Sunday, April 30, 2006

Staying Together or Moving Apart?

My friend told me online just now that he is having a superb experience on holiday now in Vietnam. He is enjoying himself thoroughly and living the life that he is dreaming about- travelling. Inevitably, the subject came to the topic on migration. My friend wants so desperately to get out of Singapore and call another country his home. He felt that he is marginalized and is hard done by the government here. He believes that there are greener pastures on the other side. For me, I always reckon Singapore as my home and as a country that I can contribute in. The arguments on my side would always come thick and fast but I think I shall state my side of the story here on the need to stay in Singapore. Please feel free to comment on this issue as I think readers of my age have come to a point in life when they make a key decision of whether to enter adulthood as a Singaporean or as a citizen of another country.

My friend constantly rants and raves about how staying in Singapore is making him claustrophobic. He believes that we should expand our horizons by moving out of the country and seeing the world out there. He loves travelling and spending his time outside Singapore. He felt that as a citizen here, he is second class and the government has made him do something that he hates so much- NS.

Before Vietnam, he told me that he intends to move to Australia for good. AND for this purpose, he is studying accountancy just so that he can be on the wanted list for skilled migrants. That is how desperate he is to get out of this country. I believe that he is not really a fan of elitism, which he alleges to be prevalent in this country and neither is he convinced that Singapore is worth staying for.

But I beg to differ. I feel that as the young today get more educated and idealistic, the urge to move out of this claustrophobic country is getting stronger. With a proper education, we could properly assimilate into any First World country, where it is believed to be a much better place than Singapore. Yet, I wonder if moving out of the country is such a great option, why are so many Singaporeans still staying here? Why is there a surge in migrants wanting to call Singapore their home?

I have always told my friend that being a citizen or even a PR of another country is not easy. There are always barriers of entry and more importantly, marginalization. My friend claims to be marginalized here but I feel that it would be even worse in a foreign country.

Going on a tourist trip to another country is always fun. I mean thats the whole purpose of a 'tourist trip'. It's a holiday and the country that you go too would regard you as such and treat you as a tourist. Of course, the country would then give you their best welcome and show you the best sights because you bring them the tourism dollar. My friend has always seen the wonders of another country from just this tourist perspective.

I have pointed out and will now point out again that once this tourist status evolve into a Citizen one, things would entirely be different. Behaviours towards you will no doubt change because you will now be competing with them for jobs, welfare and security. One more citizen would mean one less job for the people that are already there. Besides, the major factor that would crop up here is that of race. The belief is that we can change our perception and our thinking to blend into the locals but the stark reality is that skin colour plays the most important part in discrimination and hate. Look at France or Europe as a whole. They believe it is migrants that are taking away their scarce jobs and they are erecting barriers of entries like protectionism to curb this flow of migrants.

It is human nature that once things don't go well, the first on the chopping block would be the 'alien' species. Not alien in the 'not from earth sense' but alien as in 'people whom are not originally from the country'. So no matter how much they are receptive of you as a person, you would always be perceived as someone that has came over to their country to 'steal' the jobs.

Besides, being a citizen of another country is never easy to achieve. Already countries like England and USA are making tests mandatory for potential migrants who want to exploit the wealth of opportunities and jobs. Countries like Australia are allowing only skilled migrants to be citizens. No developed country would make things easy for migrants to go over and enjoy the life there.

And the fact is, one also has to consider the internal factors of staying in this country. It is not that Singapore is war-torn or strife in poverty. We are a developed country with jobs, security and a sound education. The people here enjoy a standard of living that is comparable to most developed countries. It is just that odd complaint about the lack of political freedom or the missing playboy in newstands, but Singapore is generally a safe and clean place to live in. We have a roof over our heads, every type of food to eat and jobs for the graduated. But sometimes, these basic achievements are lost in the grandeur vision of a need for an 'utopian' nation.

Yes, Singapore is not perfect. We do have an odd complaint but neither is any country in the world. One thing is for sure that we are brought up in the country where all our friends and families are. We have already developed an identity or a culture of sorts where we have about 3.5 million people thinking the same way and speaking the same language. Sure, NS are making us suffer and lack of large country spaces means that we are susceptible to a certain sense claustrophobia but if it is not NS or the lack of space that kills us, taxes, unemployment, racial discrimination and high crime rate would. (as evident in developed countries like USA and Australia.)

Sometimes, we are all too caught up by the 'grass is greener on the other side' mentality that we fail to see that in order to arrive to this mentality, we already have our stomachs fed, minds educated and roofs over our heads. With these basics never a cause for worry, we start advancing ourselves with technology and envying how other countries have more 'freedoms' than us, how other countries don't need to serve NS and how other countries have such nice beaches and people. What we fail to realise is that we are myopic and thankless creatures in a society that we take for granted.

Indeed, different people have different mindsets and my friend could have another point of view that may or may not convince you people out there entirely that moving abroad is a good thing. But for me, Life is here in Singapore. I am eternally grateful to be born in a country where there are opportunities aplenty, beautiful houses, a variety of foods, spanking shopping malls and the freedom to do whatever that I like. Life may be better elsewhere, but I will leave that enjoyment to short holidays abroad. We cannot have everything in life and I don't want to end up like a greedy monkey who wants all the marbles but loses everything in the end because his hands are simply not big enough to hold them all.

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