punjab, buses have broken our backs. Unable to secure a seat on any northbound train, we board a series of overnight buses—Pondicherry to Hyderabad; Hyderabad to Nagpur; Nagpur to Indore; Indore to Jaipur; Jaipur to Chandigarh; and, finally, Chandigarh to Amritsar—collectively taking more than 50 hours over some 3000km, greater than the distance from Hong Kong to Singapore, or Houston to San Francisco.

In Indore we break our journey for a few days, visiting my Nani’s house every day for home cooking. Then, as if to compensate for those comforts, our karma delivers the bus from hell. We have two “upper sleepers” on a “Non-AC bus” to Jaipur. This doesn’t sound too shabby, but when we board we find a dirty, old interior. The faux leather plastic on my bed’s “headrest” is completely worn, exposing the spongy foam beneath. Every time I lift my head up, I find little bits of black foam clinging lovingly to my hair. The bed itself is sandy. That is partly its steady state, and partly my doing, as I keep my soiled slippers up there with me, rather than down below on the even filthier bus floor, where they might get trampled on by even filthier slippers.

Across the aisle, on a double-sleeper on the other side of the bus, are my travel companions: an elderly man and his white terrier, “Kutta”, literally dog in Hindi. Kutta is actually quite cute, but he annoys me by barking sporadically and also because I’m envious of his royal diet: burfi, which I look at longingly, every time the man places one delicately in Kutta’s mouth. Kutta’s bark isn’t the only aural pain. At every available opportunity our bus driver blares his irritating horn, which in India can range from the multi-layered melodious to the fart-like. The racket is worse than anything those post-South Africa 2010 Vuvuzuela nuts conjured. I regret booking a sleeper in the front of the bus.

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Singapore’s population policies: Book extract in the New Straits Times, Nov 5th 2012

Ahead of my book launch in KL this Saturday, Malaysia’s New Straits Times (NST) has published an excerpt from my book, Floating on a Malayan Breeze, today.

Over the past few weeks, NUS Press, one of my co-publishers, and I had been lobbying the Malaysian media channels, trying to get them to feature us. Last week, NST confirmed the passage they would like to run.

When I saw which one they chose, I almost fell off my chair laughing. It’s the bit where I discuss Singapore’s flawed population policies and Lee Kuan Yew’s belief in genetic determinism. Of course, NST has also cut out the bits of the passage where I talk about Malaysia.

I’m very happy that they chose this passage. It’s one of my favourites. But it’s also quite reflective of Malaysia’s mainstream media–delighted to see a Singaporean asking tough questions of his country! I suppose it would have been politically impossible for them to run one of the passages where I scrutinise Malaysian policies. In any case, I’m sure the Malaysian audience would appreciate this more–so, from a purely commercial/marketing point of view, a good passage to attract Malaysians to my book launch this Saturday.

You can read the edited extract that NST has run on their website here or on this PDF file: NST Nov 5

Or you can read the full original passage from my book below. This is from pp. 237-40 of the book:

———————————————-

Throughout our journey, we met Malaysians, rural and urban, who couldn’t believe that we were still single, at the grand old age of 27. As far as they were concerned, we had not planned our life well. We had not given enough priority to starting a family.

Do we Singaporeans value family life less than Malaysians? Quite possibly. After numerous conversations about girlfriends, marriage and children, my sense is that there are cultural and developmental reasons for this.

My anecdotal evidence suggests that Malays treasure big families and family time more than Chinese and Indians. Many Malays I met, including Isa and Kamal, are extremely proud of their big families. Much of their life revolves around their extended families.

I found this to be less so for the Indians, even less for Chinese. This is not to say that Chinese and Indians don’t care for their families, just simply that having a big family, and maintaining close ties with the extended family, seems less a priority than it is for Malays.

When we were cycling through Terengganu, we stopped at a tiny kampung for a breather, and two very old Malay men immediately chatted us up. They were certain that all the differences between Malaysia and Singapore could be summed up in a neat parable.

Orang Melayu, bini dulu, baru cari harta.
Orang Cina, cari harta, baru bini.

Malays find a wife first, and then wealth.
Chinese find wealth first, and then a wife.

It is interesting to compare total fertility rates—the average number of children a woman is expected to have—among the different ethnic groups in the two countries.

