Are You Proud to be a Singaporean?

Steph Micayle.

She has become all the buzz this new year. Her unrestrained criticism of Singapore has garnered much attention and stirred passionate discussion. Her viral video has received many thumbs up. Yet, many others are also concerned. Some bloggers gave witty responses; one of them even critiqued the video in Application Question style (GP students anyone?). Some decide to duel with her on Twitter. Clearly, while some like her guts, others hate it.

Rather than plunging into false yes/no dichotomies, we should perhaps take a step back and consider: What is Singapore? Different people have different views. In fact, the same person can have seemingly contrasting views. To see this, let’s listen to incoherent Bot’s views.

Student: I hate rote learning, but I do it because I don’t have enough time!
Friend: I love my friends for being my game buddies!
Shopper: I like shopping. Wow, I can shop anywhere now!
Activist: Why are so many trees stuck beside roads?
Commuter: I like waiting for 8 minutes to hear that the train ahead is still at the next station!

Of course, we are not Bot. But while we feel entitled to our own opinions, we often don’t extend that grace to others. When Steph went about her rant, she took pains to refer to the majority of all Singaporeans, instead of all Singaporeans. Still, she condemned the majority. Discounting non-residents, that’s about 2 million people. Whatever the argument, it is incredulous to make such sweeping generalizations and disparaging judgments about 2 million individuals who each have their own unique circumstances and perspectives. Furthermore. it is not unlikely that some of her supporters belong to the majority. Then isn’t it ironic that, in her Twitter duels, she is banking on her supposed majority support? Who is the majority now?

On the flip side, many of us may also make swift judgments about her. Detractors, did you take time to look at her profile and listen to some of her song covers? Taking this extra step tends to help us appreciate a person’s perspectives better. Artists do have it hard here. Supporters, did you realize you might belong to this condemned majority? Are you also condemning some of your family and friends? If we hold our judgments back, we can be more clear-headed of our collective strengths and flaws, be more thankful for the problems we don’t have, and play our parts for society.

I decided to learn more about her. Her covers of Gangnam Style and A Thousand Years were quite pleasant. Though views have fallen for her recent videos, this does not mean she was trying to generate publicity. Neither does it imply that her views were not genuine; she was certainly forceful about them. This is digression. Yet it is useful for one to be less judgmental and more rational. When I begin to see Steph as the artist she wants to be, I could better empathize with her angst in a mostly pragmatic society. I may not agree, but I respect her opinions.

On her Twitter account, she spoke of her desire to “try and help Singapore improve” before she leaves. Given that she’s all but left Singapore, this can be taken as noble or cynical. Again, hold the judgments. My question is, does ranting really achieve anything? Can the mere voicing of one’s opinions be a force for positive social change?

Steph Micayle may have stirred debate, but this is an issue of culture. All of us have our roles to play in shaping this culture. One person’s words can gain attention and raise awareness, but they cannot replace another person’s actions.

Are you proud to be a Singaporean? That is a question only you can answer.

Steph Micayle Video:
Critical AQ-style analysis:
Candid Criticism:

Socio Empath

Hi, my name is Eugene. I am a Sociology graduate from the National University of Singapore. This blog is an invitation: To see our selves as colored by cultures, and to brighten the colors of our society. I seek to help you create freedom in everyday life, with empathy and the sociological imagination.

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