Lamentations of a Senior Citizen

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The following edited article was sent to me by Patriot in response to my yesterday’s blog post “Pls fly our National Flag” – a regular reader of my blog. He has requested me to publish it. He is now in his 60s. All opinions are his. I may not necessarily agree totally with what he said.

Click here to read more about Patriot.

Quote
“I would like you to know that I feel sad, disappointed and hopeless with our incumbent rulers.

I was born in a poor farming family. We were so very poor that the floor of our wood and attap house was bare earth. We did not have electricity and water supply. Just like our neighbours, we were fine with our living conditions.

I had four other siblings, except me, the rest never went beyond primary school. I however dropped out at secondary four. Though we were financially poor, we had plenty of food that money may not be able to buy nowadays. We were never short of food then.

Back then, we had lots of meat – duck, chicken, pork, turkey. We also had fresh live fish that were jumping about from the sea. We had fruits ripen on the trees. And we also depended on them for a meagre income cuz they were sold at fraction of today’s prices. My elder siblings’ children were all taken care of by my grandparents and parents. They were never in the care of non-family members. We served our elders their meals all the time. Those good old days as I remember vividly were under the British Rule.

Then we got resettled by compulsion from our sprawling village to the modern high rise pigeon holes.

My wife and I with only a monthly income of less than one thousand dollars, together we raised three grown-up children. We bought a 900 sq ft 4-room flat at Bedok South for only $18,500.

Today, my children are middle income professionals. My grandchildren are sent to Infant Care followed by Childcare. They fall sick so frequently that it pains me to see them suffering unnecessarily. Their parents are always working late into the early morning and frequently have to travel on overseas assignments and attend meetings etc.

Even though they do not have to live in squatters like I used to and they drive their own cars, their children and themselves almost always have all their meals outside. They have too little time with their own children. Oh yes, they do own branded stuff and they have more than what we old folks had back then in the good old days. But, they do not have much free time and are always in a rush. Instead of happiness, I see ever more stress and increasing pressure in them.

The first 40 years of my life and that of others were filled with camaraderie at home, workplace, and almost everywhere else. The care and sharing were naturally spontaneous, no campaigns needed. Healthcare and education were then almost totally free of charge.

Over the last two decades, I began to worry for my old age. My Camel Brand Cigarettes has gone over 11 times in prices and still keep rising. The 10 cents per cup of coffee or tea has gone up by as much as 10 times and that 4-room flat has gone up by as much as twenty times or more. What’s even more dire is that inflation which was unheard of before the 80s or too insignificant to mention then is now running at over 4% to 5% yearly.

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Do you understand the pain that much of the current problems are brought upon us by our rulers’ policy with no remedy in sight?

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If Singaporeans can celebrate National Day like the way those people in this video then we have indeed become a nation.

The PAP has failed the us. The old cannot retire, families are slaves to debts (expensive flats), school leavers cannot find jobs, older workers get replaced by cheap foreigners. So many university degree holders driving taxi. Our 47th National Day is approaching. How to celebrate? What to celebrate?” Unquote

Click to read related article.

Click here to read an incisive article written last year by a fellow blogger.

About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Singaporean Chinese living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I also share interesting jokes, stories or anecdotes and observations on my blog. Thanks for visiting.
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22 Responses to Lamentations of a Senior Citizen

  1. dotseng says:

    “Our 47th National Day is approaching. How to celebrate? What to celebrate?” 

    This is a pithy summary of our times. When one’s way of life gives way to a strange and alien landscape. It can only threaten. This can only heighten the sense of uncertainty. Uncertainty leads to fear and anxiety. And this can only corrode well being and water down what it means to be part of a tribe. 

    Yes, I understand. I understand completely.

    It seems what my friend Patriot is trying so hard to say, is the question is not whether we can intergrate these foreigners into our fold. But rather might they integrate us instead into their way of life? 

    It seems our way of life is under threat is it not? 

    But why has this happened? How did we reach here? Could it be our leaders have failed to empower us with the right software to win in this war of the hearts and minds? 

    They don’t seem to be very proud of our way of life – some such as LKY and Prata man have even openly proclaimed on TV, “Singaporeans do not have a culture.” Has that left us all defenseless against this onslaught of perpetual foreigners?

