Daughter to $ingaporean-mother at the airport: "We're the best, right?"
Mother: "Eh, maybe Hong Kong is da best."
Elder daughter: "No, $ingapore has the best airport in S.E. Asia."

No, that's not an imaginary scene of farcical proportion on our statistic-crazy nation. That's Reality - reality as witnessed recently by yours truly going on an overseas trip. On board the plane, I was seated next to a $ingaporean office-worker ('cos I heard him talking about the office to his pal seated on his other side). When the air-steward came round to ask what we'd like to drink, the office-worker number hollered: "Coke-coke-coke-coke-coke". Then, on the way back to our best-of-everything country, a $ingaporean woman sitting behind me on the plane, when asked whether she'd like red or white wine, said: "Red-red-red-red-red."

Yes honey, we are the best.

Think I'm being harsh on $ingaporeans? Wait 'til you meet a dear friend of mine. Once, after returning from a trip to Thailand and being in quite a livid mood, he rang me after trotting round town, saying, "I wish half the people in Orchard Road were dead!" "What a thing to say!" I replied. That's when he said," Let's face it, those people are already half-dead." Debris, he calls them, he considers the term 'digits' to be way too kind. He's also the one who pointed out to me that trying to connect with the energetic and hopeful $ingaporean-young is a doomed affair.

He had noticed, from being on a plane with $ingaporean families and their kids, that one look at the kids' parents and you just know that those kids are doomed. Zilch manners, clueless when it comes to etiquette, yet arrogant but also repressed as hell. Exactly the point of a slogan I'd written on one of my self-designed T-shirts: "We are $ingaporeans, we are arrogant, we have no balls, and we don't even know it."

These days, that 'harsh' friend of mine wishes he could carry a fly swatter with him every time he's on a plane with fellow $ingaporeans. He'd swat them with it each time they open their mouth to say something and then he'd tell them - "Wrong answer!"

Considering the years of autocratic paternalism our System has been bandying around, how can I not hold it responsible for those 'ugly' $ingaporeans that are all, and I mean ALL, around. (Of course, there are exceptional ones, people like you and me, lor.) If the System could, it would've controlled the number of times you are allowed to fart a day. And it's all for - nation-building, what else!

The annoying thing is that it comes with the self-airing slogan - Me All Good No Bad. Criticism denied 'cos no criticism is constructive criticism unless you kowtow first then gently hint-hint; though some would call that no-criticism at all. Yes siree, PR is everything. You betcha others around us are learning... though not quite to perfection or best-hood as we've managed.

"U.S. a 'useless friend'," the Thai PM said as he fumed over U.S. criticism of Thailand's human rights record (The Straits Times, Feb 28, '04). Oh dear, I wish he would learn better from $ingapore that good PR is EVERYTHING. Just issue a public statement saying that all the "extra-judicial killings and arbitrary arrests", which Thailand's been accused of, is "not a burning issue". Gow-dim sai, clean and easy, mai-mee bahn-hah. Especially when one's press and public media is held under good nation-building control already.

Coming back to $ingaporeans being clueless, being an exemplary $ingaporean myself, I surely want to justify my stand to the bitterest end. Here goes.

Note the following letter sent in to The Straits Times' Forum on Feb 28, '04. "While waiting at the City Hall MRT (train) station, my 14-year-old daughter noticed a man using a mobile phone with a camera feature taking a picture of her. I am concerned that such an act, which is tantamount to intruding into another's privacy, if not checked, would eventually result in harm to the subject. Could the authorities enlighten me about the following: 1) Does anyone have the right to photograph another person without his consent? 2) How should one respond when one notices that one is being photographed in the train or at the station? 3) What should young children and teenagers do? 4) What is being done to protect members of the public from such intrusion?"

Yes, I'm afraid the poor concerned parent thinks he's on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

At this point, I wanna remind authorities that this is a good opportune occasion to put to work our public campaign urging $ingaporeans to simply "use your brain". An answer to the concerned parent's burning questions is quite redundant, or rather dysfunctional, to $ingaporeans being encouraged to think for themselves.

But alas, PR is EVERYTHING. So, another lesson in survival is desperately needed there, sir.

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