In 2010, Malaysia’s total fertility rates were: 1.5 for Chinese, 1.7 for Indians and 2.6 for Malays. Singapore’s were: 1.02 for Chinese, 1.13 for Indians and 1.65 for Malays.

Thus, in both Malaysia and Singapore, Malays have the highest total fertility rates among the three major ethnic groups. There could be cultural and economic reasons for this. In both countries, the Malays have lower average household incomes than the Chinese and Indians. As incomes rise, people tend to have fewer kids.

This would partly explain why Singapore’s fertility rates are today so low. This is a socio-economic phenomenon the world over, particularly with the other East Asian Tigers—Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan—who have all recorded torrid economic growth alongside plummeting fertility. (Similarly, the fertility rate in Malaysia’s more developed states, such as Penang and Selangor, is lower than other parts of the country.)

What is most surprising, perhaps, is that by 2010 the total fertility rate of Singapore’s Malays was almost as low as Malaysia’s Chinese. Malay fertility rates in Singapore have dropped drastically from 2.54 in 2000 to 1.65 in 2010.

Perhaps there is something unique about Singapore’s pressure-cooker, rat-race, materialist society that has deterred young couples from having children. It is expensive to bring up children in Singapore, particularly with all the extra tuition, expensive pre-school classes, and other personal improvement programmes that parents today deem necessary.

But government policy has also greatly influenced Singaporeans’ family values. In Singapore, love and procreation have become somewhat manufactured; transformed from individual decisions and responsibilities into a national obsession. The government has indelibly shaped every Singaporean’s conception of love, marriage and children.

In the 1970s, fearful of a population explosion, our government told people to “Stop at 2”. As expected, we followed orders. By the early 1980s, it became clear that we were not replacing ourselves sufficiently and so, in a 180-degree turn, the government started to promote bigger families. Tax breaks were offered to parents who had a third child. It didn’t make much of a difference.

By 2005, our total fertility rate had slumped to 1.26, well below 2, the “replacement rate” required to maintain a stable population. Our government, desperate, pulled out all the stops: more tax breaks, longer maternity leave, and vociferous public campaigns.

Almost from the day he stepped into office, our prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, has been urging Singaporeans to make babies. In the space of one generation, the Singaporean family psyche has been switched from big families to “Stop at 2” and back to big families again.

However, our government has tried to manipulate the population in a much more classist fashion—encouraging university graduates to marry other graduates rather than non-graduates. This reflects Lee Kuan Yew’s belief in genetic determinism.

In 1967, he said that about 5 per cent of the population “are more than ordinarily endowed physically and mentally and in whom we must extend our limited and slender resources …” Later, in 1969, he worried that “less economically productive people in the community are reproducing themselves at rates higher than the rest.”

Presumably, our government believed it could improve Singapore’s gene pool. In 1984 it implemented a programme that tried to increase the fertility of university educated women while offering subsidies for the voluntary sterilisation of poor and uneducated parents.

Singapore even set up a couple of government agencies to further this agenda. The Social Development Unit (SDU) was formed in 1984 to promote marriages among graduate singles, while Social Development Services (SDS) was set up in 1985 to promote marriages among non-graduate singles.

Sometimes it seems like our eugenics policies were implemented in a bygone era rife with classism. Actually, it was less than 30 years ago. We grew up in a society where eugenics influenced love.

Lee Kuan Yew’s views on this haven’t changed much. In 2008, he told 700-odd delegates at a Human Capital Summit that Singaporean graduates who marry nongraduates “will worry if their children will make it to the university”.

In Singapore, something so natural, so carnal, so innately human as love is transformed into a more structured, formal process. It seems like the only thing the government has yet to do is teach Singaporeans how to give head.

PAP fans love to boast about the party’s forward thinking and successful longterm planning. But when its history is eventually written (by somebody neutral), the PAP’s misguided population policies of the 1970s–80s will tarnish its legacy. Many of Singapore’s current socio-economic problems—including inequality, public transport squeezes and xenophobia—have their roots in our low birth-rate, and the government’s attempt to address it with sudden, unsustainably high immigration.

Put another way, when it comes to population policies, the current PAP leadership has created new problems by trying to correct the old problems that are partly the doing of the 1970s–80s PAP leadership.

