Preserve our 'sacred' memories

Preserve our 'sacred' memories
Singapore Improvement Trust flats in Tiong Bahru.

In his commentary ("Prepare for a political crisis"; last Saturday), Professor Kishore Mahbubani said "we defend our home because it has many sacred objects and sacred memories".

This brings back the question: If Singapore comes under attack in a war, would you stay to defend the country? Or, if you could, would you leave?

What we choose to do depends very much on how deeply we love Singapore - a young nation that turns 50 next year.

In half a century, Singapore has achieved remarkable results in many areas, in particular, its economic growth.

In recent years, the issues of sense of belonging and identity have resurfaced.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Singaporeans had a much stronger sense of belonging. Back then, the Government did a lot to foster a sense of identity among Singaporeans.

National education was emphasised, both directly and indirectly, in schools and neighbourhoods. To this day, the National Day songs composed in that era, such as We Are Singapore, Stand Up For Singapore and Count On Me Singapore, still strike a chord with many Singaporeans.

However, in the last decade or so, iconic - or, as Prof Mahbubani says, "sacred" - landmarks have been removed or refurbished, sometimes at an alarming pace, in the name of development. Shophouses in Katong and the old National Library have ceased to exist or have undergone drastic transformations.

With the removal of these landmarks, Singaporeans have lost an important part of the memories that anchor their hearts to this country.

The influx of immigrants, who have their own memories from their countries of origin, has made matters worse. Their integration into our society is more difficult as they do not share our memories.

It is vital to pass on our memories to the younger generations, to foster their love for Singapore.

Sadly, their memories will be different from ours. The mention of the National Theatre or Van Kleef Aquarium will most likely draw blank looks from them. Instead, their memories will be of shopping malls and tech gadgets.

I am sure Singapore still has a place in the hearts of most Singaporeans. Let us not do more to erode this love.

Letter by Clarence Sim Kok Siong

This article was published on May 14 in The Straits Times.

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