Thursday, June 26, 2008

A local trilingual elite who wants to be a Japanese

A local trilingual elite who wants to be a Japanese
Recently, I went to Japan for a tour. On the return trip, I met a young man on the plane. After talking to him, my mind became unsettled, for a long long time.

This young man conversed with the Japan Airlines' stewardess in Japanese. When my daughter and I stood up to let him pass through to the window seat, he thanked us in Mandarin. When he saw me reading the inflight shopping catalog, he politely asked me in a friendly voice if I needed any help, and if so, he could help be my translator. Such a trilingual young "Japanese" is quite a rare sight, so I took the opportunity to chat with him.

He is a patriotic Japanese?
I asked him in Mandarin for the purpose of his journey to Singapore. He said he was going back to study. I couldn't help but prais the local Japanese School, for its ability to train trilingual students. But, surprisingly, he told me he was a second year Junior College student from a famous local institution. From his grandparents to him, he was already a third generation immigrant. Looking at how pleased he was with himself, I felt very glad for our education system, because this number one institution had also trained many of our country's outstanding political leaders.

I asked him: since he was a JC2 student, and the A-levels was coming soon, at the end of the year, why did he still insist on going back to Japan to visit his relatives? He confidently replied: "Based on my results, I would have no problem at all getting into any famous British or American university. But the A-levels is of no meaning to me, because my ideal is to get into Tokyo University, so that I can stay in my 'native country' and contribute to my 'native country'!"

Looking at the patriotic expression on his face, I could not help but quietly admire the patriotism of these Japanese.

He even said that though this was the first time he step foot on the Japan that he had dreamt and thought of every day, but once he step foot on it, he felt an overwhelming sense of familiarity, a sense of having returned home.

He is a Singaporean who love Japan!
I then asked him where his grandparents resided. He replied: "Actually, my grandfather was an immigrant who travelled south from China". "Travelled south from China? Then aren't you a native-born, native-raised Singaporean?" To quote a familiar western idiom, at that time, I "nearly fell off the chair"!

Looking at the self-indulging expression of this young man, I knew that, giving him a noble-sounding "national education" right then was pointless. So I simply asked him, why he so loved Japan. The gifted student kept quiet for some time, and appeared unable to come up with an answer. "Isn't Singapore good?" I asked next.

"Singapore? The Singapore government has no regards for Human Rights. Forces us to serve National Service! Singapore's prosperity was built upon its exploitation of citizens! Even with scholarships, there are strings attached, unlike the Japanese government. So long as I can get into Japan's public university, they will not only pay for my tuition, but also give me a monthly allowance. Therefore, even without any strings attached, I will remain in Japan for the rest of my life, and do my utmost to serve the Japanese Government"

He apologised on behalf of the Japanese!?

I told him I have been to numerous countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, and even Japan, and can feel their discrimination against the Chinese. Just taking this trip as an example, on the way to a temple, a shop-keeper, upon seeing my family speaking in Mandarin and walking into her shop, deliberately put some samples away.

The gifted student listened to my narration and told me: "Very sorry. I apologised, on their behalf, to you". I angrily replied: "You do not need to apologise for them. You are not a Japanese. You are just like me. We are Singaporeans!"

"But, I have already made my decision. After my two years of 'slavery'. i mean after my national service, I will proceed to Japan to study, and thereafter I will stay there, get married and have children. So my next generation and my next-next generation will be Japanese."

"Young man, do not forget that there is Chinese flowing in your blood. This is a fact that cannot be eradicated. Moreover, your surname is also a fact that cannot be changed"

"That doesn't matter. Some people go to Japan to work and for convenience, they changed to Japanese names".

Looking at this trilingual, but culturally-anaemic gifted student, my heart was filled with sadness, worries, and disappointment. However, I still hold a ray of hope. I asked this gifted student: In your Junior College, are there many schoolmates with such "special ambition" as you do?

He replied: "There aren't many schoolmates who love Japan the way I do, That's because most of them have already decided to emigrate to Europe and the United States!"

Who was the one who created our "culturally-anaemic" education system?

Who was the one who said on public record that all mother tongues should be taught in school without any cultural component i.e. all ancient stories and culture associated with the language must be removed from the syllabus which used to have them?

