The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

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July 19, 2006, 1:39 pm
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As seen in a Singaporean office tower!!!  What on earth were they thinking??? 

I hate to say it, but this is reflective of a ‘Singaporean trait’ to do EXACTLY what they are told to do – regardless of whether common sense is screaming it might not be the best solution. [ie: 2 toilets had to be fitted … so 2 toilets were fitted, despite the fact they would never be able to be used at the same time!] 

This attitude is unfortunately a by-product of a patriarchal society – where people have been ‘educated’ to simply ‘do as the authority says’.  Don’t get me wrong, Singapore is an amazing place that has had a lot of crap thrown at it by countries who haven’t got half as much to shout about – however it’s controlling attitude has had certain negative implications on society, gender integration and creativity. 

So why do the people follow the ‘rules’? 

Well, if your Government had changed your country from a breeding bed of crime, corruption and sin to one of global economic power, cleanliness, integration and calm – you’d believe they knew best too!

However the net is having a major impact on society … especially with the younger generation … because for the first time, they can see the hopes and dreams they held quietly inside, are not only legitimate – but can be made into a real, live, career.

Many parents are now claiming their children are becoming uncontrollable – because they are publicly acknowledging that a fulfilling future for them, is not dependent on having a white-collar job for 40 years.  This is so far removed from what their parents were brought up to believe that they [and to a certain extent, the Government] are totally freaking out, insinuating it’s the collapse of family respect and values!

And yet the truth is there’s no revolution … no rebellion … Singapore [like the rest of Asia] still operates on a value system based around filial responsibility … it’s just the youth believe they have more options for how they live their life and would like to ‘investigate them’ whilst still fulfilling their cultural duties.

I personally believe the Government needs to educate the country that creativity is the foundation for continued cultural, individual and nationalistic growth and prosperity.

At the moment, when you say ‘creativity’, people think you are talking about art or something – and yet, if truth be told, Singapore is one of the finest examples of creativity, because in just 40 years, it has come from absolutely nowhere to become one of the World’s true global financial centres, despite being the size of a currant on a map. 

In all seriousness, if things don’t change … not only will there be more awkward questions asked in every home throughout the country, but people will start to leave in their droves – seeking cultures where their hopes and dreams won’t be treated with distain. 

A perfect example was when I met a bunch of ad-students. I asked how many of them had parents who were disappointed with their choice of industry and one-by-one, most of them raised their hands.  I then asked how many had purposefully chosen Account Management or Planning as their favoured discipline [because it was more ‘business acceptable’ to their families] and again, most of them raised their hands.

Apart from the fact this is disappointing – especially if these individuals really wanted to be a copywriter/art directors – it will potentially damage the Asian ad industry, because the ones who don’t end up going overseas to work will probably end up more ‘business focused’ than ‘people focused’ and if that happens, communication in Asia will have more to do with McKinsey business models than engaging, creative communication. 

Of course I am being very generalistic – for example, Professor Mark Chong at SMU is a wonderful teacher who is encouraging his students to understand and appreciate all aspects of creativity – but he is definitely in the minority, which is amazing given Singapore has more ad-agencies [per capita] than anywhere else on Earth.

The success of this country has been down to many factors – but creative thinking and vision are two of the main ones – so if people with these skills feel there is no future or respect for them and end up moving abroad, then I wonder what Singapore will look like in another 40 years? 

[Wow, all this from a photo of 2 toilets shoved close together!]

6 Comments so far
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Dear Roberto. May I ask if you are going for some sort of deportation World record?

Australia, Singapore, China; I know of international criminals who are more welcome than you.

Should I assume this means you’ve decided to finally come home to us in NY or has the Singaporean Government made that decision for you?

I’ll get your office ready for you.

Comment by Katerina Margen

I haven’t been chucked out by Singapore immigration … yet … and I wasn’t kicked out of Australia and China; they simply encouraged my departure, ha!
Speak to you all later!

Comment by Rob

Hi Robert,

I’m very flattered by your mention. But it’s sad that even now, students who are interested in creative careers like copywriting are in the minority. Why? There are several reasons, but one is that many of them lack confidence when it comes to their creativity – they just cannot believe that they can be as creative as their counterparts from Europe, the U.S., etc. When you already accept that your creativity is ‘limited’, the war is lost even before it is fought. But I guess that’s what happens in an education system that stresses ‘hard’ subjects like math and science and relegates literature, creative writing, etc. to the “fluff” category.

Comment by Mark

Hello Mark … well you deserve the mention because you are absolutely doing the best thing for the students you teach.

There’s a really interesting podcast on how creativity is being taken from us from a very young age – especially in educational terms – [Sir Ken Robinson / TEDTalks] but your comment about Asians believing they AREN’T as creative as other nationalities is so true – and I truly believe this will become a major issue [culturally, economically and ethically] if Governments don’t start to address this issue soon.

Comment by Rob

Dear Robert,

Ken’s speech is simply awesome – I’m going to show it to my students on the first day of class. Thanks for sharing!

Comment by Mark


Comment by Rob

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