After the cessation of Singapore from the Malay federation in the year 1965, Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister and the so-regarded father of that new, tiny island nation, claimed his intention of transforming Singapore from a third world country to a first world country in a single generation. Today, in the year 2016, having, myself, the chance to visit this remarkable city, I witnessed something, indeed, very different of what the slummy harbor the British had abandoned a generation back would have looked like. Although I am not personally really fond of cities, if I ever, by any necessity, had to dwell in one, Singapore would be what I’d wish it to look like. What I witnessed there, I could not describe in any other way than the city of the future… the city of an optimistic future. And here are some of my observations on points that single it out:
A clean city…
One of the first things that impressed me in Singapore was its cleanness. I literally could not see the slightest piece of rubbish resting on the ground, not in the streets, not in the narrowest lanes, not at the beach, not crammed in any covert crevices, nowhere. In fact, it was such extreme a cleanness that I got induced to scan the ground for rubbish intentionally while strolling. During my one week sojourn there, I, after all, managed to spot one cigarette butt and a candy wrapping, counted.
The even more impressive fact is that the cleaning personnel is as rare as the rubbish itself. I did only see a few of them, who were doing no other work than emptying trash bins and sweeping fallen leaves. The city seems to somehow remaining clean in a kind of a magical way, or – to not appear moonstruck – it is actually just that the people’s adherence to the “keep your city clean” maxim goes naturally and is absolute. And the municipality has provided well for it to be so, with trash bins being omnipresent and recycling-friendly as well.
A green city…
One of the principal issues Singapore faced upon its independence and starting on its way to development was the lack of space. That lack of space, however, does not seem to have prevented in the least the preservation of green areas within the city. The city is full all over with grand, neat parks and gardens, which host one of the greatest collection of plants to be found worldwide. A large number of peculiar (in many cases extinction-threatened) plants have been imported into the tiny city-state from the remotest corners of every continent and thrive in its parks or within enormous greenhouse-forests, when not eligible to survive the local climate.
Besides the parks, trees and flowers are also to be seen everywhere within the city, on every pavement, by the entrance of every building… And not only within the city but upon it as well! At times you can see entire groves prospering on balconies and rooftops!
A well-ordered city…
To join the police in Singapore doesn’t seem to be offering good prospects for a future career development. Quite bizarrely, in spite of the severe and at times irrational legal code, Singaporeans seem to be abiding by the law willingly and naturally. During my whole time there I didn’t happen to see any single uniformed guy, anywhere.
As for plain-clothed fine-delivering clerks, I bet there must be some roaming about. Though, they also, I assume they are quite scarce. Because if it was otherwise, I don’t think I would have managed to go clear myself, as I did – especially when it comes to smoking and traffic regulations, I should not be described as a conscientious man.
A based upon solidarity city…
A major issue in post-independence Malaysia and one of the principal reasons that led to Singapore’s cessation in the 60′ was the ethnic conflict between the Malays and the Chinese. Today’s generation, now, seems to have entirely repudiated their fathers’ enmity. In fact, any sort of racial clique-ism seems to be completely absent.
There are no ethnic schools in Singapore. Children are taught in common public schools, in the English language. English has been adopted as the official language by the state and as their first language by the people. Quite curious is also the peculiar to Singapore English accent, spoken quite the same by Malays, Chinese and Indians alike. Highly exemplary is also a religion exchange custom practiced by Singaporeans, whereupon the adherents of the different creeds will bidirectionally invite some of their fellow parishioners of another creed to their temple for a visit after service.
Yet another admirable fact, is that, besides the racial sentiments, national sentiments seem to be absent as well. For example, I was quite struck to observe that, in contrary with every other – regardless of regime character – country in the world, there were merely any national flags at all waving around the city – appearing so as the country to possess a flag only for convention’s sake.