Friday, July 25, 2008

How blue is my S'porean?

We don't even have 50 years of history as a nation, but we already seem to have developed a sharply defined distinction between whom we consider to be true-blue S'poreans and who are "foreign talents" (FTs). We've got people quibbling over losing jobs to FTs, rights to purchase public housing, attend public schools, and now the right to represent the nation in sports.

A true S'porean is someone who was born in the S'pore, and has... um... well, apart from the guys having to serve NS, there isn't really much else. Just how many people in the world can qualify by this drinking-straw narrow definition to be S'porean, then? A couple of million, maybe, out of six billion? We have no history, no land mass, and no critical mass to even make up a decent self-replenishing population, and we still have the temerity to demand an exclusive membership in this little country-club of ours. Right.

When are people going to realize that erecting fences around ourselves is more likely going to keep us in, all nicely penned up suffocating in our own dung, rather than keep other people out? No one would come here willingly anyway, unless we gave them a reason. We ourselves were once cast-offs hailing from other lands, though now having made good, we have excised from our memories the bad old days. This nation grew on the backs of lost souls seeking a better life. When the Brits put out the call that anyone with adventure in their hearts and nothing else in their pockets and stomachs could try their luck here or bust, we were the first to line up at Immigration. Nothing has changed since then, except that we're now starting to get uppity, looking down our noses at our newly-arrived FTs and exclaiming, "there goes the neighbourhood!"

It makes no sense to deny FTs housing and education. How else are they going to assimilate into our community and become S'porean? If they can live door to door with us, struggle through public education with us, they will BE us. Otherwise we segregate them, put their kids in private schools and make them live in separate housing, and then they'll either feel discriminated against, or possibly even superior to us. Neither reaction is going to engender any strong affinity for us and make them want to put their roots down should the choice ever come up for them.

And if they can help us set new standards in sporting and other achievement willingly under our colours, then they represent the best and brightest our nation has to offer. Hiding them under a bushel is simply a pure waste of available talent.

Like it or not, we are an immigrant nation. Our open door through which people freely come and go is an integral part of our success. Close it and we kill the goose that lays our golden eggs.

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