First World Living - Singapore

How much do you really know yourself? Besides knowing what we like and don’t like, what we can do and can’t do, many of us are actually living out others’ as well as the society’s expectations.


Failure Was Never An Option

We have been taught well that failure was never an option. When we were young, there was always a certain expectation of us i.e. study hard, pass examination with flying colours, get into a branded school, shoot for top university if possible and land with a well-paid job with an established large organisation. Thereafter, work hard, mind your own business and don’t be a nosey parker, don’t risk failure and always stay on the safe side. Sounds familiar?

Like any parents, we often wished our kids to be well-behaved, bring pride to the family by scoring top in exam, participate in and win trophies in all activities and if possible, get a scholarship and work in government or government-linked companies as they are perceivably fail-safe companies and pay better (salary, bonus and welfare benefits) than most privately owned companies.


Tread Within The Norm 

In our Singapore society, we are generally well-trained to be submissive and disciplined. Follow the rules, obey the authorities and mind our own business. When in doubt, don’t be a smart Alec. Instead, tread on the safe side and watch what others do and follow suit thereafter.

We have also been taught that there is no honour for being a loser. At home and society, we were so well beaten into shape to think and act within the box that we have literally surrendered our ownership and initiative in order to conform and comply. A typical example is driving habit. When we don’t see a ‘U’ turn” sign, we naturally conform to that by not making a ‘U’ turn even it is feasible. These seem to be the rules of life that have been well embedded inside our mental system that we lost the boldness, courage and initiative to lead, be different and take risk. Anything outside the limit seems to be fraught with risk, fear and to some, suicidal.


Singaporeans At Large Think And Act As A Herd

A typical trait common among Singaporeans is that whenever we see a queue, we tend to join first, and “ask later”. This ‘kiasuism’ attitude has become a trademark of being a Singaporean. Our education system has taught us to be book and exam smarts that we blunt our ‘street smartness’ or survival analytical skill to evaluate risks. A good example is the assembly of large crowds in a new property launch snapping up properties thinking that it must be a good deal since it is popular. Property developers are skilful in exploiting this ‘kiasu’ mentality that our government has to intervene by implementing eight different measures within 24 months so that Singaporeans will not fall into the financial trap should property prices fall.


Reactive Thinking And Living

If we continue to live in a semi-conscious state of mind, reacting only to external environmental and social pressures, I wonder how smart or successful one can become. My overseas friend was jokingly lamenting that Singaporean are so well conditioned that they have become so ‘one dimensional’ and predictable because almost everything in Singapore is so prefixed that nothing is left to chance. When there is a robbery (recently taken place in Geylang), it seems so unreal and extraordinary that got most of us excitedly worried. The riot by the foreign workers in Little India and the strike by the Mainland Chinese were two major events that have taken many Singaporeans by surprise. Do we really care? I don’t think so. After all, we are confident that our authorities or ‘big brother’ will deal with it swiftly and decisively. That’s our careless attitude that has been bred in us.

We have also willingly surrendered our say, forego our rights in exchange for a safe and secured living environment. We have become rigorously trained to routine that anything out of the ordinary seems surprising. We have also been cowed to conformity and compliances that we have lost our enterprising spirits. We have been educated in a system that scoring well in exam is the sole means to be labelled as being good. We have been shamed when we misbehaved, dishonoured when we failed and categorised as unSingaporean when we do not conform to the norm.

That is the sad state of mind in most Singaporeans that we literally don’t have any interest to truly find out who we really are, live the life or do the things we aspired to do. Many are merely living out the expectations of our families and society, and that is how I summed it.


“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ― C.G. Jung