    Which ever way you choose to see it – IMHO, it is likely to subtract more than add. As when no one believes they have a culture that is worthy, let alone worth protecting, upholding and promoting – then how is possible for many of us to continue to see the need to nourish the idea of our nationhood? It is no accident that the receptacle of culture, identity and a sense of shared destiny has always resided in the idea of the motherland. As the symbol of the mother represents everything good, noble and worth dying for to protect – without the mother. A man has no roots. How is it possible for him to stand proud and hold his head up high?

    And when so many are unable to be nourished by a deep spirited sense of belonging. How can they even be able to believe that our destinies are interconnected? That we are all in the same boat and that we all share the SAME aspirations and hopes. 

    Wonder no more why – so many these days no longer see the flag as a symbol that represents a higher ideal. To many it is just a colorful piece of cloth. As increasingly it value is being hollowed out by the cult of chasing money. And so is it so unusual, for many of us not to hang out our flags? As it has become a meaningless thing?

    This is what happens my friends, when the cult of chasing money becomes the central theme of nationhood. When everything is monetized and ascribed a value. After a while, we too will begin to see only value in things that others are willing to pay for – when that happens, then instead of the shared destiny of nationhood – it is everyman for himself. 

    So now you all understand. Why it is not whether we can help these foreigner integrate into our way of life. Mini Lee is talking through his ass. He has lousy advisors who cannot think strategically. Rather how is it possible not to be subsumed into their way of life. IF we do not have a superior culture to these foreigners?

    This is why culture and share identity has always been strategic and always important. You never ever find a serious man who will ever say, “we do not have a culture.” As they know only too well – to first build a building, it first needs a strong foundation. And this only be constructed not out of chasing short term goals of money. But something much more enduring and resilient. Our leaders are not wise when they throw away something so valuable and important. As if it is a piece of used tissue paper. Not wise at all.

    The tragedy of all this is it need not ever be like this. It could have been very different…not to worry my friends. As in life what others can throw out. Others can also pick up and run with it.

    I understand. I understand completely.

    Darkness 2012

    • Expensive price says:

      Not true we do have a culture – money!!
      The more u have, the better – consequently we know the PRICE of everything but value of nothing. We need to demonetize or continue to be demonized on the present course

    • Darkness 2012,
      Our Patriot’s lamentations is typical of an average Singaporean esp those older folks. You have it figured out in a very clear manner.
      The chasing of money where everything is reduced to dollars and cents coupled with “this onslaught of perpetual foreigners” has got us into this big mess. Immigrants of the pariah type creating fiefdoms and carving spheres of influence causing much disgust to the natives.
      Our sense of culture and identity painstakingly built up over the decades of nationhood is slowly and surely diluted by this influx of foreigners who can’t even understand simple English or Malay. They can’t even sing our National Anthem at all.
      It’s a wrong strategy for short term goals. You shld be the advisor to them. I think you could give them better advice than those scholars or think tank. We are really in a mess now. Now we are asked to integrate with them. Just look at the online videos of locals and foreigners quarreling over reserved seats etc will tell you the seriousness of the great divide between us and them.
      Notwithstanding the above, I still feel that flying of our flag shld not be politicized. It shld not be used as a tool to protest against the govt. That is how I see it. It doesn’t mean that I love this govt. They are simply not related. My love for my own country has got nothing to do with the political party or the govt. Whichever party forms the govt will not affect my stand on this.

  2. SpeakSpokeWriteWrote says:

    Last year I did write about flying the national flag on national day, This year, i am struggling to feel anything more than apathy. Sigh.

  3. zen says:

    the guys at the petrol station i use tell me more than half their customers have been turning down the free national day car stickers. there is barely a handful of flags flying from the balconies at my 500+ unit housing estate. there are more important things than national day to consider these days – like making ends meet, because the price of Everything is up, or about to rise.

    the crush in public transport angers and constantly drives home that nothing was done re infrastructure before the hordes were allowed to first sneak in and then invade. it is a decision that has impacted on just about every aspect of life and culture (yes culture) here.

    the large number of flashy cars on the road drive home that i am not among the rich. i will not be able to afford a car when the COE on my old vehicle runs out.

