Singapore Dreaming

I went to watch Singapore Dreaming today with addy and puddy. Heh, they are both kakis from Cedar. Addy had free tickets from MINDS and asked me. I initially had tuition but (and not for the first time), the students were not at home. Only the mother was home, and she wasn’t the one who needs to be tutored. Silently fuming, I left and head for the movie.


It is the highlight of my day, that movie. My social activists/commentaries friends have expounded at length about the movie , and truly it is a show that evokes emotions whether you like it or not.


It was quite difficult to watch. Honestly, the show hits too close to home. I could see my family members reflected in those characters. The setting, everything. My aunt (I hope she doesn’t read this) can be reflected in the overbearing mother at the lift, whose face you don’t even see, yes, the one who’s not satisfied that her son got 95 marks instead of 100 marks like the neighbour’s son. Seriously, she’s like that. I guess it’s a typical parenting style of mothers—constantly comparing you with your siblings, cousins, neighbours and other assorted persons living within a 100 metre radius of your house and whoever remotely related. I have to say I never suffered from this, my mother is satisfied as long as I pass (and seems surprised that I do that every single time), but yeah, it’s a story that’s very common in


Lim Yu Beng, the man plagued with self-doubt, stuck at the job he hates, not good enough to strike out at the dream he wants, ordered around at home, indecisive, seemingly without a mind of his own, or backbone. I felt for him. The china girl who listens to him dished out some good ol’ advice for 100 bucks. It did change his life, made him steer his life in the direction he wants. No longer asking people whether he should take the PIE or AYE. Directions. We all need that at one time or another. Well, my take is that the hundred bucks was worth it. You seriously cannot cheapen friendship ties by selling them insurance, it makes people cynical and suspicious whenever an old good friend calls. That’s just wrong. Leave it to the telemarketers, at least you can hate them heartily without holding back. I love the way he releases that angst he had—after swallowing the insults that his father-in-law had thrown at him, and knowing full well that the father-in-law absolutely hates pee in the lift, he gamely decided to take out his anger on the lift and peed in it. It made me laugh.


And the stories go on. I like the tension that runs throughout the script. The constant nagging by the mother, the verbal insults by the father, the lack of affirmation, the empty dreaming that Singaporeans do, to get rich, buy a bloody condo and a car.


Screw the house, really. Screw the condo. My personal view is that people should just live in tents, go back to nomadic times. Stop spending half your life, the whole of your life, paying off the cost of your abode. Make it truly humble, pitch a tent. Don’t like it, pack up and go to Sentosa. But seriously la, you can’t eat that designer sofa or that water bed. They are just four walls. Don’t buy things you don’t need to impress the people you don’t like with the money you don’t have.


Respect. It all boils down to that. We all deserve a little respect, not judged by the money we make, the house we live in or the car we drive. Not judged by these things. These so-called accomplishments that wither and fade away, till you’re left with brokenness around you. And I feel that in a way it is a person’s fault, after all I do firmly believe in Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. And that’s the key thing. It’s not empty consumerism that’s driving Singaporeans crazy or to depression or whatever. It’s respect. People want a taste of that, a taste of respect that accompanies success, and success being necessarily defined as what you have, material goods and all. Hence you have the qualifier for respect:


Of course I respect you. You just have to work harder.


It made my stomach churn. It’s just so wrong. Like my insolvency professor says, ‘Singaporeans know the price of everything but the value of nothing.’ The value of respect is priceless. Of course, one has to earn that respect, but not measured according to the amount of money one has in his bank account. You’re not the money in your bank account, you’re not your wallet, you’re not the house you live, the car you drive, the DKNY shoes you have.


The ending is a relatively happy one. The mother eventually decides to pursue her own dreams of traveling the world. She concluded that she wasn’t strong for herself. Maybe that’s it. One needs to be better to herself, to pursue her own dreams, to live her own life, so that all the sacrifice done in the name of community or family doesn’t get pressed down to a deep, dark corner of your soul, festering to become a brooding resentment that spreads to all your relationships and the people around you. And sometimes it’s not a pure sacrifice either, sometimes, perhaps you’re just afraid to pursue the dream on your own, for fear of failure, and you’re just using that someone as a convenient excuse not to do it. Either way, life is short, there’s no time for self-doubt, failure hurts but it ain’t fatal, unless you want to live a life that is akin to the waking dead. When you don’t do something you truly want to do, it’s my personal belief that something inside you dies. It dies. So stop killing yourself and get on with it. Don’t sell out.


The sad thing about the movie was that it was your typical Singaporean family, and it is already dysfunctional on so many levels.

7 Responses to “Singapore Dreaming”
  1. bendecidestoblog says:

    yaaay! singapore can make good movies, yay! uncomfortable truths! yay! but i still want a couple of million bucks…aiyoh … still liddat …uncomfortable truths…empty dreams…

  2. Hahaha, cannot. Get 2 million dollars will kena heart attack. I blame it on the suit and the weather la.

  3. ben says:

    hahahahahahhhhhahah…..yah lar..wat get country club membership? eat wht big fancy chinese dinner? i fly to canada walk ard eat sashimi..

  4. Kitana says:

    lalala. why don’t *both* of you go and make all the money… and after tt treat me to a fancy sashimi dinner in canada after a day of snowboarding? (i’ll see you guys there. you can come up when you’re done with work. wahaha!!!)

  5. farnie says:

    Say no to snowboarding. It’s fatally embarassing to have 7- 9 year olds zipping pass while I board and crash. Heh, I’m game for the sashimi though. Kitana, you’re the bourgeosis here, must treat the little people.. 😉

  6. ad says:

    one of the lines in the moive that really struck me was when the China gal told Lim Yu Beng that he gave up something he loved for a job that he hates, while she is in a job that she hates so as to pursue something she loves… maybe coz more often than not, i feel guilty of that… spending my time pursuing things that i barely give a damn about and compromising on things that i really value…

    anywayz, i enjoyed reading your personal reflections on the film… it was thought-provoking and insightful… and my sentiments exactly…

  7. Hi ad! Yep, it was a good movie that made you want to do something more with your life after you’re done watching it. It’s powerful that way. I went to your website, cool band! Hahah, I like mayday too. =)

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