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a massacre & an epiphany

i have to confess, i am a typical singaporean – full of unbridled optimism until it is brought crashing down. after that i just hang my head and trudge on for a moment, lifting it again when the weight of disappointment has lost its effect. the cycle that has no beginning, the cycle that has no end.

i am not one to blog about about sports, even though i love sports – both in watching and participating. a while ago i watched singapore take on uzbekistan at the national stadium. well, the singapore team was actually up to the challenge for the first 30 minutes or so, before the uzbeks knocked in a couple more goals and breached the floodgates. the end result? a resounding 7-3 to the visitors.

i am no patriot, and you are not going to hear from me of how filled i was with disappointment that our team lost. after all, it was only expected that the experience and confidence of uzbekistan would eventually crush the audacity and hopefulness of the lions. sure that was going to happen, but for the first half an hour i actually allowed myself to entertain the thought that maybe, just maybe, singapore would pull off a coup and upset a team ranked much higher internationally. reality hit and won.

at the end of the game, i was left wondering: what is it that is wrong? why is it that we excel in certain aspects while we flail and stumble in other areas? on the sporting front, the same tired reasons have been repeated time and time again – that we as asians are simply inferior physically and that a society like ours does not allow the pursuit of dreams and goals outside the mainstream to the fullest, just to state a couple. no doubt we are a nation to envy when it comes to the miracle of our economic and social development but even that has to be largely credited to the efforts of our mm and his inner circle. thus, what have we as a people actually achieved?

the dismal answer to the above question is sadly, nothing much. other than raking in more money year after year, can we claim any other achievements that hold value? look at our history – singapore has rarely produced individuals who have given us something to be proud of, be it in surpassing physical limits in sports, or be it in bringing inspiration and relief to others. having said that, i acknowledge and honour the few among us who have done that, and are doing so even now, for they are truly worthy of our admiration and respect. what about the rest of us then? are we simply going to repeat the age-old argument that well, some are just made to be special and it is ok for the rest of us to wallow in mediocrity?

what we lack as a people, may i propose, are two things – the audacity to dream and the mule-headedness to carry it through. practicism permeates the air here, and it is disgustingly noxious at times. we have reached a point in our country’s evolution where people are more able than at any time before to seize the opportunities that abound. what has not changed is our mindset – settling for the path of least resistance, our desires easily assuaged. our forebears would be horrified at the sight of a generation of singaporeans rolling about in the muck, made fat by the fuits in which their tough labour produced and hardly doing anything that future generations can be proud of – more ‘muck’ for them notwithstanding.

the above is hardly a description of people who seek to live their lives knowing that at the end, they have done something to benefit society and make the lives of others better. the rampant self-centeredness and the materialism that pervade this society obscure the possibilities that exist, that there is much more than than endless acquisition and mindless consumption. it is almost like a course that all nations have to take, in the journey towards attaining the status of being ‘first world’. a rise and then a decline that is in our future.

we will have to avert our course. because as the world folds in on itself and more boundaries fall, the playing field is going to get even more competitive. there will come a point in time when adaptability and creativity will be the factors that determine the fittest. the same forces that are causing this are also that which have brought about the tools that we need, and will have to employ, to overcome these challenges. as the whistle sounds as the games begin, who will break the cycle and take it all the way to the end?

writing this has been a sort of catharsis for me personally. i realised that i have made blanket statements without much justification, but i have done so in the best of intentions so may that be overlooked.

for more of my thoughts, click here.

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