My Thoughts And Motivations Behind The Post: Singapore, What Do You Want?

Empty Chairs
“A scene from Sunday afternoon as Singapore bands played to a small audience in gigs organised by the Youth Olympic Games”
Image credit: Leonard Soosay

When i wrote the post, Singapore, What Do You Want? I did not expect the minister himself to comment on it. I was coming home, taking the bus and checking my tweets out, and someone mentioned, “Look at the comments.” And for ten whole minutes, I was overwhelmed. This was going to be a lot bigger than I’d anticipated, and more will be stepping forward to share their views. I thought I’d be able to reply every single one of you who commented, but I can’t, or won’t. It’s almost 4AM, and my left arm is still in a cast, but I will share some top line thoughts and motivations to what drove me to write that particular post.

First of all, thank you for everyone who re-tweeted the message I wanted to share, for blogging about it and driving so many readers here (Mr Brown!). For everyone who liked a comment (ANY comment), and most definitely, everyone who left a comment. Whether you agree or not with my point of view, is not the point. I want to thank you for leaving a comment, and sharing your opinion, because it matters to someone. For those of you who encouraged me, thank you, I’ve been tired out from this because I’m not used to this sort of attention, but I’m learning to handle the pressure. You’re helping ALOT. And if my fuse was short on some, I apologise.

What it was not about
1. First of, it was not a blog post: extolling the MCYS, the ministers behind it; a political mouth piece with leanings to the current government in power nor about offering justification to why we should have held the Youth Olympics here; nor discuss what good or bad will come out of it.

2. Second, it was not meant to be a political piece, forcing people to take sides, that you are either for-or-against the Youth Olympic Games, and therein lied your political alignment.

What it IS about
1. It is an independent voice. It is meant to talk about human values and human spirit, despite our differences in opinion about the games. You as a reader can choose however you want to take my words, but I stand by the integrity of this blog, that it is a post meant to encourage everyday people like you and me, working & volunteering on the ground, and putting a spotlight on youth athletes who show us the values of human spirit; hard work; and how celebrations and disappointments are a natural course of life.

1. My main motivation for writing this post, is perhaps best embodied in my previous post, “The Case Of The Local Music Scene Vs. You, The Consumer” My main motivation was to encourage. I’ve been playing in Singapore indie bands for about ten years, never breaking the mainstream, or seeing so many of my friends hit a ceiling when it comes to how far we can take our music. I’m not pinning the blame on the consumer / audience, but we know what it’s like to struggle, and fight for a craft, and no one seems to care. You could say I empathised with the athletes, volunteers and workers, because I felt that they were in a similar situation (despite a multi-million dollar budget).

I could just not care, and continue being a trainer for 2 weeks, collect my pay and go home, carry on with my life and write in my blog about other things. But like my previous post, I realised that *while* it would be nice to change mindsets, that’s way too selfish and self-righteous.

What was within my capacity, as a normal person in living in Singapore, was to give encouragement to those who needed, wanted, or were looking for it. I’m not saying I’m a saint, but like some of us who give monetary donations to feed material needs of the less fortunate. Maybe I felt like I still had an exccess of soul and spirit to give, so I shared that, to anyone who needed or wanted it. And that was really it.

2. It’s not that I’m proud of Singapore as much as I’m proud of people in Singapore. Do not mistake this with nationalism, and please try to understand that I have been contributing art and culture to a place that can be seen as home. (My family + friends are here, I am investing my time here to contribute to a society.) But while others choose to see the bad and wonder why we’re stuck in Singapore, I know I’m not alone with people who see the good, that this is where we would like to see local arts & culture flourish, as much as our home as a whole. Almost like rooting for the underdog I guess.

Why did I feel that motivation was necessary?
1. I definitely made the mistake of grouping all negative sentiment into a category of “haters”, or people not proud of Singapore, prior to writing the “Singapore, What Do You Want?” But I would like to remind everyone, that this is very wrong thinking. I can be guilty of it when my emotions get the better of me.

But there are definitely some purely negative statements that get vocalised, and tear away at peoples’ souls. Ridicule for people who believe in something different from them, getting called names for the amusement of showing everyone how smart alecky one can be. I can appreciate satire, but I think we can draw a line when our words deride the integrity and character of someone we do not know. But again, this is a personal standard, how you use the Internet is entirely up to you. You will understand if I don’t listen to what you have to say if I cannot learn anything new.

But in the course of understanding the various grievances that we have, we should raise our voices if we do not agree with something. It is through public discourse that we can understand each other and work together for a better home for all of us. It doesn’t always have to be more money, welfare or convenience, it could also be more understanding and social graces with each other.

Thank you again, for reading. For leaving your comments, for sharing your experiences, thoughts, frustrations and hopes. I think Singapore is in an important transition, and I’m no expert policy maker, economist who can increase our GDP at the drop of a hat. But I, like others, can at least contribute to the culture of Singapore. Something I feel we’ve left behind in the name of progress. It may not mean much to some, but it means a lot to others. We’re not waiting for some great external act to galvanise the people, or have a sense of community. But I think we can start in our own little pockets on the ground, and slowly chip away at the unfinished identity of being a son or daughter of a place we would like to call home.

Affairs, Opinion

Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games: Singapore, What Do You Want?

Empty Celebrations
“An empty Celebration corner”
Image credit: Yawning Bread

Another one armed post, because my left arm is still in a cast, but also because I feel that this is an opinion I want to share, hopefully to offer a different point of view, and perhaps one that’s positive as well.