Malaysia’s government, on the other hand, does not try to manipulate its population dynamics so meticulously. However, Malaysia’s religious police do frequently try to peer into the private love lives of Muslims in the country, to ensure that unmarried couples are not engaging in illicit physical activity—what is known as khalwat, literally “close proximity”. These khalwat raids can be quite sudden and brutal—Islamic officers are known to barge into people’s houses and rooms, looking for immoral activity.

This points to one of the great paradoxes of Malaysian society. The Malay Muslims are afforded special economic rights, but they cannot enjoy certain personal and social freedoms such as the ability to drink and engage in physical relations before marriage. On the other hand, the Chinese and Indian non-Muslims are considered second-class citizens politically, but then are able to lead much freer lives than the Malay Muslims ever can.

It does appear, however, that the Singapore government’s constant intrusions into the bedroom may have been counterproductive. At best, they have failed to achieve their goals. At worst, love, marriage and sex, glorious expressions of the human condition, have been reduced to numbers, policies and projections. Procreation becomes a mechanical response, a “national service”, akin to paying taxes.

SG Population

Which begs the question: have we all spent enough time thinking about what makes us happy? For those of us who want huge families, have we really thought hard enough about what else we could be doing with our time if we had a smaller family? Conversely, for those of us who want tiny families, are we missing out on one of life’s basic joys?

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It’s interesting to compare this passage to the one that Singapore’s The Straits Times (ST) chose to run a couple of weeks back. Incidentally, ST had asked me to select a passage for their extract. NST read through the whole book and chose one they liked.

What percentage of Singapore’s total population was born in Singapore?

For a piece on identity that I will be publishing on IPS Commons–with the excerpted version on Yahoo!–I needed to figure out the % of Singapore’s total population that was born in Singapore. I am interested in this number only as a discussion point for identity, nothing else. (Please read the article to see my argument.)

Singapore’s National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) was unable to provide me with the data. This is its official response: “The number of Singapore citizens, as at Dec 2011, is 3.27 million. We do not provide a breakdown in terms of local-born or naturalised citizens, as we regard them all as Singaporeans.”

Based on this, I do not know if the government does not have the data or if it has the data but does not want to release it to the public. In any case, I have performed a very rough calculation based on other publicly available data to arrive at a rough guesstimate that 45.8% of Singapore’s total population (residents and non-residents) was born in Singapore.

Here are my very rough workings and assumptions:

In theory, the way to calculate the two should be

Singapore-born citizen population, 2011 = Number of Singapore-born citizens in 1965 + All newborns from 1965-2011 – Newborns who did not take citizenship – All deaths of Singapore-born citizens from 1965-2011 – All Singapore-born citizens who emigrated 1965-2011.

Foreign-born citizen population, 2011 = Number of foreign-born citizens in 1965 + All new naturalised citizens from 1965-2011 – All deaths of foreign-born citizens from 1965-2011.

However, the above data sets are not available publicly.

So, given what I could find, I have decided to calculate

Foreign-born citizen population, 2011 = (Number of citizens in 1970/ 2) + (All new naturalised citizens from 1970-2011: 3*naturalised from 2001-2010) – (All deaths of foreign-born citizens from 1970-2011: Half of the first number)

Assumptions

In 1970, foreign-born citizens comprised half the total citizen population

All deaths of foreign-born citizens from 1970-2011: Half of the above number

New naturalised citizens from 1970-2011–3 times the number of naturalised citizens from 2001-2010. If the absolute number of new citizens was consistent over the years, I should multiply this by 4.2 for the 42-year span–but I have applied a discount, given the assumption that absolute naturalisations would have been higher in 2001-2010 than the other years.

The number of foreigners (i.e. non-Singapore citizens) born in Singapore and now living in Singapore is negligible. This assumption is used in my final calculation, the % of Singapore’s total population that is born in Singapore, i.e. I assume there are no non-citizens born here and still living here.

