MM Lee: You must want to die for each other .. so said a story by Elgin Toh on Straits Times Online.
Actually, I can’t be sure that Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew did throw such a challenge to Singaporeans.
I didn’t catch the TV news on it, assuming that Channelnewsasia covered the launch of Hard Truths, comprising 16 interviews over 32 hours that MM Lee gave to a Straits Times team. Can’t find it on the Todayonline website either. I checked yesterday’s ST hard copy, which arrived this morning with my usual supply of old copies from my nephew’s home.
Well, there are no direct quotes on the topic from MM in the ST paper. There’s an inference, that’s all.
Be that as it may.
Let’s assume that MM Lee did convey such a challenge to Singaporeans, albeit not in so many words.
Thus, let me say with all due respect to Mr Lee: I think it’s so quaint and last century a notion to talk about citizens dying for one another.
In this mostly pragmatic and cynical age — unless you belong to the coterie of fanatics of all persuasions — no one would die for a cause, in the vein as celebrated by the Charge of the Light Brigade or, more recently, as celebrated in Chinese kungfu movies and similar sagas.
(Oh incidentally, I was once inspired to write a doggerel of a Chinese soldier bidding farewell to his beloved — after I watched one of Jet Li’s films. Here it is:
Farewell my tender love.
The bugle calls and I must go.
If this flag
instead of me
then know I’ve
ceased to be,
for the sake
of our beloved
In this pragmatic and cynical age, the only “heroic” deaths would only be died by those who defend our law and order as a profession. They die in the line of duty; not for love of country or to preserve our way of life. Then, there will be those who die accidentally — in a reflex rush of public spiritedness — such as chasing a bag snatcher who unexpectedly turns super violent.
For the rest of us, it’s more apposite to ask us to live for Singapore and continue to live in Singapore, rather than declare ourselves Singaporeans loving Singapore forever but spend most of our lives elsewhere — out of choice.
We must be encouraged to continue to love living in Singapore even if our port may forever lose its No 1 status; even when our transport infrasture for the less affluent remains a far second behind Hongkong; even when many liveable cities within a four-hour flying time (most are far, far closer with no need to fly) beckons, offering 40% the cost of Singapore –for living and sickness.
That’s the real challenge in my view when crystal ball gazing about the future of Singapore!