I’m Working in Japan Today Because of Lee Kuan Yew

I’ve seen a lot of people on Facebook and on other media on the Internet diss the government for as long as the last election lasted. Or even longer. But when the revered Lee passed yesterday, tons of people paid tribute to him on the same media where I saw hate messages. People respected Lee; people still do; people always will.

Nevertheless, there will be the adversaries. One I saw was a comment on how Lee built a capital city but not a nation, with a shared article written about the great man. The article made logical sense, but I’d beg to differ from the opinion of Lee not having built a nation.

I’m no good at Singapore history largely because I have a brain that decides to remember only useless stuff like who stepped on poo last week, or who wet his pants in kindergarten. But if you look at the simple facts, you would see my point.

Singapore started as a Malay fishing village. The British came and brought over people from India. The Chinese came from all over China to work as coolies. Children of British and Indian descent remained in Singapore forming a group we were taught to be called Eurasians. Let’s stop here because the more I write, the more mistakes I make. There begins our multi-racial, multi-cultural society.

But all was not well.

The Chinese were divided and decided to fight one another, and later, they fought the Malays in the infamous racial riots of 1964 and 1969. The Great Lee promoted Mandarin to bridge the distance between Chinese of different dialect groups, resulting in greater sense of unity. He kept English for economic reasons and decided on bilingualism for citizens of all races. The common working language allowed people of different races to communicate with one another and befriend one another.

If you look at all the shit people are complaining about now, they almost always mention the nostalgic good-ol’-days of the 90s. Our people had a strong sense of belonging. That was the nation that the older Lee created. A unified and successful nation. Not just a capital city. I could sing national day songs each year and be moved to tears in my heart in the good-ol’-days of the 90s.

Universities in Singapore place extremely high in the world and people have near to excellent opinion of our country. Not an easy feat for such a small city-state. Japanese people are as crazy over academic success as we are, so knowing that I graduated from NUS makes them mistakenly think I’m really smart. But that works well for me.

The bilingual policy is the reason I can speak English and Mandarin fluently. That means, I can easily befriend over 2.5 billion people wherever I go. That’s more than one-third of the world’s population. Something we seem to take for granted. And something I painfully noticed after coming to Japan. I’ve seen non-Chinese speakers feeling left out in conversations carried out in Mandarin and I’ve seen non-English speakers feeling the same when conversations were carried out in English. This feeling of being left out because we don’t understand a language is something we don’t get to experience as much as people who don’t speak either English or Mandarin, and people who speak neither English nor Mandarin.

Our country has, to a good extent, created a successful education hub (ignoring the failure of UNSW) such that I can easily find a credible and recognized school for part-time certification programs. It created an environment good enough to draw foreigners to live and work here, which gave me the opportunity to study the Japanese language in Singapore because my parents couldn’t afford to send me overseas.

While I’m just a temporary dispatch staff now, all these factors were why I managed to land myself an interview with Google Japan. And today, I sit in an office with elites from across the globe working for one of the most famous companies in the world. Because of Lee. The late Lee.

He may have done things too ruthlessly in his younger days, and they probably are not things I would agree with. But that doesn’t change the fact that he created my today.

Thank you, Sir.

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