I once had an argument with a PSC scholar from Stanford once during the annual Chinese New Year Dinner. Despite the fact I wasn't under any government bond or sponsorship, the scholars considered me as one of them, based on our common nationality. I was getting a reputation for being a hellraiser and they were concerned for me. I hung out with the ang mohs and I was picking up their bad habits. Crap. I was swigging beers since JC, just that they were Tigers, not Buds and I've tried bloody joints in Australia. He attacked my lack of Singaporean-ess. I told him this just to shut him up -
"I don't believe that I am not whole when I say the words, 'je suis singapourien' or when I talk of eating fois gras and couscous. I don't believe there's any part of me that's taken away when I watch 'A Bout de Souffle' and I can understand it in its entirety in French, or when I see Lola running for her boyfriend's life - 'Bitte, bitte'. There isn't anything wrong with enjoying Afro Celt Sound System or trying to learn Gaelige. You say that I am not a true Singaporean - that I am a traitor to my roots. I have too many lines running through me that do not originate from my culture or myself. I cannot speak my native language well and you accuse me of enjoying myself when I'm in the Bay Area or I'm in Europe or Johannesburg. When I watch Wong Kar Wai, you become less grudging since it's in Chinese and it's showing on TCS Eight. Well, let me tell you then, watching a Chinese movie or a Chinese show on teevee or the screen takes away a part of you. The shows all come from Hongkong and Taiwan. Even those banally confounding drama serials - they've got Hong Kongers and Taiwanese at the helm. Do they constitute as truly Singaporean products?
We're just a people formed with different permutations and combinations of influences. Like digital bytes, I can download a file from another culture quickly and assimilate it in my being, perhaps tweak it to fit my understanding, or completely reject it if it doesn't work for me. If I am not whole, it's because I'm constantly exposed to so many other things - there are so many other exciting quirks of the global village I'd love to explore and yet I can safely say that I am comfortable with who I am, what I've grown up with.
The government wants Singapore to be an IT hub. I tell you now we are culturally a digital people. That's all to it."
I admit behind the defensively proud-to-be-Singaporean reply, I wasn't exactly honest. We were both intellectually tolerant students so he let that instance go. He'd call me at the start of the summer vacation to ask me if I was returning to Singapore. Each year I disappointed him. Maybe I should give him a call since he's in town. It'll give him a nice shock.