I’m going to be talking about the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games, so I’d better offer a full disclosure and disclaimer before we carry on:

“I am one of the trainers conducting the Digital Media Workshop for the athletes and coaches as part of the Culture and Education Programme (CEP), and I enter the Youth Olympic Village and interact with athletes, coaches, volunteers and people part of the organising committee on a daily basis. These opinions expressed, are my own, and are by no means affiliated to my employers or the organising committee, and based solely on my personal experience and account. My identity is fully public, and I am currently unaware of any communications directives, but I am taking a risk on my personal reputation, because I believe my opinion matters to the public discourse.”

I think there are many things to find inconvenient or uncomfortable about the Youth Olympic Games. It inconveniences us, our students are being forced to volunteer, crap food gets served, the budget blew itself by three times, we have to give way to the transport buses, there is little International coverage about the games, there is the unbalanced reporting done by our own mainstream press. Yes, these are all facts reported by alternative media in Singapore, and it really shows that the games are not as perfect as you might believe (but then again, nothing is), and definitely reasons for any concerned citizen to voice out. I myself as a contributing member of society, and the public, will of course hold the relevant parties to task by asking questions, but for the next 12 days, maybe I will just cool off.

Chinese Weightlifter
Image credit: SPH-SYOGOC/ Tan Kok Peng

I’m going to at least try to make this about the athletes who have come to Singapore to compete, who have been given the opportunity as one of the best in their sports back home, to come out here and compete with the best from other countries. To me, there’s something special about seeing so many different cultures in one venue. To learn, to compete, to know what it means to fight, do your best, and also make friends.

This is what I’ve seen when I was watching some highlights from the sports being played so far. Athletes doing their absolute best, giving their all and not giving up. Winning as individuals or teams, losing graciously but still with a fire in their eyes to improve, to make it for the next one, to know that even if they won, they are still not good enough, and want to get better. The camaraderie in teammates, the understanding that even if we’re all from different cultures, we’re all still together in one place, competing, making friends, understanding a little bit more about each other, hopefully working toward a future.

Image credit: Samuel Lin

And the excitement of the volunteers who wanted to be there! I mean, these kids WANTED to be part of the Youth Olympics! They wanted to meet athletes, they wanted to make friends, they wanted to learn, mingle, interact, share. I recognise that these volunteers are different from the ones who were forced into volunteering or making up numbers, but they are there nonetheless, and I simply think they deserve a bit more of our support.

Maybe I’m taking things a little personally. Maybe. I know once the games end, my contract would have ended, and I’ll just go back to being ‘lil old me and be my usual snarky, overly critical self again. But maybe some of this ‘Olympic’ spirit has rubbed off on me, this belief that the human race can be something greater, can work together for something good, and that every time I read a cynical comment online, it almost seems like it’s telling the athletes and youth volunteers:

“We wish you were never here. You caused so much inconvenience for us, and it would just have been simpler if the Youth Olympics never happened, or happened here.”

But like I said, maybe I’m taking things too personally, it just sounds that way when I read the comments, and I really hope I’m wrong. I hope that despite the snarky, cynical comments we make about the games, we actually still believe in the youth. Those competing, those who chose to volunteer, and that maybe even those who were forced, can actually start reaping the benefits of this experience. It really is a global forum of 3,600 youths from around the world. How many of us can claim to have experienced that? Maybe for the next 12 days, this is about them, not us.

Maybe we don’t agree with how the party was planned, maybe we don’t like the host of the party we were invited to (Or rather, it feels more like our housemates organised a house party and didn’t bother to check with us), but if the other fact to the gawdy party decorations or cheesy music, is that people are genuinely having a good time, and making friends, are we the ones shortchanging ourselves by hating so much, and not seeing it from the point of view of the party guests?

I know this is an unfair sentiment. I don’t think that if you were forced to volunteer when you didn’t want to, is by any means a justification of the powers and authorities over you to force you to do something you didn’t want to. But maybe, we can try to understand that not enough people stepped up to the plate. Maybe it would have been ideal that we would jump at the opportunity to volunteer or attend the games, but we didn’t. I know it’s not a reprieve, but it makes me ask myself that question. Why didn’t I? Why did I wait till I got a job to feel this way? I believe we share similar sentiments of not wanting to support the games at first, but to feel this support for the games is actually a recent phenomena for me as well. Now, I just want to do my part, and that’s why I’m putting this entry on the line, to get shot down by people who vehemently oppose the games.

But to those of you who are open to being a part of this, who want to see the glass as half full (instead of half empty) I just encourage you to see for yourself, the spirit and heart of the athletes, volunteers and performers. This is something the $300+ million could not buy. You ask yourself what it means to be Singaporean? Well, it doesn’t mean you do everything your government tells you to do. It means you think for yourself, and decide what it means to be a Singaporean, and what differentiates you from the rest of the world. If you’re proud of your differences, shortcomings and triumphs, I think you can be proud that you are able to help host the dreams and aspirations of youth athletes the world over, that we were chosen to be a host, whether the world is watching or not, to be someone special to someone else.

“The athletes, volunteers & colleagues i spend my time with.”
Image credit: Social Media Too!

I’m dedicating this post to you. You who wanted to be here, to be part of something bigger than yourself, who wanted to experience something special in your life, who wanted to know there’s a whole world out there, who dared to dream big, who wanted to meet someone new, who sees defeat as a natural part of life, who wants to make a difference, who believes in a future. This is for you.