    the horning by motorists for the slightest thing raises my blood pressure. once, you would have been beaten up or roundly told off for impatience. i am astonished at the number of motorists making illegal and dangerous u-turns. agahst that the drivers of pricey vehicles speed up on the roads rather than slow down when they see an old person crossing, or the traffic light about to turn red.

    the latest attempt to justify the extremely large import of foreigners in a short time (it claims to be a “feedback” exercise!!) and to continue on this mad route, depresses. has nothing that’s been said about too many too fast made any impression at all?

    there are supposed to be 5.26 million people here. in fact, there are more. there are 1.2 million tourists as well. they use facilities. they fill up malls. they are here, there, everywhere, overwhelming the number of singaporeans. so don’t tell me that only 40% of the people on this island are foreigners. it is more than 50%, though some are more transient than others.

    i was pleasantly surprised to find the sporean owners of my usual popiah stall manning it. the PRC hirelings were off, they explained. everywhere, service people speak to me in mandarin.

    it is not just people who keep you rooted and give you the feeling of belonging. not just long-time common habits and ways and phrases that let you know this is home. it is also places and buildings. these are constantly being pulled down and replaced, and added to. constantly. many old reference points have gone. many more face the wrecker’s ball. it is hard not to get lost. it is very hard to feel at home. everywhere is strange, too many are strangers.

    then there is the puzzling need to build swanky features, which cost a lot to upkeep. there is a billion $ botanic garden, costing $53 million a year to tend, to up the greenery factor. at the same time it was being built, forests were being cleared in loyang and other parts of the island. forests which do not need work and money to keep going, where wild life thrives.

    the common garden is disappearing as 2 houses are built in the space one occupied. shady trees are being lopped, and replaced by palms which provide no shade. the fruit trees and edible plants once found along roadsides and in backyards are being replaced with ones which offer little else but eye candy.

    money is blown on constructing fancy rivers and upgrading canals, but there is very little input into something as basic as healthcare and looking after the old. it is too contradictory. it is too senseless.

    am i supposed to celebrate this?

  4. ape@kinjioleaf says:

    We have many decent, hardworking citizens. Their jobs may be lowly paid but we cannot deny the efforts that they’ve put into nation building, much less their existence.

    Some commentators have pointed out that Singapore has become too materialistic and everything is measured in $$$. Ape shares the sentiment. But to those of you who knows where your principles stand, allow ape to share his thoughts with you at

    http://kinjioleaf.blogspot.sg/2009/08/national-day-national-pledge.html

    written 3 years ago in my previous blog. My values have not changed. No matter what others say or do, Singapore is ours, built by our forefathers, left for us to continue the legacy. How Singapore will be is how we want it to be. The challenges we have now may be different from what our forefathers faced. Nevertheless, they took on the challenges and brought us to where we are now. Where do we move on from here will be up to us.

    • Thank you Ape for your incisive and measured comment. As Singaporeans, we shld celebrate the birthday of our country. We shld be proud of our country. There are lots of ppl who don’t have a proper country such as some African or Arab countries, no proper home such as those in war torn countries like Afghanistan, no proper family cuz they come here to work since their countries got to jobs for them. Such is the reality. How difficult or worst can our life be when compared to them?
      We must learn to appreciate what little we do have and not envy those rich & famous. It need not be so. A simple and happy life with only basics is all we need.
      Yes ask what have you done for your country not what the country must do for you. There will be no end if everyone starts demanding and asking for more! Our unlimited wants can never be satisfied by our limited resources.

  5. Edd says:

    What to expect, the gov would simply say stop smoking.Yes thing went up 10 time.Do we expect coffee to remains at 10cts and your pay to rise ten times.It would be causing hyper inflation.

    The salary when Camel cigaret cost $2.20 for 20 sticks was in the early 70th.The gov pay adjustment has incorporated all this.

    Plenty of food how many family members share one chicken.What good old days,many just lust those years of fond memories and let slipped the bad one.I recalled those were the days where young Chinese babies were given away due yo poverty and the misfortune to be born ad a girl.

    • Pure common sense will tell you that prices can never remain the same forever. Even my 13 yrs old son knows that. What Patriot is saying is that pay is not increasing in tandem with rising prices esp flat prices. Did his pay go up by 20 times when his flat went up by more than 20 times. Well maybe not that much, what about 5 times? Did it go up that much? That is the crux of the matter.

