The pursuit of happiness in Singapore
Photo: Claudio Chock

The pursuit of happiness in Singapore

“So as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation,” goes the last line of Singapore’s national pledge. Against this measure, one could contend that Singapore has done well in achieving material success, but what about the country’s emotional well-being?

A diverse group of writers will grapple with this question at the aptly named panel discussion, Will Singaporeans Ever Be Happy? Presented by The Arts House, the event is part of its signature programme, Textures, which is co-commissioned with the #BuySingLit movement to celebrate Singapore literature and the literary scene here.

On the panel are playwright Haresh Sharma, lecturer and writer Danielle Lim, and mental health expert and author Dr Daniel Fung, with theatre practitioner Edith Podesta as moderator. The discussion will explore the national state of mind, especially the challenges faced by 21st century Singapore, such as the impact of technological advances on Singaporeans’ mental health.

Lim, the author of The Sound of SCH — A Mental Breakdown, which won the Singapore Literature Prize 2016 for non-fiction, believes that technological disruption has led to greater anxiety among employees and job-seekers. The feeling that one needs to be better and faster, to not be left behind by technological development, has resulted in a greater sense of competitiveness in a society already infamous for being kiasu, or afraid to lose out.

She says: “It can be difficult to be happy when you keep having to run faster and jump higher.” She further cites the World Happiness Report 2018, which ranked Singapore 34 out of 156 countries in terms of happiness, as an indication that for all its economic success and relatively high standard of living, Singaporeans are ambivalent about happiness.

It is not, however, all doom and gloom. Lim is of the view that the “hyper-competitive” nature of Singapore society has also driven some to seek alternative, more balanced ways of living.

For her, happiness is derived from the simple joys in life, such as a quiet walk in the park, spending time with family, and connecting with others through her writings. She believes that happiness is, to a large extent, “a state of mind and a choice.” It is the acceptance of one’s own capabilities and shortcomings, whilst being nonetheless open to change, learning, growth and thankfulness for what one has.

Perhaps it is this internal examination of the self that will help Singaporeans achieve the happiness that we aspire to in our national pledge. But, if you can’t decide whether this resolution to the question, “Will Singaporeans ever be happy?” leaves you satisfied, don’t miss the free panel discussion, with views from other writers and thinkers.

 

Details for Will Singaporeans Ever Be Happy? here

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