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Need A SG50 National Slogan?

Response to Catherine Lim’s ‘new national slogan’

Oops! Methinks I’m not going to make many new friends, lose some even maybe, with this post of mine. Not when Mr Nobody 2cents dares to take aim at a reigning doyen of the Singapore Literary Scene – she, with awards, books, invites to speak and ‘luxurious apartment in a decidedly prosperous part of town’ to show for while 2cents has zilch to his name…Regardless,

I first came across but skipped Catherine Lim’s ‘A new national slogan for Singapore’s 50th birthday’ at singaporedaily.net. It’s worth checking out The Singapore Daily for a feel of ‘what everyone is talking about’ in SG, different from TRE’s offerings.

Unlike a friend, a teenager probably smitten by Catherine, his lit teach, other than her ‘affective divide’ and ‘PAP unable to reinvent itself’ commentaries, I keep a skeptical distance when occasionally reading Ms Lim’s other short articles. And the FM 88.9 BBC interview I heard a short while back, with her shrill voice, an almost perceptible effort at purposefully sounding girlish-like – this in an interview on serious politics – just didn’t turn me on.

The last time I read Catherine was her ‘the-bkbc-interview’ via singaporedaily.net, “‘bkbc’ being ‘bo kia bo chup’ which translated from Hokkien means ‘not afraid, can’t be bothered’, to convey recklessness and defiance”. Believe me, if what she wrote was bkbc, then the word to describe what TRE commentators are capable of has not yet been coined. She obviously doesn’t dig street-cred Hokkien but tries to fake it in order to bolster her, pardon my French, ‘baba-siohw’ (she, a Peranankan?) or her obvious elite/elitist status.

My bet is on not a single Singaporean who lives in an HDB flat amongst her exclusive clique of ‘luxurious apartment in a decidedly prosperous part of town’ and landed property residents whom she calls personal friends.

Nonetheless, read her ‘A New National Slogan for Singapore 50th Birthday’ I did after Richard Wan published it on TRE. And she didn’t disappoint with her shallow national slogan critique… and call for a new one.

For starters, Catherine claims, “When Lee Kuan Yew became Prime Minister of Singapore in 1959, he set a trend that, simply because it came from him, had to be followed by his successors. This was the marking of a new premiership with a slogan. Under Lee Kuan Yew, it was ‘A Rugged Society’”.

Records show LKY’s first mention of (actually) ‘a robust and rugged society’ occurred circa 1966, after we got booted out of Malaysia, not when he ascended to the premiership.

Hence, it is historically incorrect to claim ‘the marking of a new premiership with a slogan’.

Furthermore, GCT’s exact words in his PM-ascension swearing-in speech were ”to build Singapore as a nation of distinction’, emphasizing ‘economic growth…values and culture…invest heavily in our people…(and) equalise opportunities’ [Link: GCT Swearing-in Speech].

Nope, no ‘a gracious society’ in there. Truth be told, GCT got sort-of lost when he abandoned ‘nation of distinction’ for ‘Renaissance City’ (2008, ok, it’s more a culture blueprint but still, and anyone remember that report?).

As for Lee Hsien Loong, Catherine gets it only half right; ‘Ours must be an open and inclusive Singapore’ [Link: LHL Swearing-in Speech, para 26], not the literary license she uses to explain, ‘a noun…preceded by an adjective that could change, depending on the preference of the new premier’.

Hence, I would contend that storyteller Catherine Lim started with the premise of urging ‘a new national slogan’ and then went about making up her needed dots to try to weave her story coherently.

What could Catherine’s possible motivations be to generously share her copyright work in her blog-of-sort? I suggest three; a parochial interest, self-aggrandizement and commercial self-promotion.

Parochial Motivation
First, she questions, “Almost on a daily basis, Singaporeans are aware of changes that have overtaken their society, some in the most unexpected ways. So, under the present circumstances is the present national slogan of ‘An Inclusive Society’ at all relevant? Should it be changed to reflect the changing needs and aspirations of the people?”

Then, she proceeds to suggest “‘An Inclusive Society Part 2′? Since Part 1 has already done a good job of thoughtfully including so many different groups…Part 2 could finish up the job by including a long neglected — and long maligned — group, the political mavericks and troublemakers who, after all, are true Singaporeans, true citizens of a nation they care for.”

How’s her suggested Part 2 a reflection of the ‘changing needs and aspirations of the people?’ Hey, Catherine, the people are crying out mainly for ‘ReturnOurCPF’, lower cost-of-living, less FTs etc and, yes, VTO! But we don’t expect the elite to understand that, do we? To include the long maligned group you refer to is the aspiration of some people, yes, but not the people. To your elite, elitist, civic or cultural gang, your Part 2 makes for highfalutin conversation in your caviar and cocktail circuit. But we, the common people, continue to collect the bread crumbs beneath your tables of plenty.

How can elites even begin to understand how it feels to have to sell one’s basic flat to survive one’s old age, huh?

Self-Aggrandizement Motivation
To understand this 2nd motivation, we need to go back to her ‘the-bkbc-interview /#comments’.

Quote, “I had said: ‘Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy will be so mixed…(but) everyone will agree that for a man of his stature and impact, neither the past nor the present holds an equal.’

I suppose this was my ‘compliment’ to Mr Lee, and in referring Tom Plate, his biographer, to me, he was returning the ‘compliment’ (both compliments needing those strong, qualifying inverted commas!) But I must tell you, it made me very happy. Because Mr Lee never minces his words, and says exactly what he feels.”

Read the full text yourself. Catherine ‘very happy’? Nah, she was completely bowled over, thrilled to bits like a dewy-eyed school girl unexpectedly complimented by her strict disciplinary master.

So, here she comes with her rather complimentary piece on LHL’s reign, hoping for a return compliment by the master’s son, perhaps?

Commercial Self-Promotion Motivation
Catherine has just launched her new book, Roll Out The Champagne, Singapore! 16 Oct 2014. Like any publisher and author would want, she’s just gifting away some teaser chapters lure potential buyers to her book.

Thus far, she’s offered 3 carefully selected chapters. She has to do her darnest to persuade more dafts to part with $21.50 for her bank account, doesn’t she? How else to ‘collect more money’ from her writing efforts?

So, sad to say, the elitist are as the elitist do, they think they understand us the common people but actually they hear not, know not our cries beneath their wheels.

Having called Catherine’s coveting covert motivations, let’s nonetheless examine the need for a new slogan for SG50.

Do we need any new one at all. We should go back to the future. We should drink our old wine from a new bottle.

The only evergreen slogan born out of the crucible of our national existential struggles that we need now – and more of – is ‘As One United People…’ Our Pledge.

So, all together now, with feeling…….

We, the citizens of Singapore,

pledge ourselves as one united people,

regardless of race, language or religion,

to build a democratic society

based on justice and equality

so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and

progress for our nation.