The reality we are building is already ours
As Kirsten Han puts it, Singapore is a complex country full of contradictions, inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies. In other words, Singapore is just as flawed and human as any one of us.
We’ve been talking a lot the past few weeks about the different Singapores that each of us recognise. The Singapore I recognise is drinking teh at Bhai Sarbat, way before they had a signboard and a Tik Tok account; encountering hornbills perched on street lamps and a rare owl in a longkang; having strangers recognise the tattoo on my arm as a Maxine Ng creation, a testament to the tight-knit tattoo community and respect for an artist’s unique aesthetic; meeting another person with Eurasian heritage and finding out how our families are connected somehow; having your barber on speed dial and never having to explain to him what you want–he already knows; being able to go to a literary event alone, secure in the knowledge that I will see someone familiar and have company one way or another.
No matter how disconnected I may feel from this island sometimes, it is these idiosyncrasies that remind me that I am part of a community here. Further to that, working with Kirsten on The Singapore I Recognise has been a profound reminder that as bleak or suffocating Singapore might feel, with its relentless fixation on profit, homogeneity and limited freedom of expression, there is much hope to be found in collective dreaming and solidarity.
“I now recognise that I’m only a small part of a much bigger and older journey towards a Singapore that does not yet exist.” These words by Kirsten have comforted me and shown me that the work that I do–whether it’s editorial work at Ethos, or little everyday acts of resistance to a homogenous way of living–is so much bigger than myself. It gives me hope that the reality we are building is already ours, if only we allow ourselves to imagine it and take aligned action.
On 1 September, we will be celebrating the official launch of The Singapore I Recognise (more details to come). We invite you to join us as we continue imagining the Singapore we want to see and be in community with others who are co-creating the Singapore that does not yet exist, but is slowly and surely arriving.