Wednesday, February 14, 2007

 

Is Singapore a Good Place to Live in?

En route to Australia we stayed three days in Singapore and I fopund it a fascinating place. On the plus side I thought:

1. Technologically it was impressive: everything worked so smoothly and i thought the congestioon charging 'smart-card' system superior to London's.

2. Environmentally it was very imnpressive too. No litter, or virtually none and no chewing gum on the pavements- both bugbears of mine back in UK.

3. Truly multiracial society: four languages and cultures co-existing in evident harmony- raree enough anywhere these days.

4. Social attitudes very civic minded and wholly lacking in the sort of thing of which we despair back home. So we see no noisy, anti-social behaviour; no groups of young men or women getting embarrassingly drunk and making others feel uneasy or manaced; no groups of threatening young males; inn fact, very low crime rates and a transparent honesty I thought unless-and I'm aware of this danger on a short visit- I'm horribly naive.

On the debit side I thought:

1. There is an intense focus on making money which is a bit daunting. Mammon rules very much every aspect of the place and it's no fun not being comfortably off I would imagine.

2. Civil liberties are scarcely defended and one can be imprisoned merely for criticising the government which is very authoritarian and insists on conformity. However, most people seem willing to trade liberty for prosperity and as a short visit tourist, it did not affect me.

Conclusion: Singapore has achieved huge success but in the process has lost something very important. A great place to visit but, I suspect, not a place I'd enjoy living in for very long.

Comments:
Yes I guess you have a choice. You can either:

1. Live in Britain, be piss poor economically, have the Government keep telling you how free you are(while they tax you to death), and watch criminals take the piss in front of one of the most enfeebled judicial systems in the world.

Or...

2. Live in Singapore, be rich, not be taxed, and watch a few criminal layabouts lose a few of their civil rights, as well as their teeth.

Not hard to see why there are so many British people living in Singapore.
 
Good to have you back, Skipper. Some interesting observations on Singapore.

Naturally I don't agree with Michael. "Piss poor" Britain? Hardly. In a post-affluent age, social liberty matters far more than economic liberty.
 
Which is a very easy comment if you are living at the expense of the state at University, and not one of the poor sods who has to work to pay for your life, or the rest of the waste in government and social services.

All the evidence from any period in the past, in any place, shows that people don't give a stuff for political freedoms if they have prosperity. Russia is the 21st century embodiment of this. The problem with the left is that they never seem to value the political freedoms of decent people.
 
The best article I've ever read about Singapore is called Disneyland With The Death Penalty by William Gibson for Wired Magazine in the early 90s.

Google the title and it's the top hit.

Pull quotes:
"It's like an entire country run by Jeffrey Katzenberg," the producer had said, "under the motto 'Be happy or I'll kill you.'" We were sitting in an office a block from Rodeo Drive, on large black furniture leased with Japanese venture capital.

And, in many ways, it really does seem like 1956 in Singapore; the war (or economic struggle, in this case) has apparently been won, an expanded middle class enjoys great prosperity, enormous public works have been successfully undertaken, even more ambitious projects are under way, and a deeply paternalistic government is prepared, at any cost, to hold at bay the triple threat of communism, pornography, and drugs.

The only problem being, of course, that it isn't 1956 in the rest of world. Though that, one comes to suspect, is something that Singapore would prefer to view as our problem. (But I begin to wonder, late at night and in the privacy of my hotel room - what might the future prove to be, if this view should turn out to be right?)
 
I don't think many bloggers would survive for much longer than three days in a place where "one can be imprisoned merely for criticising the government". Good to have you back, Skipper. See - you can't stop blogging - even on bloody holiday. It's an addiction. One thing about Oakeshott: he's consistent.
 
Thanks for all these comments and to Roy for adding the picture. Not possible to add pics from an internet centre- or not for one of my minimal knowledge anyway.
 
Quite a trade off offered by Michael. Fierce restrictions on civil liberties and huge penalties for chewing gum, long hair, never mind blogging about taxes. There are places a little like this in the British Isles - you will scarcely find any graffiti or flyposting or gross ASB in the Isle of Man for example. But it is a bit sterile.
 
