Material assets alone will not anchor Singaporeans to nation

I cannot help but extrapolate Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's comments in his National Day Rally (NDR) speech on the worrying "major uncertainties looming over global affairs" by asking the question: What if we move from an era of globalisation to one of de-globalisation (Call for nations to act with restraint, wisdom amid challenges; Aug 20)?

The corollary to that question is: Can Singapore fail?

I am not saying Singapore is going to fail, but the best way to avoid failure is to conceive of it.

While we have become accustomed to anticipating good news and goodies in NDR speeches, it behoves us to perhaps also use every NDR speech to ask whether Singapore can fail.

It will keep us well grounded and sober for the year ahead, at the very least.

It should also remind us yearly that, if we ever fail, the biggest reasons would probably be internal ones.

For instance, that of social cohesion falling apart and Singaporeans becoming complacent.

Having material assets - what many people focus on in NDR speeches - alone will not anchor Singaporeans to the Republic.

The relationship our people have with this country will then be debased to a transactional one.

No deep roots will form and when the going gets tough, not many will stay if they can help it.

Our leaders must succeed in persuading and leading Singaporeans to have that emotional attachment to Singapore so that, whatever their situation in life and wherever they may be, their hearts will always be with Singapore.

Wong Horng Ginn

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2018, with the headline 'Material assets alone will not anchor Singaporeans to nation'. Print Edition | Subscribe