Just teach the vocabulary, the grammar, but the passages should be devoid of any cultural knowledge - who was the one who ordered his staff to revamp the syllabus thus?

(Note: The English language has always been taught without any English cultural component in it, but that's not how the mother tongues used to be taught previously. Hence the word "removed" and "revamp").

And who was the one who came up with a curriculum where top students study triple sciences and double mathematics, and only 1 humanities (i.e. cultural component)?

I believe it was Goh Keng Swee, Singapore's first Minister of Education. His speeches are all archived in the National Library.

And who was the one who voted for such culturally-anaemic education policy?

And who was the one who voted for our "outstanding leaders" (to quote the writer) - "outstanding leaders" who ordered such "outstanding" culturally-anaemic curriculum?

You, Mr. 梁秉亮, the writer of the above article!

Y O U !

Oh, and I haven't even touched on the "human rights" and "exploitation" part that YOU voted for. But I guess, you have already received an earful from that boy, haven't you?

"The Singapore government has no regards for Human Rights."
Singapore's prosperity was built upon its exploitation of citizens!"

Giving up such rights (and culture) was ok for you, in exchange for prosperity.

你,梁秉亮 ,卖(民)主求荣, 卖文化求荣!


You thought there was not going to be any consequence. No karma.


Now, 40 years later, the new generation has grown up under the politics and education system that you voted for.

And they are leaving!

So, Mr. 梁秉亮, be prepared to wash toilet and clean plates for the foreigners imported by our "outstanding leaders". Imported to replace the local talents chased away by YOU.

This Young Pay-And-Pay member is not trilingual. But he is effectively bilingual, as can be seen from this near perfect Chinese-English translation of the LianHe ZaoBao's 26-06-08 article. Ahem.

And so, no, Japan is not my cup of tea. But, Europe and United States sure are.

Not surprising. After all, this Young Pay-And-Pay member is also culturally-anaemic, having too, received his education from that "number one institution" which has "trained many of our country's outstanding political leaders"!

But, not now lah! Now, I am still getting big bucks as a member of Young Pay-And-Pay. But a few years later, if they still don't put me up for election so that I can accumulate even more wealth, then things may become different. LOL


jun said...

well, even if mother tongues are taught in school with cultural components, i think we'd still be culturally-anaemic, because these components would still belong to the old country(-ies) and not really ours.

so let's write our own stories, shall we?

next, i don't see anything wrong with the boy wanting to leave, lack of human rights in singapore or not. we should encourage our children to go where they want to. this is a globalized world. if foreigners wish to move here, how can we hold our own back, as much as we would like them to stay?

Anonymous said...

Is his name Alan Koh for RJC?

young-pap said...

I don't know. This article is simply my translation of a lianhe zaobao article. I have no first hand knowledge of this rjc student. But I dont think there are many such jap-crazy rjc student who even think the japs did nothing wrong in world war II! (see below). So, shouldn't be difficult to find out who he is, if u are interested :)

If mother tongues are taught in sch with cultural components, our children will not be culturally-anaemic as they will have enough of Chinese/Malay/Indian culture infused in them - nevermind these cultures are "old" countries or otherwise. These culturally-strong children will not end up saying "I apologise on behalf of the japanese to you" 'cos he will know he is not a japanese, but a chinese Singaporean. While not mentioned in the article (but mentioned in that writer's blog), the boy actually also told the writer that he felt the Japanese did no wrong during world war II, and that the japs were not imperialists/invaders at that time! Such nonsense would not come from someone who has some culture (including history knowledge) infused into him - nevermind if that culture is "old" or "new" country.

It is good to write our own story. But we don't have enough stories to write. So, our children end up learning no stories - no Chinese ancient cultural stories, but also no ang moh shakespeare's type of stories. And of course, no singapore stories. They ended up learning grammar/vocabulary and then math/science - totally devoid of "old" or "new" culture.

Actually, I do think there is something wrong for someone to want to leave his country *forever*. It indicates something wrong with the government! Even in this globalized world, while many people from other countries venture abroad to work, they do want to go back to their own countries *eventually*. Sg is unique in that our people want to leave *permanently*. I think this is due to (a) lack of human rights, democracy etc in sg, (b) seeing no future in a country that refuse to provide basic welfare to old people, and (c) having no sense of roots/culture, due to a culturally-anaemic education curriculum.