We broke for lunch thereafter, and the Mother of Xander and I were seated next to a nice event representative (let’s call her Ms K), with whom I struck up a lively discussion.
Ms K and I spoke candidly, then honestly, first about the structure in which the SG50 campaign road map was being presented (which she personally felt was pretty bleah) then the issues which the campaign was facing from the ground (we both noted the collective negativity being raised over bread-and-butter policies was overshadowing the SG50 committee’s efforts), and the failure of the Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) initiative–which I was pretty vocal about, that we have been getting the impression that all the government is doing with the Conversation is policing the way we’ve been talking, instead of actually listening.
At the end of the lunch, I offered my namecard to the nice representative, and she dug out hers for the exchange. I was expecting a PR agency business card; as it turns out, Ms K is a civil servant, part of the Secretariat overseeing the entire campaign.
And that is why it took me 3 pages to write about a small, government-led pop-up exhibition whose objective is purely to remind us to celebrate how far we’ve come as an independent nation. Because this civil servant–the latest of 3 that I’ve had decent conversations with since I started writing as the Blogfather–listened with the same patience you exhibited having read this far. And that says a heck of a lot.
SG50 is laden with 50 years worth of national baggage, accumulating silently through a governmental process that seemingly worked for the first 40 years of our independent status, but now seems to be falling apart largely because of our Cabinet’s stalwart resistance to relearn and revamp. But the acknowledgement of this, and my ability to openly say what’s wrong in a public platform, not to mention in front of a government official, is also precisely why it’s so important that our Golden anniversary as a nation must be celebrated.
We’ve come really far as a people. The last 10 years might have felt like a bit of a crock, but if there’s anything to glean out of this, it’s that we finally care enough about our country to say something about it, and it’s starting to look like our country (or at least, its middle management) is finally beginning to care enough to sit down and listen.
Maybe it’s time we tried to hear them out, too (at least, the “middle management”). Might solve some longstanding problems.