Chris
And they do retain birching in Isle of man- or have they ended that?- just like they do in Singapore. Michael can take comfort for his opinions from that at least. But for those who have a comfortable income his attitude would appeal. Supporting the status quo leads one into some pretty rightwing territory. Me, I'm not sure i'd be able to hack it and indeed would find my profession- political educator- to be pretty much not needed anyway.
 
I am a singaporean. Stumble into this. There are quite few misconceptions ...chewing gum ...about long hair ...haha. You can chew gum (cant sell them though) ..and you can keep your long hair and nose rings and all sorts ... have you seen our singapore idol ?

another thingy ...the government does at times try to soften the rules ..but you actually have a sizable portion of the population wants it intact ...

cant criticise the government ? actually you can .. cant stop us ...the govt know that ... there is this elusive out of bound boundary (usually race and religion) that you should not try to cross ... try looking at the internet forum pages in our govt run sites ...we hurl insults at them but on this point you are more right than wrong

still the sterotype is fine ..i am cool about it ...there is always an underlying reason for it
 
Hi hi, like my fellow Singaporean, I stumbled upon this site. I think it is the latent need for humans to generalise and polarise. Like all things in life, the truth really lies somewhere in the middle. Sure, it is easy to visit for a few days and have an opinion about a place. Like the story of the blind men feeling the different parts of the elephant and having very different and albeit eroneous views of what the elephant really looks like. Like all cities, we have our fair share of good, bad and ugly. The question is what are you willing to trade off for what you believe in. None of us will come to the same answer. Come stay in Singapore but more importantly experience the rich fabric of our society by mixing not just with the expatriates (who inevitably has their own versions of the truth) but with the locals. I think you will be pleasantly surprised or totally disgusted. The outcome ultimately lies within yourself!
 
Treblator
Many thanks for your comment- most interesting. I only wish I could spend more time with you and your confreres but my life keeps me in this rain-sodden part of the world-family, friends, work- so spending any substantial time in Singapore will have to remain an outside chance for a while at least. It is a remarkable place though and I really did absorb a huge amount about it during my three day stay.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Hi Skipper, the world is too big and yet too small. Too big for us to fully appreciate its beauty in full but small enough for us to communicate and have our little differences. EPL is my, and many Singaporeans', link to England. I'm sure that's only one aspect of life in England but I wish to correct that at some point in the future. I can then appreciate the best England and the rest of Britain have to offer. Cheers for now!
 
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Oops. My brain just hit a bad sector.
 
Save the whales, collect the whole set
 
Oops. My brain just hit a bad sector.
 
Ever notice how fast Windows runs? Neither did I.
 
Oops. My brain just hit a bad sector.
 
Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math.
 
A flashlight is a case for holding dead batteries.
 
All generalizations are false, including this one.
 
When there's a will, I want to be in it.
 
Personally... living in Singapore... I agree with half of ur post but when u say we cant insult government... i seriously doubted it... we use government in our insults quite a bit
 
I am an asian who lived here in Singapore for almost 3 yrs now. I can say it is a money-driven society and fast-paced place. With all the advantages living here, in my personal opinion this is not the country I can find true happiness in life. I look forward to get old in better culture and society of people.
 
ok heres the thing, singapore is a great place to come for a vacation, provided you are fairly loaded and can afford a lot of stuff. living here permanently is not a good idea. the educational system does not truely provide food for creation. it is so money-driven that i hear 7-year-olds saying they want to be a doctor in the future because it can earn them a lot of money. the environment is clean because there are many cleaners in the tourist attractions. if you come down to the housing areas, such as Simei(it is a real place go find it on the map) it is not exactly clean. most singaporeans arent as nice as you would think. as for the police system, you are led into thinking it is good, but the fact is that they do not publicly announce their failures. many cases are left unsolved and they resort to catching teenagers to make themselves seem effective.
 
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