Sunday, September 30, 2007

No Soul

This post originally appeared under the title "Casting the First Stone" on the first blog I ever kept. That site is now defunct

“Singapore has no soul,” she said. We were on a train to Jerantut, Malaysia. It was a holiday weekend, and the train was crowded, and kept getting slowed down (sometimes to a standstill), making for a very long journey. I had known her for a very short time -- the duration of the train ride -- but her insights were amazingly on target with my own experiences in the 2-3 years I’d been living in Singapore.

She was from Australia, and had been living in Singapore for 23 years. I knew exactly what she meant by “no soul” -- Singapore was a city with structure everywhere. The infrastructure was top-notch. Efficiency was the rule, not the exception, wherever you turned. The common idea was expressed in the words (oft repeated), “We have no natural resources except our people, so we have to make the best use of them we can.”

But much of that mentality has changed over the years. Don’t get me wrong, Singaporeans are as hard-working as ever. But there is a growing recognition for a multi-dimensional life, and a growing commitment to building a life with what the lady beside me on the train had called “soul.” I could almost say I have seen the generation of a nation’s soul in the time I have lived here.

I hope that this process of Singapore coming into its own can be seen in some of the blogs I’ve presented over the past couple of weeks. In the arts scene, there is less and less reliance on foreign leadership, and a growing voice that is uniquely Singaporean. There is a growing awareness of a story, uniquely Singapore’s, to be told, as demonstrated in Lee’s memoirs and the stories my friends have shared with me over the years.

For some recommended books that give a good representation of Singapore, please see this reading list.

Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei (Lonely Planet Travel Series)
Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei (Lonely Planet Travel Series)

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