In search of freedom.
A couple of days ago, I learnt that someone I knew was leaving Singapore, quite suddenly.
Now, I had thought him well-established here. He is an American and his wife is from South America. He is a teacher. She is a singer/musician. They both had jobs. Between them, their income was very good, surprisingly good, in fact. You see his singer wife is in demand and is very well paid for the corporate gigs that she has been doing. In addition she has been singing for "good money", 3 hours a night in clubs in Singapore. So, financially speaking, they were content here. Yet, something was not right, here. In Singapore, they did not feel free to be themselves.
My American friend's wife was the one most unhappy with it all. The problem was that, in Singapore, she felt that she was living in a kind of straitjacket. She is a creative person, but here she was not allowed to create. Every night she sang and some days, too...but whenever she did, she was never allowed to do her own material, never allowed to improvise, explore or create. All that she was ever allowed to do was "cover versions" of other people's songs. She found the musicians she worked with highly skilled in a technical sense - but none of them showed any creativity - or did not, at least, show any evidence of it, in her presence. They were consumed with the desire to replicate the work of others as faithfully as possible. She found this tiresome. Where she came from, true musicians were always experimenting, exploring and growing. Here, she was not allowed to grow or become or create - she was enforced to imitate.
Now, it is not her fellow musicians, alone, that are the problem. The other problem is that the audience actually seem to crave well-performed cover versions. They enjoy hearing replication at work. They also seem to dislike anything new or experimental. So, even if a musician is creative here, they might find their creativity unwelcome.
They felt the straitjacket in other aspects of life, here, too. There is not much creativity in Singapore...it is a place that excels in conformity. This fact made them uncomfortable. They felt that they couldn't truly be free to be themselves in a place that so expected a uniformity of behaviour from everyone. At least, that is the way it seems to them. They felt, in short, oppressed by the essence of the place. They felt that here, they would never be allowed to be themselves.
So, one day, they both decided to jack in their jobs and leave. They have already bought tickets and have a destination in mind - and even jobs lined up.
The question is: how many creative people is Singapore losing - or never gaining in the first place - because creative people might feel too restricted here? Does this loss of creative individuals not harm Singapore? Does it not reduce the likelihood that anything new or special will come out of this small city state?
I am left to wonder how pervasive the need to conform is, here, when even music is not allowed to live - when even something as inoffensive as the sound that comes to one's ears, must conform, absolutely, to expectation, with no surprises. Surely, creativity should be welcomed...and not pushed away, as they have been?
The funny thing is, this decision of theirs to leave was prompted by a holiday in Bali. To them, the place felt so much more alive and authentic and free...so that is where they are going, now. So who has it right: the self-adoring No.1 nation in the world...or its poorer, but apparently freer, neighbour? Bali may be poor - but a creative couple felt more welcome there.
I think there is a lesson in this tale for ambitious Singapore. It can still learn from its "poorer" neighbours.
(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.
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