Reflection on Singapore Dreaming

By Bianca Polak

19 September 2006 (initial reflection, edited on 06 November 2006 - never submitted)


美满人生 Singapore Dreaming

After watching this movie with some of my classmates of the Visual Arts and Creativity class on Tuesday 12 September, one of my classmates asked me if I could relate to this movie, being an “ang moh”. Although this movie is set in a Singapore family, with quite a number of typical Singaporean cultural elements in it, it can also be seen as a more universal film of people trying to have a better life. Interestingly, the Chinese title portrays this better than the English version, as it is without reference to Singapore. Regarding the Singapore elements in the movie, as I live in a HDB flat, with hardly any other “ang moh’s” in my estate I can relate to the style of living as well as I am seeing it around me on a daily basis.

The father and son characters in the movie are trying to win with 4D to have enough money to buy the car, condo, club membership, etc. They dream of being rich so that they can pursue material wealth. This can be related to Csikszentmihalyi’s statement in the chapters of “Flow” that money is not important for “happiness”. To me happiness is found in small things and money can by no means buy happiness. The ancient Greek writer Herodotus described a meeting between King Croesus (then the richest man on earth) and Solon a poet and wise man. Croesus consulted Solon on who is the happiest man in his kingdom, hoping to hear his own name. Solon mentioned several names of ordinary people and Croesus asked him why he didn’t mention his name. Solon’s answer was that he said Croesus could be called lucky, but wouldn’t call him the happiest man until his death and he would have been lucky for all his life. Finally Croesus met with unhappiness by the death of his beloved son and the destruction of his kingdom. Only then he realised that Solon had been right.

It also reminded me of the time that I was still working in Holland (just before I came to Singapore). Some of my colleagues at the time, who were then in their 30s or 40s were talking about putting money aside so that they would be able to go for earlier retirement. In Holland the retirement age is 65 at the moment (and is likely to go up to 70 in the years to come) and early retirement is considered to be between 55 and 60. The reason why they wanted to go for earlier retirement was to go traveling and see something of the world and enjoy the freedom they are not having now (while working and having all sorts of commitments). At the time I thought that was pretty silly, why wait till you are old and grey and possibly not in the best of health anymore to do the things that you really want to do? I keep reminding myself of this once in a while, when I’m getting stuck in a routine, when I’m not happy with what I’m doing.

Singapore Dreaming, a very vivid parody of Singapore’s life style, but to me with a deeper message to follow your dreams and not waiting till it’s too late…