For all our flag-waving, song-singing and pledge-taking tendencies on National Day, Singaporeans aren’t usually the most vocal about our patriotism.
In kopitiam conversations and on social media, you’re as likely to hear Singaporeans extolling the awesomeness of their country as you may see them walking down Orchard Road clad in red and white outfits any time of the year other than 9 August. It’s simply less instinctive than it is for us to be grousing about the weather, the public transport and the rising cost of living.
All this self-deprecation can sometimes get in the way of realising what makes us proud to be Singaporean, so The Pride thinks some chest-thumping may be in order for this National Day. Here, we look at some instances in Singapore’s recent history that has seen our little red dot demonstrate strength of character that belies its size.
1) Rising above tragedy
On 15 March 1986, Hotel New World collapsed. The six-story building disintegrated in less than a minute, giving its estimated 300 occupants little chance to escape. Disregarding danger, many passers-by rushed to the scene to help pull out survivors from the rubble. In the days that followed, many medical volunteers threw themselves into the rescue operations, some even crawling through narrow tunnels to reach victims who were trapped. It was a shining example of how the community could come together in solidarity in response to a tragedy. More than $1.5 million in donations was also raised for the families of the 33 victims who lost their lives.
2) An outpouring of support for tsunami victims
Living on an island that’s cocooned by its larger neighbours, natural disasters aren’t something Singaporeans have to worry about, but that hasn’t stopped the nation from stepping up to help other countries in need. The 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami catastrophe saw one of Singapore’s largest ever contributions to foreign disaster relief. Individuals and organisations initiated donation drives to aid the Japanese, raising S$35.7 million in total, including half a million contributed by its government. Touched by the hardships faced by the victims, people also sought to support them through other means. Religious organisations hosted prayer sessions, while others folded origami paper cranes as a symbol of blessing for the victims. To this day, 5 years later, there is at least one group that sends small teams every month to Iwate, to provide cheer and company to residents still in temporary housing.
3) Silver linings in tricky situations
Anyone who’s ever been caught in a major train breakdown can attest to that feeling of frustration and helplessness. In a society deeply used to a culture of efficiency, most Singaporeans would tend to react in exasperation and annoyance. That may have been the case during the massive train breakdown that occurred on 7 July 2015, but in a significant twist, acts of kindness were widely reported and spread via social media. Commuters posted about how they carpooled with complete strangers, while Good Samaritans were spotted offering free rides to stranded passengers and buying food for the frazzled station staff. Who says we can’t rise above a difficult situation to react positively, and even help others?
4) Acts of caring clear the haze
When the PSI hit unhealthy levels last year, Singaporeans sighed and hunkered down to get through the weeks of smog that was to come. With the regional haze occurring almost yearly, most of us were well-equipped to take care of ourselves, from staying indoors to stocking up on n95 masks for our loved ones. For those who were not, various self-organised groups came to the rescue. One such group, Stand Up For Singapore, raised $6,000 in a crowdsourcing initiative that enabled them to supply 40 air filters and 10 purifiers to needy residents in the North Bridge Road area. An individual, Mr Cai Yinzhou, organised the consolidation and distribution of 3,000 masks to migrant workers and homeless folks around the Geylang area.
5) People power to the rescue
People in Singapore often get tagged as masters of the bystander effect, where one is reluctant to come forward to help a stranger. All of that went out the window in July last year, when a pedestrian found himself pinned under a lorry along Boon Keng Road. In a matter of seconds, a crowd of almost 30 passers-by came to the fore to lift the lorry on one side so the man could be extricated. Thanks to their quick-thinking, the pedestrian was spared from worse injuries, suffering a fractured leg through the ordeal.
Over the years, maybe we haven’t been the most outspoken lot about our national pride. But through our actions, we’ve displayed character.
And surely, that’s worth celebrating.
Happy birthday, Singapore.