Thursday, 30 July 2015

Why should i love a country?

One of the first things which i stopped loving was a country. This love for a country, patriotism, is an insane conceit. You can love your friends, your family, your lovers, your children (of course), an idea, a forest, a plant, a community, beauty, a piece of land even.... but a COUNTRY? What does a country consists of that i should love it and what does loving a country mean? And also love - apart from the love of innocent things, like children and animals - is something which needs to be earned in order to be kept. If my values do not coincide with the values of a place or a community, i can respect it, or maybe not respect it, if the community happens to be a community of slave owners, there is nothing in the world which says that i must love it.

Why am i writing crazy? It is because it is the 50th anniversary of Singapore's 'Independence' and there is a lot of crazy making going round. Most notably, how Singapore is the best place in the world and we must all love Singapore. We must love its tall buildings and its MRT system, we must love its buses and its roads, we must love the housing estates, we must love the people who gave us this, the PAP, we must love the shops and the skyline, we must love the zoo, we must love the roti prata shops, we must love the cardboard aunties, we must be inexorably positive and glowing and delighted with everything that we have. Because we are the total and complete best.

And if you don't love this place and everything about it, then well, then you are an ungrateful, unappreciative and terrible person who should be cast on the rubbish heap of the world and made to become some homeless refugee.

It is sort of like being in a relationship with this manic and terribly insecure person who insists that everything they do is wonderful and you need to constantly be praising them or else they will get very upset and threaten to leave you.

Being in Northern Ireland is very different. Northern Ireland does not expect you to love it. In fact, it does not expect anyone to love it. Why should you love me, asks Northern Ireland silently. Look at me. Completely fucked up. I am crazy place with crazy people. They can't get on with each other and quarrel when there is nothing to quarrel about. I don't have spectacular mountains and lakes like Scotland, or soft round Welsh valleys - i am not English, which is the best thing that can be said about me. I lack the levity of my Southern half. But you know what, it is PRECISELY this sad modesty that makes me want to find something that i love in Northern Ireland. It makes me say, well i can create this space - i can make this space into which i pour all this love and affection... perhaps if i did find space into which i could pour my love and affection here... like many of my friends have... maybe that would make it more bearable.,

My sons love the life here. They love the swimming pool and the food. The heat and the variety of life. They would move here in a heartbeat. I do love the simple things you know. Walking around housing estates. Strolls in Macritchie. Chats with my family and friends. I love the house i grew up in. I love that i can show my sons Singapore. But i do not love Singapore - Singapore is a country. There are things in the country that you can love. Ideas and communities and places and smells... but to just love a country is not possible. It is an irrational and impossible position.

Yesterday, for instance, i was in the CBD. I have never liked the CBD, but maybe, with age, i could have become very nostalgic. Fond of the places which i did remember and feel a pang of longing which all nostalgia brings. But i did not feel any nostalgia, because the entire place was completely changed. I recognised very very little and the little that i did recognise, i was not sure if it was what i thought it was because it was so dwarfed by the massive buildings. I have never liked the towering skyscrapers and the pumping testosterone musk you get on the wind when you walk around the CBD. I have never wanted to ever take part in it. My world was a quiet one of the beach and the pool and books and little places... to then be in a series of buildings which were hundred of feet high, dazzling with glass and filled with AMBITION, it was enough to make me want to turn and scream.

And yet, there was this silent question... don't you love me? Aren't i amazing? Look at all this MONEY. See how rich i am. Surely you must be impressed with this. Look at all this concrete and this glass, Look at this panorama. Look at my sunset. See the barges and the boats. Look look look. Wonderful wonderful wonderful. It was like someone shoving a Gucci bag in my face and telling me how awesome they were.

We are so awesome, we are really so awesome. We are the best best best best best best best best best - we are like the best best bestbestbestbestbestbest - and it is like now 24-7 on the TV as well. And the newspapers. And in shops. Everything is like SG50. Oh My God. I used to think National Day was bad. It just got worse.

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