The Blogfather's National Family Pledge

Update:I’ve noted on some quarters that NFC’s affiliation to certain religious, albeit like-minded, community organisations has been called into question. The Blogfather would just like to say that religion has nothing at all to do with the issue, and neither will I join in on a witchhunt based on perception of guilt by association. The National Family Council is, at the end of the day, a community organisation formed with the intention of helping families and promoting family togetherness. This is an issue of fundamental flaws in an otherwise we-thought-it-would-be-nice programme. If you want to play the game on a secular level, you will do well to abide by the rules in which you so vehemently draw people’s attention to. And if you take issue with this update, say it to my Face… book comments in at the bottom of the page.

When I first heard the news that the National Family Council (NFC) came up with a National pledge with the happy endorsement of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), I thought to myself, “Wah, donation drive ah? I thought gahmen is their main sponsor?” Then I read Kirsten Han’s blistering opinion of the National Family Pledge. Her post was the first I’ve ever seen of the Pledge in all its naked glory, and I shook my head thinking (whilst still keeping in line with everybody’s adherence of the family theme), “Oh brother.”

It reeked of the same intentions of the Centre for Fathering’s Better Fathering Index: it starts out innocently enough, but gets severely misplaced, double quick time. Ms Han puts it well in discriminatory terms for the minority classes that are still as much “the people of Singapore” as anybody, so you can read her piece to understand the problems arising from that area.

Instead, The Blogfather is going to give his take on the Pledge as a red-blooded Singaporean family man.?It took us 48 years to take at least some measure of pride in reciting our National Pledge every 9 August. I think with some adjustments, we can hold up the National Family Pledge to the same standards. Just maybe, uh, give the people another 48 years to let it sink in first, yeah???I leave it up to the good people of the NFC and the MSF to take my humble ground opinion however they wish.


The Original

Now, the Actual National Family Pledge goes like this:

We, the people of Singapore, pledge to build strong and happy families.
We affirm the commitment of marriage between husband and wife.
And take responsibility to nurture our children, and respect our elders.
We celebrate and honour the roles of each family member.
And uphold the family as the foundation of our lives, and the building block of our society.

The Rewrite

The Blogfather has a suggested rewrite to take into consideration Kirsten’s gripe about inclusiveness, and my own problems with the original pledge (which I jolly well hope is not set in stone yet):

We, the people of Singapore, pledge to build strong and contented families.
We affirm the commitment of unity among our loved ones,
And teach responsibility to our children, and care for our elders.
We celebrate and honour each family member,
And uphold the family as the foundation of our lives.

The Breakdown

And now, for the blow-by-blow:

We, the people of Singapore, pledge to build strong and happy contented families.

“Happy” was the very first word I changed. Strong family bonds are not necessarily borne out of happiness; in fact, between family members or even among friends, we find more often than not that the difficult times and the hard fights we fight with each other serve to bring us much closer than we would expect. It is far more important that we learn contentment in order to come to terms with each other’s, and everyone’s. differences, rather than veil our eyes with the fleeting, temperamental notion of perpetualising happiness.

Happiness is a want, or a reward, and contentment is how we earn that reward. So learning how to be contented, that is what you really need to build, because happiness, when it manifests, never lasts, so better to work on its frequency rather than its lifespan.

We affirm the commitment of marriage between husband and wife?unity among our loved ones.,

As for marriage? In all practicality, we can’t expect the local marital legislation to change overnight. We work on the change, yes, but looking at both sides, I can only say for now that the best that we can hope for in moving towards an all-inclusive society is to take little steps. We start with ourselves, work our way out to the people whom we love and whom we need to love us; and eventually we might one day get to a point where unity is an accepted familial form.

Oh yes, please apply proper punctuation. The line should end with a comma, not a period.

… And take teach responsibility to nurture our children, and respect care for our elders.

I would also choose not to be ambiguous about what we want to “nurture our children” into; take a stance that needs addressing, and just address it. It doesn’t have to be “responsibility”; I’m open to suggestions from the floor. But leave room for interpretation, and you could well get yourselves parents who may be inclined to nurture their children into little Hitlers.

“Respect for elders” is a noble, traditional Asian value that I would personally like to see the entire world be able to uphold. But nobody’s perfect, not us, and not even our elders, and respect is something that I,?as a father to a skeptical 4-year-old boy, have learned has to be earned; you will also understand how the idea will not apply to some “elders” after watching 492 episodes of the same bloody Taiwan soap every evening on Channel 8.

Caring for your elders (and the elderly in general), however, can be (and should be) done outside the purview of respect – that’s what the people of Singapore would call “compassion”.

We celebrate and honour the roles of each family member.,…

Celebrate and honour the people you love, not the jobs they do. Your family is all you have. If you want to celebrate the roles that your family members do, do it on Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Children’;s Day, Youth Day and International Secretary’s Week. But you jolly well love your family members every day.

And again, watch the comma leh.

… And uphold the family as the foundation of our lives.

Finally, let’s leave society out of this, yeah? Not that we don’t care as a society, but the natural transition from self to family to community to society to nation should be left as an unspoken truth, shouldn’t it? In fact it’s pretty addressed in the reverse. When a member of society sees a rude boy pushing people around willy-nilly like he’s the crown-prince of LEGOLAND, society deems him as being “badly brought up”.

And there you go: simple tweaks make for better meaning. But what do I know? I’m just a small fry freelance copywriter. And it’s not like Singapore uses copywriters to write their national songs or anything (much less one on attachment from Canada). Right?

A final note: The National Pledge wasn’t composed in a day; neither should something like this, made to resemble the National Pledge, but as a rallying call to families already having a hard time populating the nation on moral grounds like “What legacy will this country leave my child?” So get it right before you give it sight, NFC; you’re walking on glass.

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