  6. Pingback: Daily SG: 30 July 2012 | The Singapore Daily

  7. hua guofeng says:

    Another futile word exercise. We are living in a new era full of promises and potential. Here you go on pining for a world that has vanished. Why so stubborn and clinging. Your sons are taking advantage of the new world but you have stopped in your mind traps. Worse, you blamed the govt for your observations. Growing old is wonderful but also try to enjoy the moment.

  8. patriot says:

    Gintai;
    Thank You very much for publishing my comment at ‘Inviting and importing new and complex problems’ on 27 July 2012 from My Singapore News(Blogsite).

    Some 7 years back, me learnt to use the computer to keep in touch with 2 of my children studying in UK. Was not interested to learn anything about computer despite me selling them as a retail electronics/electricals salesperson in superstores and my children using them for school works some 20 years ago. Was using skype but found the computer more convenient.

    Starting from there, me was recommended to social/political blogs and I became somewhat addicted to reading and participating in discussions since then. Me was active at ‘theonlinecitizen'(Blogsite), ‘Intelligent Singaporean'(Bogsite), ‘My Singapore News'(Blogsite), ‘Transitioning.org.sg ‘(Blogsite), ‘Diary of a Singaporean Mind'(Blogsite), ‘Yawning bread'(Blogsite), recently ‘Gintai Blog’ and many others. I had met up with quite a few of the Bloggers and did have drinking/smoking and chattering sessions with them ocassionally.

    Most of us are not far apart in age and are of diverse backgrounds and professions/work. However, there seems to be a common leaning in intellectual, ideological and even philosophical understanding and approach to living and in being. It was very challenging and almost intimidating when I got to know the calibre of these bloggers. I WAS WONDERING ALOUD IN BLOGOLAND AS TO WHY THE RULERS SEEMED TO TREAT THESE BLOGGERS AS NON-EXISTING OR NONENTITY.

    Those People at ‘Intelligent Singaporeans’ were certainly well educated, exposed to the World and appeared to have a large following. They were prescient of the social and political situation and its’ implication on the development of Sin. Darkness of ‘Dotseng'(Bogsite) was putting forward all the relevant questions that needed be asked and the observed faultlines existing then. That was something me likes very much about social/political bloggers. Other than putting in constructive ideas, THE GREATEST CONTRIBUTION THEY MADE IS THE REVEALING AND EXPOSURE OF WEAK AND EVEN UNDESIRABLE POLICY. Many of those policies had done their damages and some existing policies such as immigration, housing and healthcare are even more damaging, not forgetting that the Social/Political Bloggers are reminding the Rulers of the Flaws and Consequences all the time.

    As a older citizen, me realizes that there are many aspects, especially culture and history of Singapore that Singaporeans under 40 years of age did not experience and it is a gap that we, the oldies, will have a hard time to make them comprehend. Me am one trying to do my part and hopefully we can together hold onto the foundation and root that our forebears had built for us.

    Just like to say that in the market place, prices of goods and services fluctuate according to demand and their currencies, there is no linear increases over time. In fact, due to improved productivity, many things have become cheaper, electronics and electrical appliances are now costing a lot less than before. The vehicle and housing prices in Sin are extremely high not because of time, it is DEFINITELY DRIVEN UP BY POLICY IMPLEMENTATION.

    Thank You All for reading!

    patriot

    • tomatoes says:

      “The vehicle and housing prices in Sin are extremely high not because of time, it is DEFINITELY DRIVEN UP BY POLICY IMPLEMENTATION.”
      I think it is really true and well said.

