OK a *surprising* number of people told me to talk to this guy and find out more. Who is he? Why does he wear a Trump shirt? I was a little terrified but earlier this week I summoned all my courage and said hello THREAD
Because I was scared I took the coward's way out, and encouraged my two year old to say hello first. Not even this hardened veteran could resist after Tobias ventured forward, golden locks and all, to shyly tug at his shirt
The gentleman introduced himself with his anglicised name, which is Peter. He looks like he's carved out of granite. He scowled a bit at the beginning, but was more bemused than hostile. After he established I wasn't trying to sell him anything he relaxed a bit
Peter is part of the Pioneer Generation, who came of age around the birth of Singapore in 1965. They're often revered as builders and strivers who utterly transformed a fledgling nation facing an uncertain future, laying the foundations of prosperity
He lives in Gim Moh in a nice HDB flat near his daughter and her young adult children. He wants the grandkids to get married and move out so she has more space, but "no luck yet!" (grim chuckle, bewildered shake of head)
Peter says Singapore is the greatest country in the world. He served in the army in the 1960s and says it gave him purpose and steel. At this time Konfrontasi was raging and some questioned whether Singapore could even survive. Times change.
He is intensely proud of the country - "we used to be weak and now we are strong!" You can understand his pride. He must look at the shining towers which replaced slums and shake his head in wonder
So, why the Trump shirt? Is he a big fan? In brief - yes. Peter loves Trump. Why? He returns to strength. Trump, he says, is strong. America was being pushed around. Peter always admired the Americans but that had curdled into contempt in recent years
Peter is scathing about Obama. He saw him as dithering and self-righteous. Peter is also (to be blunt) quite racist. Obama was not a "proper" US President. Why not? "Look at him! He's not an American!" Yikes.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Peter says he likes Trump's stance on immigration. He says Trump will keep "America like America" ... which seems clear code for white. Immigrants will "lie" to get in. The US is a long way away (and Peter has never visited) but his anger is still fierce
Peter is also frustrated about the number of migrants in Singapore. There are just too many people now, he says, crowding trains and buses (I feel a stab of defensive guilt at this point)
He queries the loyalty of some new Singaporeans. He is still seething about a recent story about a U.K/Singaporean dual national who refused to complete national service because he wanted to pursue professional football
I didn't know about this story beforehand, but for those curious channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore…
It's not just about race. There's something wistful in his evocation of old Singapore. He feels the Singapore of the 60s/70s was instilled with a sense of mission. It had to strive to survive. There was uniformity of purpose.
Now it's a much bigger and wealthier city, a globalised services hub which is home to well over one million people who aren't Singaporean citizens. In many ways it is utterly unrecognisable to him
Feeding into this insecurity is a sense of unease about Singapore's very low birth rate. Peter says he worries that young people are too busy and spoilt to have kids: "This is a big problem for Singapore - no future"
There's been plenty of debate on this here in Singapore. The birth rate is now below 1.2 - in 1960 it was almost 6 channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore…
Peter is also unhappy about the influx of poorer migrant workers in recent decades- Indians, Bangladeshis and Filipinos who come to Singapore to work as labourers or nannies. Jobs that most Singaporeans won't do.
But Peter knows why migrant workers come here. He has some empathy for them. "Of course if you're poor then you come here. What do you do at home! There's no work so you come here. The money is good. I get it."
I really wanted to ask him about 900 more questions (on Singapore politics, Malaysia, role of family in Singaporean life) but at this point Tobi's patience finally ran out and I had to go!
I asked him for a photo but when I said I would put it online he said no in a way that made me rather scared again. He was fine with me using his name and recounting the conversation. Maybe an update to come in the next week or so! We'll see
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