The SG50 story is an opus that everyone has had a hand in - the movers and shakers, thinkers and doers. Alongside visionary giants and everyday heroes laboured millions of ordinary people who simply believed that Singapore would prevail against all odds and never gave up. Their social compact, involving mutual sacrifices, compromises, trust, respect and understanding, formed the basis of an unlikely nation.
The idea of nationhood itself was based on "the image of their communion" with each other, as author Benedict Anderson put it, rather than actual communion with all, which is not possible within a diverse city of millions. Minimalist as this perspective is, it illustrates how the nation state's evolution hinged on key abstractions, like those in the National Pledge. The social glue was the idea, embraced by all, of "a democratic society based on justice and equality" in which race, language, or religion would not divide citizens. It's because all citizens rallied behind these intangible tenets that material achievements arose, representing the triptych of "happiness, prosperity and progress" articulated in the Pledge. That "people software" will remain a crucial part of the SG100 story to come. A common identity might be fraught in a world that connects people across borders for compelling reasons like trade, finance or even massive multiplayer gaming. Social segmentation can redistribute what former Czech president Václav Havel called the "emotional functions" of the state by making people feel their future is more tied with various other groups. Disruptive technologies, too, might yet transform Singapore. But not if its people hold fast to the founding ideas that gave rise to the nation.