    • Patriot,
      Since you gave a robust response to my blog post – “Pls fly our national flag”, I thought it shld be published with some editions and concurrence on your part. Your views reflect a much older generation whom have gone thru a drastic transformation from a hole in the ground to this modern metropolitan city within a generation. Your kampung lifestyle uprootment gave rise to much nostalgia so to speak. I had a taste of it when me too like you experienced that transformation.
      The familiar landscape and neighbourhood suddenly disappeared overnight. Where is the attachment or feeling of a sense of identity. One example is the Rochor Canal centre – few blocks of flats I always pass by and frequent. Our children will no longer able to enjoy the familiar flats in the city area soon. In few years’ time it will be gone in the name of progress and development. That is the intangible price we need to pay. We have lost our soul in the pursuit for material wealth or to quote Darkness2012 – “cult of chasing money”. Like what our learned fren Darkness2012 said, everything is zeroed down to dollars and cents. The rulers have forgotten the software of it’s citizen natives. Without the powerful software in a computer, it’s useless. Without a soul in humans, we are nothing but walking robots.
      In short, we need to strike a perfect balance between the competing needs. Nvr never ignore the feelings and emotions of the rakyat! The government’s relevance hinges on the power of the rakyat. It’s a fact that cannot be denied. Many once powerful regimes have ignored this leading to their woeful demise and oblivion.
      The rulers have now realized that this “lunatic fringe bordering on cowboy town” can no longer be written off as merely “noise”. They have began to notice this growing pool of vocal netizens. Why else our great Yacob is rolling out the internet drums with more urgency than ever beating out aloud about Internet CoC if they still stuck to their old mindset?
      Patriot, do you not agree that our rulers view blogoland differently now? Why would a senior cabinet Minister wanting to speak and engage with an insignificant train driver and his colleagues? There must be more than meets the eye right?
      Out of this silver linning, I see hope and promise that our rulers will have to adjust and compromise as they lead us on to confront our ever increasing complex and challenging problems facing our tiny island state in this new social media environment. We want to see the best in our government, not the worst. Let’s hope for the best.

  9. ape@kinjioleaf says:

    Before we see another ‘get out of my elite face’ kind of comment, allow ape to share his views.
    Every society has to progress. Everyone has to learn new things and keep up. Some highly talented people lead the change, they are the change. Most tried and successfully keep up the pace. Unfortunately, there will also be some who has difficulties and missed the ‘Progress Train’.
    Life is a constant challenge for the last group. By the time they reach the next destination, others have moved on. However,we shouldn’t write them off hastily. They too, struggled to do their part. Didn’t Patriot do his by ensuring his children grow up to be contributing citizens? ‘Lamentations of A Senior Citizen’, to ape, is a feedback. Feedback on the struggles and hardships faced by many other citizens. If there can be more to help them, why not? But if we are to merely write them off as ‘lazy bums who never keep up behaving like parasites and only know how to ask for more’ then we really have a serious problem as a society. Then we are no different from animals.

    • “We are no different from animals!” Ape is different is it?

      • ape@kinjioleaf says:

        Haha. Ape is still an animal struggling to cross the evolution gap to be human. Ape trying very hard to reach the Human Station and fears that when he reach there, the train has moved on to Xmen Station. :D

  10. patriot says:

    “We want to see the best in our government, not the worst. Let’s hope for the best.”, courtesy of Gintai.
    Indeed, since the Day Sin was given autonomy, it gave birth to the Above Aspiration. Now, we have many more aliens joining us to aspire for the elusive leadership.

    To be candid and sincere, with or without flying/displaying the State Flag, WE WILL ALWAYS WISH AND WANT THE BEST LEADERSHIP. IT DOES NOT NEED TO MAKE THE CITIZENRY RICH(WEALTHY).
    IT ONI NEEDS TO MAKE US HAPPY BY SHARING THE WEALTH, WOES AND THE FATES OF OUR PEOPLE AND LAND.
    May it happens soon.

    patriot

  11. Alan says:

    Every year when National Day approaches, I don’t have to bother hanging out the National Flag outside my flat because the PAP govt or rather the grassroots will sure do it every year without fail. So the next time you see so many National flags hung outside our HDB flats, you may not be wrong to wonder that they may actually have nothing to do with our increasing patriotism.

    And I just wonder if they entirely stop bribing the people with free goodies for attending National Day parades, would the majority still be interested to attend the annual ritual ?

    • ape@kinjioleaf says:

      Would you go if there’s no goodies bag? Would you perform if you have the opportunity? Would you sacrifice the many weekends of rehearsals, under rain or shine? What would you say if one day, the government take the bold step and declare no goodies bag, no tickets, free for all. Stand or sit anywhere you want.
      Take a walk around the Marina Bay area on 9 August. See how many people will be there, without goodies bag without seat and watching from afar. One thing for sure, traffice police will be very happy if traffic don’t build up along Sheares Bridge, without their intervention.

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