I have to say there was certainly a lot less boo-ha over the issue of putting up or not putting up the national flag in this month of pretentious celebrations.
My mind was unconsciously running through this issue recently. Or rather, my 26 year old enlightened mind that doesn’t see things anymore in just a single word ‘propaganda’. I do not believe our government is any longer subscribing to old banal methodologies that no longer apply to the 21st century, or more precisely, the year 2011, since things move so fast these days.
A flag. How did this curiosity come about? I am no historian but I would surmise it grew of bands and tribes in the old (middle?) Ages when there were land disputes and fights and messy scuffles. The bands and armies carried flags to distinguish themselves on the road and on the battlefield. It is a name or identity that can be planted on a piece of ground without the presence of the person. Perhaps a more dignified form of how dogs mark their territory.
It is a privilege, a right, an honor, whatever you call it, to plant your flag on your ground, on your buildings, on your trees. You defend your right and freedom and domain and empire.
It is both a way to identify yourself to your people, and to others. We no longer have walled castles like Minas Tirith. No longer need a thousand miles and three months to travel to another land.
Do we still need the country definition?
We all fly around the world; half the residents here are not local; the communication networks are so free; we work for international organizations; country internet domains are now just cute names; we use a few reference currencies to trade; we have a few dominant languages in the world.
I guess the system is always in a flux of optimization and consolidation. It is prudent that our government doesn’t waste resources enforcing archaic practices.
Countries served well as a geographical based system. Corporations as an economic function one. Language, again geographical. Race, religion, culture, color, again all geographical. Seriously, look around and you see these differntiators losing meaning, albeit slowly. These forms for identity provided people with an identity, a name, a group. Those who grew up with them are not able to let go. They are used to identifying themselves with it. It’s like a family, a name. It is meaningless to change to another. I could have been born anywhere, grown up in any language, any culture. So why am I attached to this one? What if I never settled here and always moved around, what if I were a frequent traveller and world citizen who subscribe everywhere. I would be quite different indeed.
The flying of the flag symbolised, to our elders, our independence and freedom. It represents our Present, our ability to display our flag without fear, without suppression, without persecution. We no longer grow up in a world with flags that matter much. Not us, not our generation in this country. Or perhaps for some, those whose lives are defined and walled by this country and have no means to displace, those who know no other, those who have a closed small mind, those who owe their lives to here (who can ever judge this), those who are inward looking and content.
Isn’t it sometimes ridiculoius? Why do millions of people identify themselves with some silly country name that doesn’t sound cool, with a flag design that is so headache-inducing? The name was probably thought up by some ancient guy hundreds of years ago. I mean, come on, do you really think the United States of America is a great name? It’s long, awkward, hard to write out in full, not very inspiring on the battlefield. Italia is much nicer. Republic of Singapore? And which graphic designer today would be proud of a design like our flag? Legacies legacies. I know what Planet Earth’s flag would be like. It’ll be a black flag with a blue earth in the middle. Simple, understated, perfect. It’s probably a good reason to not put a country’s shape on the flag – the shape changes. And number of stars? I think number changes too.
Time to work.
And for those buggers who complain that HDB flats are displaying fewer flags these days, why don’t you think about whether that’s because those blank ones might just be foreigners, and yes there are that many.