The Singapore Spirit shines through in challenging times

Our passion as a people to improve our nation exemplifies the Singapore Spirit like nothing else.

Rishi Budhrani

Published: 23 July 2021, 2:43 PM

I walked into the community center for my first jab of the vaccination, and there was something momentous about the whole experience.

Momentous, heartening, and in a lot of ways, overwhelmingly Singaporean.

A former NS army medic administered my jab and told me he never thought his training as a medic would ever come in useful to society.

A father accompanied his child, both seemingly nervous, and a volunteer handed the little girl some sweets after her injection to calm her down.

And there were young people, giving out water, as they chirpily greeted and helped wheelchair-bound seniors in and out of the center.

They offered a bottle of sanitiser and a box of masks to everyone on their way out, and I heard a lady say: “It’s ok. I have enough. Thanks.” 

It was refreshing, to say the least.

Especially in a time where, outside the walls of the neighbourhood CC, we are constantly reading about unfortunate cases of race-related issues, gaslighting of sentiments and an inexplicable reluctance to facilitate dialogue or understand each other’s views about difficult issues, this seemed like a timely reminder of who we have the potential to be as a people.

Like I said, it was overwhelmingly Singaporean.

Perhaps, it was serendipitous, then, that I was hosting the Conversations of the Singapore Spirit dialogues with youth during this period.

I’ve always believed that no nation can progress if they ignore the sentiments, ideas and contributions of the youths. 

And Singapore is no different. In my experience working with students over the past 10 years in various capacities, and also more recently, in the virtual dialogues, I’ve found that, if given the right platforms, they’ve always proven themselves to be on the verge of excellence.

They were brave with their questions in the forum too. For instance, a very important discussion about the unwarranted stigma towards ITE students came up and the participants openly voiced their disagreement towards this attitude. 

They also openly questioned our politicians present at the forum about potential punishments meted out to those committing race-related offences, and even posed a poignant question for Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong, addressing the effectiveness of the Ethnic Integration Policy.

I want to emphasise that some of these students are in their late teens. To put things into perspective, when I was in my late teens, I was running away from my neighbours for playing football under the block and writing grammatically incorrect letters to a girl I had a crush on. I wasn’t raising issues about the nation that could potentially be debated in parliament. 

Either the new generation of Singaporean youths have a lot less political apathy than before, or perhaps, I was just an underachieving kid.

Either way, it was clear that traits such as inclusivity and multiculturalism are important to them. Citing examples of recent race-related incidents, the general consensus was that values of showing care to each other and being human were crucial in such trying times.

I am wary of this account sounding like a moral education textbook, so I must emphasise that the students were quick to point out that there were problems, and that certain behaviours were definitely undesirable. But there was also an agreement that we, as a people, had to show a high degree of resilience if we want to be ready for an uncertain future.

The youths are not ready to accept a rosy and sanitised view of the current state of affairs in Singapore, which reflects the courageous, and sometimes, complex foundations the nation was built on. 

They are aware that there are problems, and certainly, we, the people, are not perfect. But the youth of the nation are also mature enough to appreciate what they’ve got, and passionate enough to explore practical solutions to make the nation better for all of us. 

And that exemplifies the Singapore Spirit like nothing else can.

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