Gratitude and tough love

It wasn’t until I started writing this post that realise “Tough Love” is an accepted expression (proof by Wikipedia).

When I first learned of the word gratitude (probably in my teens), it wasn’t a good feeling. Because it’s often used when the other party is administering tough love. Remember 打就是爱, 骂就是疼? It’s no wonder I find it odd that many years later, it would take an extreme mental shift for me to express gratitude both to people who administer “Kind Love”, to “Lady Luck”, and most importantly to my own self.

So today, as Singapore, a place I’ve been based out of for the past 9 years, celebrates its 49th birthday, I want to express my gratitude to the people of this island state that has made the following possible, especially those I haven’t had the opportunity to meet:

1. To the faceless and nameless officer at ICA, thank you for granting me 5 years of PR in the latest renewal, instead of the year by year renewal that I had to endure earlier. With a 5 year horizon not having to worry that I will be expunged from here and forced to sell my flat, I can put my heart and soul into starting up new business, writing music, and dabble into various activities that’s not related to survival mode. If it’s not too much to ask for, please bring back the 10 years PR scheme as well, whatever the opportunity cost may be.

2. To the faceless and nameless civil servant at HDB, thank you for scrapping the Sibling Scheme only after me and my brother purchased a flat in Ang Mo Kio at sky high COV. Not only have this small humble place serve as a place for our parents to camp over when they are here helping taking care of my new born daughter, it has also strategically placed me next to some of the people that I am endeavouring new projects and startups together. It also helped me shelter and later marry my wife, and have children, while my brother is doing the same right now, something rather difficult when we were both camping in a rented room with a double decker bed.

3. The ABSD and rent that we saved (now mortgage paid out of our CPFs) can now be channeled into very productive tool such as a motor vehicle. To the Singapore residents who bidded for a COE around the time I got my trusty civic, thank you, for not bidding beyond my means. It has made a difference in enabling me to launch into hundreds of situations, such as fetching equipment and musicians to perform at shows in a timely manner, fetching my family back and fro Malaysia, wandering and learning about various underprivileged corners of Singapore and Malaysia, and so on, without being held back by a lack of mobility. We hope to meet you again 2 years from now when we all have to bid for another COE at the same time.

4. To the people in the EDB scholarship machinery, thank you for channelling your tax dollars into funding my overseas education, and forcing me to relinquish whatever opportunity I would otherwise be able to ride on in US, so that I can sit through more than 7 years of system integration, government service, telecommunications, while still dealing with technology, music and startups on the side. What a better an outcome than an indentured servant being granted freedom in the New World, albeit a different one? It even comes with some overseas education badge of honour that has ever since been useful in both job hunting and business networking.

5. To the nameless and faceless people of NParks, thank you for not chopping down the large Angsana tree in front of my flat, even though 4 similar trees between where we live and Ang Mo Kio MRT has been completely cut down for unaccounted reasons (which hopefully someday we can read about in an article). This is despite the tree being damaged severely by contractors who demanded some branches cut off for the purpose of lift upgrading. Please keep it till I sell the flat a few decades down the road, otherwise my buyer will be face to face with the artificial river of AMK Ave 3.

6. To my neighbours (sorry I still don’t know all of you) who voted ‘yes’ for lift upgrading, thank you for agreeing to shell out a cool two plus grand and enduring the extremely slow construction pace, cooking with dust in your dinner, and having your infants breath filthy air. Because of you, we are now $32,000 poorer, but all the better because we will be able to put our daughter right into the stroller and roll her all the way to the nanny in the coming month, instead of carrying her for 2 flights of stairs prior to doing so.

7. To the employers of senior citizens, such as the town council who is still keeping my 70 year old neighbour sweeping my car park, or the cleaning company who hires the 70 year old who cleans my table and plates in the coffee shop and hawker centre, thank you for providing them the opportunity to work till they can’t any more, instead of letting them retire and die prematurely, as your founding father has often predicted. It will be great if more organisations would find ways to let them go into gardening (roof top gardens?) instead of just cleaning, which we young people can do.

8. To the lorry drivers carrying my vegetables from Malaysia, to the ship crew carrying my pork from Bintan, in fact to everyone in the food supply industry, thank you for doing your best to keep your price competitive, so that we continue to have access to affordable food, and help our hawkers, restaurants, and other food outlets pay their exorbitant rent. Like my mum said: just take KL for comparison, with all the advantages of being closer to sources of food, eating in KL is (without converting, i.e. based on PPP) so much more expensive than in Singapore. Oh by the way, please don’t strike, it’s ok to pass on the cost of the causeway toll rise to us consumers.

9. To all the people (I don’t even know how to address you, bio defence?) who are working hand in hand to ensure the Ebola virus doesn’t reach the shores of this island, thank you, for your vigilance, for I cannot protect myself without guidance in the event of an outbreak. I was still in US when SARS broke out and I read excellent feedback about the measures taken to minimise loss of life, and hope such infrastructures and operating procedures are in place for us to survive again.

Oh there are so many more, I think I will stop here before this becomes a book.

All of you collectively formed Singapore, and as I inadvertently also contribute the same to earn my purpose of stay, I know I’m standing not just on the shoulder of one single giant, but many many individuals who continues to find ways to make live better for others.

It’s tough love, sometimes they tax you heavily to deliver a benefit, sometimes they use severe penalties to control your behaviours, sometimes they pull the carpet under you so that you can fall into a thankful kneeling position. The fortunate thing is after you give thanks, you can stand up and walk on to better pastures, and not having to endure warfare, famine, not even theft, maybe just relative poverty, as the Gini coefficient revealed.

Gini Coefficient

After all poverty can be a good thing – it stops you from chasing after material goods, and looking at the other things that matter in life, spiritual or otherwise. Capital can then be channeled into bigger things to continue to weave additional support on the hammock of survival.

Happy Birthday Singapore!

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