Calculation

So, from government data, we know that:

Total population, 2011:5.26m

Total citizen population, 2011: 3.27m

Number of citizens in 1970: 1.8748m

New naturalised citizens, 2001-2010: 131,142

So, to repeat my guesstimate equation–

Foreign-born citizen population, 2011 = (Number of citizens in 1970/ 2) + (All new naturalised citizens from 1970-2011: 3*naturalised from 2001-2010) – (All deaths of foreign-born citizens from 1970-2011: Half of the first number)

OR

Foreign-born citizen population, 2011 = (1.8748/ 2) + (0.131,142*3) – (0.4687) = 0.862126m

Local-born citizen population, 2011 = 3.27m-0.862126m = 2.407874m

So, the percentage of Singapore citizens born in Singapore, 2011 = 2.407874/3.27 = 73.6%

And, the percentage of Singapore’s total population that was born in Singapore, 2011 = 2.407874/5.26 = 45.8%

So, that’s about it. Obviously this is a very rough estimate. If any of you can spot any errors in my calculations, or have better methods of calculating this, please let me know.

And, to reiterate, the only point of doing all this is for the discussion on identity. It seems to me that for the basic argument in my essay–that it is difficult to construct a strong national identity when only less than half the population is born in a place–I have a fairly big margin of error: 45.8% is well below 50%.

Look forward to your thoughts.

a migration of poor standards

I’m getting a little bit tired of Indians saying how much they like my country, Singapore.

The gushing never stops. Towering buildings; glitzy shopping malls; roads without potholes; clean, drinking water; spotless streets; safe neighbourhoods; efficient administration; incorruptible government; gateway to the world; ….they could go on forever.

(Every now and then, one of them questions the lack of genuine democracy here, while yearning for the chaos of Indian coffeeshop chatter and multiparty elections. But only for a moment.)

So, Indians love Singapore. Accountants, bankers, engineers, IT guys—no matter. They all love Singapore so much.

But what’s wrong with that? Well, I was particularly irked by a comment from a very senior Indian banker (so much so that I decided to write all this).

He said, “I don’t understand why you Singaporeans keep complaining about your Ministers’ salaries. After all, they deserve it—they do such a fantastic job! Look how well your country is run! You have no idea what corrupt government is. You have no experience of a fat, inefficient, bureaucratic administration, like we do in India. If you knew what that was like, you’d have no problems paying these guys their multi-million dollar salaries. What’s an extra million or two, after all?”

Indians love Singapore so much because they keep comparing our country to theirs. Many of them feel that we Singaporeans are ungrateful and spoilt—we’ve had it so good for so long, we know not what real hardship is.

There may be some truth to that, but I’m actually fed up with this general line of reasoning, because

1) Why are we comparing ourselves to India?

There are several different groups of people who enjoy comparing Singapore to countries clearly worse off than us. Our politicians; our neutered media channels; well-off Singaporeans who have succeeded here; and foreigners (like the Indians).

Perhaps sometimes there is reason to compare and reflect on our successes, but there’s a bit too much of that going on. In order to progress, we should be engaging in upward comparison, not downward comparison.

In other words, we should not be asking
“How did Singapore succeed economically where so many other poor countries have failed?”

But instead, we should be asking
“How come there are other countries that are more developed politically, socially and economically than Singapore? What did they do right? How do we get there?”

2) Do expatriates really know what’s going on?

My Indian banker friend may not think an extra million or two is much. But not everybody is in his shoes. There are plenty of Singaporeans who are finding it tough to keep up. The bottom 30% of households has actually seen their real income drop over the past 7 years, even as Singapore continues to grow millionaires at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world. Income inequality is rising fast.

In this climate, raising the salaries of Ministers to stratospheric levels does, for many, appear like ‘legitimised corruption’ (a term bandied around on an online discussion group, Singapore Review).

I think a premium must be paid, because that is one way to lure the best. However, the current salaries seem a bit much (average salary of government minister–US$1.25m)

Sometimes it is good to get an external perspective on things. Other times, it is misleading. When a jet-setting Indian banker makes big proclamations about Singapore, its politics and its economy, after having lived only in a bubble of expense-account French wine and company-paid luxury apartments, it smacks of bias.
(For sure, I too don’t fully understand the challenges that many of my less well-off countrymen face.)

The irony? The well-heeled, sharp-tongued banker, having lived here for 6 months, will probably get much more air time from our government and its press than the fourth-generation Singaporean single mother in a 1-room HDB flat, her everyday a struggle.

Of course, it’s not just Indians from India who say these things. People from all over the world come here and say similar things. They’re just comparing life here as they see it with life as it was from where they came…only natural.

