Now that the fireworks have ended, the songs have faded, and the shops are slowly taking down the SG50 sales posters, it’s time to take a deep breath and go back to our lives.
I’m so bloody happy that SG50 is coming to an end.
It’s not that I hate my country — I’m a proud Singaporean and have lived here all my life. And as a little girl growing up in Singapore, I’ve always loved celebrating National Day. I was in my school choir for 8 years, and I know all the lyrics to the NDP songs because I had to sing them at every National Day celebration. I have a token red outfit in my wardrobe to whip out each time the 9th of August comes around.
What surprised me was that despite sitting through the whole National Day Parade broadcast on television and eating my favourite Singaporean food with my favourite Singaporeans, I couldn’t suppress the weight that was lifted off my chest when the broadcast ended and the president left the stadium.
There have been some great moments in SG50. I loved how our 50th anniversary sparked conversation and discussions about Singapore. Movements like RememberSG reminded us of the rich history that is uniquely Singaporean. People like Sonny Liew, Alfian Sa’at, and to some extent Amos Yee, were quick to show that a love for our country doesn’t mean that you are afraid to criticise it. I’m also partial to fireworks.
But after the seventh month of #SG50 campaigns (some of which I have covered here on Vulcan Post), I could feel a part of my heart collapsing.What began as genuine awe of my home’s achievements was eventually cheapened for fishcakes and magic tricks. It became an opportunity for established corporations to seem relevant to Singaporeans, and for independents to be heard in an Internet of hype-seekers.
A national celebration that should have been a collective experience became a self-serving one, where people joined in the conversation to avoid being left out of it, and this outcome — through a country-scale marketing scheme — became inevitable.
Perhaps it wasn’t that the campaign took place, but that it went on for as long as it did. When it first began, it was pretty fun. People created art and gushed over our favourite landmarks immortalised in LEGO structures. But things are only fun in small doses. SG50 became that annoying friend that talks about their birthday so much that when the day comes, it doesn’t feel like that big of a deal anymore.
Birthday presents were reduced to numbers on your Carousell app.
So what does an SG50-less life look like? To be honest, I don’t remember. But I’ll be enjoying this newfound freedom guiltlessly and with some degree of retrospection. Yes, appreciate the 50 years of struggle that Singapore has experienced, but also recognise that the struggles we face today are new ones.
The road to SG100 is going to be drastically different, but hopefully, it will be one that we go on with a collective effort, and an appreciation not only of the past, but of the people around us. To look past the Instagram-able moment and truly understand what it means to be part of a nation.
God damn it.