As a Singaporean at heart I found this article “Wealth Over the Edge: Singapore“ in The Wall Street Journal quite thought-provoking and interesting. For the first part of the article, writer Shibani Mahtani underscores the exorbitant wealth flourishing among the richest in Singapore. This isn’t new information, with Singapore recently making headlines as the country with the highest concentration of millionaires per capita according to the World Wealth Report 2012. If all this richest-in-the-world talk is setting alarm bells off in your heads like it did in mine, be somewhat heartened (but not quite) that the article also highlights that “Singapore’s “Gini coefficient”—the best-known economic measure of income disparity—is the second highest in the developed world.” To my knowledge, the article is right that “signs of unhappiness are multiplying.”
To say the least, Singapore means so much to me but while I believe it’s a great, prosperous young country for the fast-moving, affluent, well-educated and elite young, it’s not a place for everyone. I acknowledge that I’ve just made a heavily loaded comment but lest I write a novel justifying why I believe it’s not a place for everyone, I’ll settle with the fact that the fissures have long been present in the paradisiacal crystal globe of a city-state. The cracks and crevices will only grow deeper with every progress in prosperity and neglect for those hanging on for dear life at the other end of the spectrum—those who have been marginalized and do not have access to the same opportunities as others thanks to social constructs. The struggles of those caught in the middle with little room for progress yet are a little more “fortunate” than their compatriots in the lower rungs of society—are irrefutable, and I know this from having experienced it first-hand.
Singapore is in dire need of change. The common sentiment among Singaporeans who still feel comfortable with its current leadership (which has been in power since 1963) is that things have worked out so well so far, so why overturn something that works and creates “peace and harmony”? Nevertheless from my experiences and my “homecoming” of sorts, I have realized that Singapore’s human rights record should be thoroughly scrutinized. I thank this “homecoming” of sorts and an informed University education (my liberal arts classes in particular) for opening my eyes to many issues I was apathetic and oblivious to before. As can be interpreted from the Human Rights Watch report on Singapore, there are many human rights issues that Singapore has to revisit. These human rights issues encompass LGBT rights but most definitely extend to issues far beyond that. This CNN article on Hillary Clinton’s global legacy on gay rights aptly articulates, “The way governments treat their LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) citizens can tell us much about their overall approach to human rights and democracy. Mistreatment of sexual minorities is a microcosm of greater repression.”
I believe change is possible although it is unlikely to occur within the immediate future—but possibilities abound and anything could happen. As John Lennon puts it, “Everything will be okay in the end.” This belief may or may not determine my return to the land of my childhood (or permanent relocation from)