This was my speech for the Proposition during the Art’s House 10th Anniversary celebrations debate on 29th March 2014. The motion was ‘Singapore can be a city of literature.’ To our chagrin, we won.
Singapore. We are a city of literature.
When we reserve tables, the word chope is personified through a multitude of creatively employed objects.
We photograph sonnets of inappropriate behavior in public. We write incredible monologues of public transport breakdowns, of long waiting times between our stanzas.
We the people are always reading… between the lines.
We are always stomping stories onto each other.
We are an efficiency of prose; precise and purposeful.
And there is great literary value found in Korean dramas, which have become a staple diet for us Singaporeans. We have learned to plot our lives through the perfect skin tone of story, to cry on cue against the moving metonymy of Seoul food.
Facebook buzzfeeds our daily dose of deep thought and connects us to dozens of denizens who dream in the same language of like. We tweet in haiku, rendering the mundane into concise catapults of meaning.
Singapore, we are a city of literature, despite all they might say.
After all, visitors misunderstand the figurative language of our gantries, the need to pass under these small taxes of our travail.
We are pilgrims bearing alms in cash-cards, the great temple demands a daily offering, and who are we, who have been blessed with vehicles, who are we to complain?
We must be grateful, as we pause in jams and squeeze onto elevators. Our hours are long, but like extended metaphors, they build us up, unrelenting, with all indicators of progress covered.
For we have gone first world, a world of fine first lines and long last lives.
We truck in similes as popular as reclaimed sand and foreign talent.
As expensive as Tokyo,
As crowded as Hong Kong,
As rich as, nay richer than New York.
Our billionaires sit like jewels atop Mount Faber, sparkling high above newborn citizens, who stretch out in boxcar apartments.
And our people are writing poetry on trains, listen to this gem from a blogger:
A fire burning in their nascent loins.
Too in love to know love.
And too like love to have love.
Searing hot. In warmth and scorching wind.
So when the trains do stop between the stations of our lives, we shall walk the last mile, hand-phones raised in wonder at the greatness of our structural engineering, the power of what lies beneath.
At the end of this tunnel, we always see the light.
Singapore, we are not just a city of literature, we are a country of literature.
The whole nation is a poem with matching end rhymes; the right analogy graces every occasion.
The best people, in the best order.