Singapore Together Emerging Stronger Conversations
As part of an ongoing series, the Singapore Together Emerging Stronger Conversation (ESC) on 22 August brought 41 Singaporeans from different walks of life together to share their reflections and aspirations for our shared future.
Topics discussed included providing more support for the ‘sandwich segment’ of parents with younger children, addressing the stigma behind mental illness, lowering the barrier of entry for youths to further pursue their passions, and improving inclusivity as a nation.
Koh Swee Keow, a teacher and facilitator, feels that a great way forward is for more of us to work on the ground.
Question: How can Singapore be more cohesive and resilient?
“Though ‘Singapore is a very small country without any natural resources’ has been said many times, it would not hurt to begin this discussion again to improve the common understanding of who we are. Once the general public sees and knows how vulnerable we are, banding together will be easier.
We also need to be more open-minded and attentive to others’ concerns. For example, we can listen without prejudice to those from a different culture, and truly spend time to understand the issues that they face. Just being able to empathise with the plight of our fellow Singaporeans, can we work better as one.
Frankly speaking, we’re very lucky here. There are so many things that are taken care of for us, and because of that, I don’t think we’re as resilient as we could be. Maybe we could have Water Rationing and No Electricity Day for households bi-annually to enable people to be more resilient?
There are plenty of Singaporeans who care, and instead of just getting the government to do more, we need to roll up our sleeves and get involved with what is happening on the ground. We need to know what the government is already doing and do our part to help fill the gaps – by working together, can we make a positive change.”
Learning and Development trainee Nurdiyanah Yahya hopes to see more Singaporeans practise empathy, not just sympathy. She says: “Even just looking out for your loved ones and neighbours can make a difference.”
Question: What do you hope to see in Singapore’s future?
“I realised that those who have attended today’s session are privileged because we only experienced inconveniences during circuit breaker.
And as such, we should use any platform we can to use our voice for good and to speak up for the vulnerable groups on the troubles and issues that they face due to the increase in economic disparity.
Singaporeans have shown empathy during COVID-19 through charitable donations. The amount received in the first half of 2020 were equal to the overall donations for the whole of 2019, but monetary donations are not the only way to help those in need.
Volunteers are always needed in the social services and welfare sector. Even so, there are small actions that we can take to help others, especially those closest to us. After all, it’s the smallest action that creates a ripple effect and I hope we can grow to be a more empathetic nation.”
On improving lives through our decisions, Phua Huijia, director, says: “We all have the power and capability to touch lives, and it doesn’t have to be on a grand scale.”
Question: What’s one thing that you’ve learnt from the current crisis?
“It’s important to hear different perspectives on important issues, and this includes those beyond our own social circles – today’s session helped me realise this.
I find that putting a face you know and like to something or someone you have negative sentiments towards, is a great way to mitigate the negative impressions and emotions that you may feel.
For example, imagine how the people you know and love would feel if they knew there were people who felt negatively towards them. I shared this tip with my friends and we all found it easier to balance our emotions and reactions.
Ultimately, a better society begins with us. We can choose to tackle our own negativity and turn it into something positive like listening to the struggles and concerns of others. This gives many a feeling that we are in this together, and we need to help each other in a unified manner – the need to support each other will be enhanced if more Singaporeans would join sessions like today’s.”
Daryl Li, management consultant has this to say to the younger generation today: “Continue to be distinctive in this world and with the same spirit and drive, there is no reason we cannot, unless we choose not to.”
Question: How do you think we can move forward post-crisis?
“Singapore has proven that it has tremendous potential and in many ways this is proof of the power of the human spirit and determination.
Having said that, to move forward, we need to redefine our social compact. Covid gave us time to reflect, and also strongly pointed out the cracks in our society and where we can do better. Every job and role contributes to society and has a place in it – we thus have to develop a society that does not value material success overly, while maintaining a drive for self sufficiency.
Today’s session is a great sounding board of opinions and ideas. Through these discussions, we can formulate actionable plans to move forward. And it’s encouraging to see that there are Singaporeans who are both able and willing to make change happen.
Personally, the first issue I would tackle would be to aim to remove the labels that we associate with certain professions or material things. I believe we have made progress on this, but there is much more we can do. We should aim to create conditions that allow for multiple pathways to success while still maintaining a level playing field. And for this to happen, we need Singaporeans to embrace becoming a more open society.”
Have your say as you share your hopes and aspirations for Singapore. Sign up to be a part of ESC at https://go.gov.sg/ESConversations