But that shouldn’t stop us from understanding the realities of life in Singapore, and trying our best to match up (and beat) the world’s best.

The Singaporean Expat revisited

This is a bit of a follow up to my SCC 7s post below….

What has amazed me most since my return to Singapore in July (after 6
years in the States) is the resentment towards Expats that has built
up in many of my peers.

Sure enough, there are a lot more expats in Singapore today than when
I left. Furthermore, the Singapore Expat today is a completely
different animal. The Expat of yesteryear was often an old White Guy
with his White Wife, two little White kids and a dog or two. He came
with tons of experience, worked for a big foreign company, doing
something amazing that most Singaporeans could not, and therefore was
less threatening (i.e. he wasn’t taking a job that we could fill). His Wife stayed at home, took care of the kids, and
occasionally had lunch with other Expat Wives at the American Club. The kids went to the American School, International School or United World College and like Expat kids everywhere, for the most part kept to themselves. Once in a while, they’d act like jackasses, ruining our walls with graffiti and our cars with tar, and have to face Singaporean law. Tough.

Over the past couple of years though, I’ve noticed how the Singaporean Expat has changed.

Today’s expats come from many different countries – US, anywhere in Europe, South America, China, India, Malaysia, Africa, etc.

Today’s expats range from 21 years old to 99 years old.

Crucially, today’s expats come to Singapore to fill ‘very ordinary jobs’,

(‘very ordinary jobs’ defined as a job that a local is qualified for and could probably fill: teaching;analyst to mid-level in any big firm – banking, consulting, media, law, etc.

As opposed to the highfaluting top corporate executive jobs that we used to need Expats for)

This is actually what irks young Singaporeans I’ve met the most. After all, we love Expats! We want Singapore to be a cosmopolitan paradise, with fascinating people of every shade mingling. The oneness of humanity, the need for races to mix and live harmoniously is part of our country’s founding ethos.

But when a Singaporean gets passed over for a job in favour of a similarly qualified Expat, irritation grows. What’s more the Expat is here on a cushy Expat package making twice as much as the local would have cost. Why?

But why would a company want to pay somebody more to do something a local could? IMHO, there are two things going on: (Real or perceived) Extra Skill Set & Colonial Overhang

Extra Skill Set: If the Expat in question had indeed worked in a big foreign market like London or New York etc. before arriving on Singaporean shores, it is really hard to begrudge them that specialized knowledge, be it their exposure to a much more mature market, the depth of their Rolodex, or simply their improved PR/ presentation skills, all of which matter tremendously.

Colonial Overhang: This permeates everybody, consciously or not, and in all honesty there is no easy answer to it.

An Investment Bank in Singapore might prefer to have a White Guy in their ranks (even lower down) because people the world over look up to the White Guy. Whether it’s his Singaporean colleagues who feel that the Bank is worth their salt because they’re able to attract a White Guy. Or the clients in China and India who are impressed when the Bank’s M&A team shows up with a young White Guy on board.

In Asia, there is a huge premium just for being White. Whether it’s applying for jobs, or picking up sarong clad, Anglo-accented partners at clubs.

What is the problem with all this?

You fear that Expats are increasingly swollen-headed. To misquote a Californian friend of mine, “They think they’re the shit.” They are here, getting paid a lot more to do ‘the same thing’, everywhere they go people are kowtowing to them, WOW! What a place to live.

(For a relatively contemporary insight into an Expat’s view of Singaporeans, check out Ewan McGregor’s clownish, dumb colleagues in the film, ‘Rogue Trader’, inspired by the story of Nick Leeson and the fall of Barings Bank. Sure, it’s Hollywood, take it with a pinch of salt. But hey, who’s propagating this White Man’s Burden nonsense?)

At the same time, many Singaporeans feel the opposite! They feel that many Expats who are here are the ones who couldn’t make it in their own countries. Didn’t have what it takes to compete with the best in London or New York. So, after reading 15th Century Portuguese Navigators, they set their sight on some faraway tropical paradise where Asian men will lick their boots and Asian women kiss their bodies, and lo and behold, here they are in Singapore.

So – Expats don’t think much of us and we don’t think much of them. Is this what’s happening? That’s a little simplistic but some shreds of truth.

