In an interesting format for the National Day Rally 2019, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed the audience in his usual three languages, but decided that the contents would be largely different in each language. One could say “Eh, okay leh, less draggy to hear the repeated version in English right?” (that is, if you are billingual).
But if you read the contents carefully, you would also observe that perhaps, just perhaps, specific parts of the speech in Chinese were meant for the eyes and ears of the ethnic Chinese in Singapore.
PM Lee took everyone down memory – from migrant Chinese (our great-grandparents and grandparents) came here to work…. to post-WWII and independence. Many chose to stay here and “落叶生根” (grow roots) instead of returning to China. Pledging support for the National Service was also another clear signal that Chinese Singaporeans’ loyalty was first and foremost here. Malays and Indians too had similar experience, reaching a decision point where they decided here is home, and here is where their children will call home.
As the years went by, Singaporeans started to form our own unique culture. Our food, our language, tend to be a little bit of a mish-mash of our multi-cultural language. Simple things like the term “巴刹” for market is not really a Chinese word, but rather a direct translation from the Malay word “Pasar”. Also, even as the Mala hotpot craze is hyping up in Singapore recently, some of us just prefer a good solid Sambal Belacan lah.
Descendants of the Chinese migrants from the pre-war era probably mostly feel we are more Singaporean than Chinese. (I mean, we still look yellow skinned, but if we stood beside a PRC Chinese, you can tell we are not them right #idonthavechinaaccent).
Over the years, as new immigrants from PRC came and also decided to grow roots, the “old” Singaporean Chinese (we like to think of ourselves as “original immigrants”) do feel the difference. As with the past, new immigrants bring along with them, ideas and practices from their country that are not the norms. We draw a “them” vs “us” line. That is normal human reaction.
Yet over time, on an individual basis, we do find some affinity because we speak the same language, sort of. We need to constantly ask them, where does YOUR loyalty lie? Especially when they are now in our community, in our various associations, schools, workplace, “会馆”. As the “original immigrants”, we need to be more assertive that they conform to our norms and not be influenced by them instead. And also ask ourselves – where does my own loyalty lie?
It is discomforting to observe that there are pockets of the Chinese community who would choose sides between the US-China tensions based on the colour of our skin. When such matters affects matters of our country’s survival, it would be suicidal to think that one could simply lean this way or that way based on who we feel more affinity with. Logic must prevail, not emotions.
And so, even as the euphoria of National Day has more or less faded, and August is nearly over, we need to stop and remind ourselves – let’s be Singaporeans first. Our decisions and actions must be pro-Singapore.
Not pro-PAP or pro-WP. Not pro-mygrandfatherscountryofbirth. Or we will became simply a vassal state of another mighty power, and that is NOT what our forefathers have fought so hard for independence to end up with.