A recent Business week article (link) reported that Singapore, according to pollster Gallup, is the least emotional society in the world. My first thought when I read the report was that this was a load of marlarkey...that Gallup had either polled the wrong people or had flawed research methodology.
This train of thought continued until I went to the Gallup site (link) itself to read the findings from the study. It was a very sobering read to say the least.
You see Gallup explained on it's site that Singaporeans are "productive, highly disciplined citizens who are not enjoying their lives much." Essentially it's saying the exact thing that our people have been complaining about over the last five years: We're too busy working and have no time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
The sad part is that it seems that every Singaporean who has read the report seems to just think that Gallup is simply saying that we are all emotionless robots who do not express any feelings in any given situation. Even our leaders (link) are not exempt from this mistaken impression. And before anyone tries to use the excuse that we are Asian and we tend to internalize our emotions and be stoic, please remember that Gallup's study found that the Philippines is the most emotional society in the world. While nations such as Lithuania, Russia and Madagascar appear after Singapore on the emotionless nations list (link). So no. It is not an Asian thing. Far from it.
The truth is just as Gallup reported: Singaporeans are not happy and its no laughing matter. Just look at the general discourse in civil society. Much of it is either of people complaining or condemning what they feel is to blame for their woes. Complaining seems to have become the national past time.
A few weekends ago, I was at the Singapore AIDS Conference and I was privy to witnessing how some people were having a hissy fit just because the doctors refused to turn the medical conference into a political rally to slam the government. Whatever happened to just respecting other people's right to say what they want to say and not condemn them just because you may disagree with the message? Congitive dissonance is turning Singapore into a sea of selfish long faces.
The truth is, these days I have often wondered if Singapore suffers from chronic depression. People just seem to become numb. Apathetic. Unfeeling of anything but rage and cognitive dissonance. I agree with Gallup, "Singapore has seen declines in happiness, intellectual stimulation, respect and even feeling well rested."
So what can we as individuals do to turn things around and become a society that is more focused on emotional well being? For one thing we can stop blaming the government for everything and start taking action for ourselves. It is not the government's job to take care of our emotional well being. That is our own responsibility and no one else's.
So, it is time to start living your life on your own terms. Not one that is defined by GDP, KPI, worldly possessions or bank account balance.
Take sometime off to travel and see the world. Expand your horizons and start to acknowledge that we are all citizens of this world.
Start a book club with friends or strangers and have a stimulating discussion with them on the effects of literature in our lives.
Go out and mingle with like minded people like the Singapore Futurists who get together to talk about a vision of what the world can be.
Head out to the Hood Bar and sample the perfomances of very talented local musicians that the establishment engages to provide live music for the bar's patrons.
Volunteer and join the disaster relief agency Relief 2.0 and work with helping disaster victims rebuild their lives.
In short, stop running in a self imposed rat race and start living your life. You and your country will be greater for the experience. And more importantly, you will finally be the captain of your own ship and responsible for your own emotional well being.