Why I was disappointed by the NDP 2015 preview - Alvinology

Why I was disappointed by the NDP 2015 preview

On Saturday, I attended my first National Day Parade preview for the first time. In all my 32 years, I had never watched NDP live; in the 80s and early 90s, when nationalism was at a fever pitch, it sure was fun to catch it on TV (for the fireworks and costume changes), but I harboured no passion for this yearly extravaganza.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my country. I just cannot tolerate kitsch displays of national fervour. (Note: I steer clear of the word “patriotism” for good reason, which will be explained later.)

Witnessing an NDP preview for myself in full for the first time on Saturday affirmed that this annual organised show of military might and largest gathering where the masses happily and willingly submit themselves to propaganda, is not for me.

The crowd at The Float at Marina Bay on Aug 1's preview.
The crowd at The Float at Marina Bay on Aug 1’s preview.

But, despite my resistance towards propaganda messages, I have to say: They didn’t go all the way. NDP 2015 did not take advantage of the general feeling of goodwill from Singaporeans to drive home what it really means to love your homeland and fellowmen. Instead what I got was:

– You must sing along to Home, if you are Singaporean.
– According to the videos, Singaporeans are identified by their penchant for queueing, chope-ing tables with tissue packets, love for food and Singlish. (Uhhuh, and so?)
– Singapore has at least four racial groups and we can live in harmony with one another because we can speak each other’s languages. (But you know this isn’t an exclusively Singaporean thing, right? Malaysians are generally more multi-lingual than Singaporeans.)

I mean, yeah, the performances are supposed to be stagey and politically-correct. But does it mean that, if I know all the lyrics to Home; chope my table everytime with tissue paper, queue for hours in the hot sun to get into NDP – I am considered “patriotic”? Really? When did we become so shallow? Every Tom, Dick and Harry who wears red and white, and waves the flag at NDP is a “patriot”?

Please.

Look at the challenges which plague us now and how Singaporeans are dealing with them. We have an ageing population, productivity at work is not high, there aren’t enough Singaporeans to take on blue-collar jobs, our infrastructure is groaning under the weight of having to support a 5.47 million population, landfill space is running out and our fertility rate is too low.

Fireworks at the NDP preview on Aug 1.
Fireworks at the NDP preview on Aug 1.

You might argue that these are problems not up to the average Singaporean to solve. But let’s not politicise these issues. Just look at them on a civic level. As an average Singaporean myself, I want to know, what’s in store for our country for the next 50 years. What’s the point of having an annual songfest only to have Singapore go to sh*t in the next 10 years?

In this day and age, in light of our pressing challenges, we have entire communities protesting against the construction of Eldercare facilities/foreign worker dorms/preschools/MRT stations near their homes. We used to have campaigns, in the 1960s, to teach people how to use the rubbish chutes in their HDB homes, but the National Recycling Programme, introduced in 2001, might as well be called the Optional Recycling Programme. To cope with the insufficient number of cleaners at food centres, we have the tray return system in place at some of them, but there’s no impetus to tell Singaporeans, hey, wake up, be cool, this is the new norm – it is your responsibility to return your tray; segregate your waste; give up the priority seats on public transport to those in need, and teach your kids to do all of the above as well. With regard to Eldercare/foreign worker dorms/and all other “not in my backyard amenities”, we need accept the fact of life that change is sometimes difficult, but necessary.

It’s not just about being Singaporean – these are basic civic responsibilities as human beings. But if you must play the “patriotism” card to get people to fall in line, then there is no better time to do it than now.

It may just be me who feels that, although Singapore turns 50 this year, but as a civic society, we haven’t graduated from the phase where the bratty teenager thinks that it’s his entitlement to have his maid carry his school bag for him.

20 planes flying in the
20 planes flying in the “50” formation.

I wonder if it did occur to the NDP organising committee that they should have a segment dedicated to what Singaporeans can do to pitch in for national progress and development. I’m imagining that it could have gone this way:

Enthusiastic rookie: “Hey, how about asking Singaporeans in the videos what they wish for Singapore’s future?”
Lao jiao (old-timer): “No, too dangerous. Later they say, ‘I hope Singaporeans won’t have to fight for jobs with foreigners in future’ or ‘I hope that we can have more reliable train service.’ Then how?”
ER: “OK, how about updating our fellowmen on how much of our daily water demand is met by NEWater? I mean, that would boost our morale because this means we are relying less on Malaysia for our water needs, right?”
LJ: “Are you crazy? You think Singaporeans will be delighted to know that they are drinking more and more of long-gang (drain) water? Anyway, this kind of thing can let PUB issue press statement. We don’t want to piss people off, or stir up complex emotions. Any more ideas?”
ER: “So you mean we can’t congratulate people for having SG50 babies and encourage them to have more, because that would make them feel bad for not contributing enough? And we can’t remind them of how united we all were at LKY’s Lying In State, because we don’t want people to start crying?”
LJ: “Ya. Also, we can’t let the public think that the PAP is using NDP as an opportunity to win voters -”
ER: “But I thought we -”
LJ: “Let PM handle all the cheem (complex) national development stuff in his NDP Rally speech, can? Now, show me the script of the woman who’s being interviewed on camera about Singapore’s kampung days. Are all the salient points inside her dialogue?”

SAF planes doing the Criss Cross Manoeuvre.
SAF planes doing the Criss Cross Manoeuvre.

Of course, these ruminations of mine are completely subjective. The military displays were sleek and I’m sure that the fireworks next week will be the most spectacular ever. But if this were a coming-of-age party – a true Golden Jubilee celebration – then whoever’s organised it has to act like Singaporeans are mature enough to understand what “patriotism” really means, and to react sensibly to the realities lying in wait for the next 50 years.

Because even teenagers gotta grow up.

2 comments
  1. a piece of pure ranting with no suggestion on how to bring the country forward as one. Guess this piece should be titled “Why you should be disappointed by the Alvinlogy ranting” instead

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