Friday, January 07, 2005

Childhood Travels.

Ivan's comment on the 'forgotten generation' in Singabloodypore provoked a response from me and prompted this blog entry.

In the debutant(e) blog post Confession, I said "until well past my 26th birthday, I have never travelled on my passport out of Singapore". [Are blog posts male or female?]

Was reminded that sentence is not entirely true when I came across some of my old journals from way back, tucked in a small corner of my digital archives. I have actually travelled rather extensively outside of Singapore as a child. And quite a fair bit as a teenager as well. Just that those trips were always accompanied and / or on guided-tours where there is minimal (if any) exposure to the local milieu. Not much different from watching the exotic travel programs on Discovery Channel in hotels.

My father is part of that 'forgotten generation' relegated to the economic junkheap. My father used to work as a cargo tech for the carriers (air transport, not data telecommunications). One of the perks was heavily discounted air travel for the family. That was almost two decades ago before the fast-evolving Singapore economy and influx of cheap foreign labour rendered him economically nonviable in the greater schema of Singapore Inc. I believe the term is 'structural unemployment' due to older workers unwillingness to 'retrain' and accept employment at a fraction of original wages.

I do not remember much of those childhood travel days though, except gaining a sense that the world was a much larger place than these cramped borders (and tiny HDB flat) that we live in. Not many photographs to remember by either since cameras, film and processing were blue-collar luxuries in those days.

And as a teenager I travelled as well. Those debating competitions in junior college and university days used to take us all over the place. As far as Hong Kong and Philippines. And I remember being sorely disappointed at losing the tryouts for a slot to go to Athens.

Debating (in a formalised competitive setting) was one of the few bright spots in a generally miserable existence in the conformist Singapore formal education system for me. It was also where I first experienced discrimination as a minority, as well as a foreshadowing of the social costs to Singapore citizens of the foreign labour policy (even before the 'FT' moniker became government-endorsed). But anyway, that is all in the distant past.

Given that my grandfather was born in some improvished province of China and was one of the nameless coolies that came to Singapore, perhaps wanderlust is in my genes?

In any case, the correction should be "until well past my 26th birthday, I have never travelled [insert alone] on my passport". And never had to deal with interacting with unfamilar cultures on local terms at the ground level.


Blogger KnightofPentacles said...

Reproduced here is my comment post at Singabloodypore w.r.t the 'forgotten generation':


That generation is not 'forgotten' totally. Ignored and relegated perhaps by rulers who need (by circumstance) to focus limited resources to securing the future.

But YOU remember them. I remember them. They are our fathers and mothers and uncles and aunts. The generation of dialect-speaking 'skilled' workers in manufacturing, in textiles, in food processing - whose skills have been deemed past their economic shelf life by the same government that they built.

The loyalty of this generation to this land depends partly on how this generation views the rulers' treatment and honour of the previous generation. It is hard to command loyalty from the younger generation when in their own homes, they see the people who brought them up getting shafted by (necessary) economic policies targeted for progress.

It is on the back of the sacrifices of the 'forgotten generation' that some of us heartlander kids are given a shot at breaking free. I am brought up by that same 'forgotten generation'. They are core to who I am.

We will be there for them - for those who are still alive. After they are gone... I have to ask: what else holds my loyalty to the rulers of this land who have not honoured those who built it up in the past?

January 07, 2005 1:07 AM  
Blogger Calamity Man said...

ah... another well-written with proper english blog by a singaporean... .

read your confessions post. well, im thinking of "quitting" myself just like my sis liana and her bf jelte.


January 07, 2005 9:44 AM  
Blogger sari said...

I have to second what Mr Loob said~ haha intellectual post indeed! You scared me off as a debator~ =)

January 07, 2005 10:58 AM  
Blogger Singapore Calamari said...

As my father always reminded me when I was young and choosing my "career" in IT.

He quoted the example of the shipping industry. When Singapore still depended a lot on trading. After a few years, all the shipping grads are jobless and had to be "retrained".

So when I was choosing my career in the IT industry, it was "hot" at the time. Govt was saying IT is the future. I was interested in computers at that time, and my father was also thinking that IT will be big. But he kept reminding me to look further into the future and then decide. Because our family will not have the resources for me to change should I find myself unemployed after I grad.

So that led me to the infamous "Army also think I am a flop and don't want me" incident when I wanted to sign-on in the army to get their scholarship. Because I didn't want to tax on the family resources, as they have my 2 younger siblings to support and provide an education for.

Luckily, the IT demand lasted longer than the shipyard demand.

January 07, 2005 11:04 AM  
Blogger Singapore Calamari said...

Haha.. after sobering up, I realized my comment has no apparent link to the topic.

So let me come to the point that I wanted to say when I was drunk with boredom at work.

My point was not about your childhood travels, but about "The Forgotten Generation", and how our generation will feel seeing how our parents were shafted by the govt.

Point in my previous comment was that we all just have to take care of ourselves. As my father said. Don't just listen to the govt. They will say what is good for their policies. If some people have to be sacrificed, so bit it. As a state, they do not lose much.

Those few ppl who did studied ship-building and ship-repairing who ended up with no jobs are "expendable".

It is not so much about the forgotten generation as it is about the forsaken people. Peolpe are just statistics. Remember the "Stop at 2" campaign, then "3 is better" and now, govt is paying for people to give birth.

We are all just statistics and part of the game.
This is the lesson I learnt. Do not treat them personally, as they do not treat you personally too.

January 08, 2005 1:29 PM  
Blogger AcidFlask said...

In Singapore travel agency lingo: free and easy is the way to go! Let them figure out how to get there and where to sleep. You can do the rest yourself!

Ah, a debating past. That explains the confrontational attitudes that I've had to face these past two months or so! If I may say so myself, a little bit more finesse would be much appreciated, thank you.

If it's not painfully obvious by now, yes, I am a quitter. And I am of the worst kind: a bond-breaking ex-scholar. But I appreciate your not having attacked my decision. The whole story is too painful and heinous for public consumption. I did my best to fit in and was soundly rejected at every step. I don't regret my move, but I don't intend to give up on Singapore yet.

Because being a 'quitter' doesn't really mean rejecting Singapore. It means leaving the mold of conformity that the rulers choose to impose on it.

January 10, 2005 5:57 AM  
Blogger ivan said...


i just realised you made a reference to the comment i made. I can't recall what drove me to say those words, i must have been pretty pissed with steve and what he thinks he knows about sg.

It's good that we remember the forgotten generation, for what are we without our past. I try my best to converse with them, unfortunately my limited hokkien vocab somehow makes me unable to speak the langauge though i understand it.

Perhaps it is age that separates us both. While you've lived through the system and have decided it's not for you. I'm still optimistic of change and aspire to be part of it. Maybe in 10 years, i'd be equally disillusioned. Or maybe in 10 years, we'll start remembering the forgotten, or at least be consoled that we at elasat strive to educate our own offsprings to not forget them.

April 27, 2005 1:15 AM  
Anonymous voctir said...

Singapore Calamari:
"After a few years, all the shipping grads are jobless and had to be "retrained"."

I can't help but find that this phrase brings to my mind the image of re-training animals, like dogs, zoo performers and circus animals for new tricks to pander to the tastes of the audience. Truly depressing.

April 27, 2005 9:38 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home