Another big Singapore irritation:

While every other country in the world has some form of indigenous labour protectionism – whether they care to admit it or not – Singapore does not. In short, the local job market is being squeezed while foreign markets are just as difficult for the Singaporean to penetrate. We have no intrinsic advantages at home, but are seriously disadvantaged abroad.

In fact, these days, we’ll not only grant foreigners a working permit, we’ll make them citizens too. Look at the Brazilians in our national soccer team and the Chinese in our national table-tennis team. Singapore has become the skilled immigrant’s paradise. Singaporean citizenship is up for grabs to the ‘best and the brightest’. (Note: Don’t ever think of getting citizenship for that Filipino maid who’s been with your family for eons, or the Bangladeshi who’s built half your neighbourhood) Singaporean tax payer’s money is also funding foreign scholars, in the hope that they’ll become Singaporean and work hard for us.

Does the Government not care for us? No, that’s not it. They’re probably just trying to do what every other polyglot country does – attract the best immigrants. And, since Singaporeans are not having kids, our labour force has to be bolstered somehow (or does it?) Any kind of protectionism would be foolish.

Where does this leave the poor Singaporean? Not sure really. We have to work harder than the Expats to prove our worth at work and in the dating game. The way I see it, those are just facts of life our generation will have to come to terms with. If we don’t like it, we can leave.

Our dear ‘Gah-men’ will even give us a stylish new ‘quitter’ name…

SCC 7s at the Padang

This past Sunday, old Raffles Number 8 and my good buddy Kuang Yuan managed to score some VIP passes for the Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) Rugby 7s at the Padang, Singapore’s famous green that sits in front of our City Hall.

Views: You really get to appreciate Singapore’s mix of modern and colonial architecture. St. Andrew’s Cathedral, City Hall, Suntec City, The Durians etc. etc. Really is quite stunning, and also perhaps a more attractive backdrop than cities like New York and Hong Kong, which are so crammed that they feel too claustrophobic. I’m a big fan of our urban planners.

It was a rollicking good time, great rugby, as the Fijians won again,
much to our delight, though we wished the others put up more of a
fight. Free Heineken beer, always a good thing, served by Hooters
girls no less. At the risk of exposing my superficial bastardness, the
average Singaporean girl does not a quintessential Hooter make. Pretty
in their own right, just not a Hooter.

Beer, good looking women and rugby. What more could we want? Alas, my
social justice radar couldn’t be turned off.

We had the fortune to sit in the Sponsor’s booth. Big companies had
paid top dollar for a weekend out for employees and honored guests. I,
somehow, was one of the latter. At most events, I’m used to small
Sponsor’s Booths and Large general admission areas. Not here. There
clearly seemed to be more people in the VIP Sponsor’s Booths than
everywhere else around the field.

Here’s the kicker – about 90% of the people in the Sponsor’s Booth
were Ang Moh. Gweilo. Mat Salleh. Expats. Nothing wrong with that,
really. They are nice folk. They probably work (or are guests of) big
rugby-loving companies. And they’re in Singapore. Why shouldn’t they
be here?

No reason. Except that KY (yes, he’s used to the lubricant jokes) and
I felt slightly out of place after, oh, 5 minutes. There we were, in
the ‘exclusive’ VIP booth, surrounded by expats, taking in the show,
while the other Singaporeans were either serving us icy beer, cute
sandwiches and fried wontons or sweating it out in the ‘General
Admission’ stands below.

The Irrational Nationalist in us screamed for us to stop sleeping with
the enemy and join our brethren in the pits below. Nah, free beer too
good.

There was nothing morally wrong or illegal going on really. It was
just one of those moments in life where you take a step back, look at
how things are….and wonder how far we’ve come from colonialism…how
far we’ve come from Orientalism…whether we’re living in a system
that really lets the disadvantaged raise themselves up….or one
that’s just going to perpetuate the madness. (Yikes! I probably sound
like a flaming Berkeleyan Communist now….don’t take that last line
at face value. Just a musing)

Big show was on at the Padang, our Padang. Singaporeans hardly in
sight. Foreigners partying it up. A service-oriented country?
Servicing who?

Will continue with another post about my Singaporean friends’
attitudes towards and perceptions of foreigners, which i find
illuminating and disturbing…