Dreams are reflections of our desires and aspirations for the future; when taken collectively, the “Singapore Dream” is quintessentially a potpourri of ambitions and goals that Singaporeans have in the years and decades to come. Throughout our nascent stages of economic development and growing affluence, the “Singapore Dream” has been closely associated with notions of pragmatism and materialism, which has culminated infamously in the 5Cs: Cash, Car, Credit Card, Condominium and memberships in Country Clubs. The perennial obsession with moving speedily up the socio-economic ladder was encouraged by the administration’s focus on prime fiscal growth, trapping many within a rat-race scrambling for promotions, degrees, profits et cetera.
To a large extent, the manner in which our dreams have been shaped has been significantly influenced by the administration’s primary fixation on economic progression, measured solely on GDP growth figures and productivity indexes. It has driven many – especially young Singaporeans – to dream for themselves in their pursuit of worldly personal gains, instead of setting their sights towards a much bigger picture. Given that Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong – recently called on Singaporeans to go beyond the 5Cs – the commentary “Singapore Dreaming” (August 9, 2010) is certainly timely to help individuals reposition their priorities and expectations.
The changing global landscape and the shifting demands have empowered Singaporeans with greater liberty and flexibility not just in their career options, but also in their various life pursuits. Beyond the traditional path of success – through years of academic pursuit and degree-hunting – youths are given the options to excel in their own fields of expertise, be it music, sports, and even entrepreneurship. The spirit of enterprise and freedom are admirable, and simultaneously showcase the degree of diversity we should work towards; instead of viewing Singaporeans as mere cogs in the economic machinery.
Of the collection of dreams, the most moving were those from parents who never cease to hope for the best from their children; and possibly change the world. Madam Zhang Ah Chun, through thick and thin, aptly highlights that “you don’t compare yourself with others who have cars or any of the 5Cs … I am happy the way I am, just with my family around”. The Singapore spirit and dream are not characterised by those who earn the most, by those who are the most well-known; instead, our history has always been – and will always be – supported and crafted by the many ordinary citizens who toil faithfully and honestly to fulfil their responsibilities as Singaporeans, and to give their families the best they deserve. That is the true Singapore story.
It is time to move beyond our personal spheres of comfort, and begin to identify ourselves as citizens in a larger national, and even global, context. It starts with Singaporeans desiring to have a greater say in public policies, various stakeholders stepping up to walk the talk, and showing greater care and consideration for the people around us. Focus on monetary progress per se is clearly antiquated; allow everyone the chance to grow and evolve, without losing sight of his family, friends, and the many cherished people around him.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.