Idealism in Singapore

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Written as a response to Mr. Kishore Mahbubani’s article on the lack of idealistic youth in Singapore. The original article can be found here.


By Lim Yi He

Idealism, the “unrealistic” pursuit of perfection 

Contrary to Professor Kishore Mahbubani’s opinions, I believe that there is no shortage of idealistic youth here in Singapore.

Perhaps yes, in contrast to what the young Dutchman Mr Slat has been doing since he was 16, Singaporean youth seem to lack idealism, the drive to dream a little bigger and work for the greater good.  However, idealism manifests in many forms, and even though the dreams of our Singaporean youths may not be as big as those of their Western counterparts, they are equally as important and significant.

It may also be idealism on my part, but I am one of those people who appreciate the little things in life more than the larger-than-life ones – the small gestures, fledgling hopes and growing aspirations. Our dreams are smaller, quieter. We are more conservative, yet that doesn’t mean that our passion is any less reserved.

There is more to us than a fleeting glance. Our efforts may not have garnered as much fanfare as Mr Slat’s has, but there are organizations such as ecoYOUth and ECO Singapore that are managed by Singaporean youths, and they are as dedicated to environment conservation as Mr Slat is. But instead of dredging up plastic in oceans, they focus more on teaching people to not discard plastic in oceans.

For the past few years, there has been events such as the Global Youth Summit, which took place in Singapore during 2014 where young environmentalists from 13 countries in Asia convened to discuss ways to minimise waste and develop sustainable projects. University students are also standing out to lend a hand – Greenprint is a student club pioneering environmental initiatives in the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) which aims to build a sustainable world through green innovation and design, while The International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS) is coordinated by volunteers of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research at NUS. The ICCS, part of an annual global event, aims to remove and collect data on debris from the shorelines, waterways and beaches of the world’s lakes, rivers and oceans, as well as to educate the public on marine debris issues and encourage positive change.

My point is, we try to devise long-term solutions to problems and persevere, albeit how slow progress seems to be. They aim to spark concerns about the environment between youths in Singapore. And that, in my opinion, says more about idealism in our youths than anything else can.

On a side note, I think PM Lee Hsien Loong has phrased it very aptly as well. “We know we have to take the world as it is and not as we wish it to be. But we believe that we can and must defend ourselves and advance our interests,” he said during the eighth session of the S Rajaratnam Lecture series last year. Just like how Singapore’s foreign policies work, Singaporean youths actually don’t lack idealism – they just have a healthy dose of both idealism and realism as they strive to make their ideals reality.



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