Sunday, December 4, 2016

State of the City-State – Erich

We spent two nights and one and a half days in the incredible city-state of Singapore. Do you know the song from Oklahoma! that tells us "Everything's up to date in Kansas City?" I can tell you Will Parker would have been blown away by the Lion City, Singapore.

Singapore is an unexpected mix of cultures. So, let's look at the history. Malaysia was a British colony. Essentially it was a lot of sultanates stuck together by the British. And after WWII when independence was all the rage, it was in Malaysia as well. They celebrate Merdeka, which is their Independence Day, when they became a separate nation with a federal government located in Kuala Lumpur. At this time, Singapore was a part of Malaysia. But they wanted to be separate from that new nation.

Singapore is a large island and several small islands, not actually connected by land to Malaysia. The main island is only separated by a narrow strait called the Straits of Johor. So Singapore separated again from Malaysia, forming its own nation. It is one of the world's few remaining city-states, basically being one large city that is an entire country.

At this time, there was more or less nothing there. The Lion City had no major industry. And within 50 years they became a major capitalist center. It is a huge shipping port. It has major banks and banking industry today. There are shopping areas. It could practically be a European city if you didn't know you were in the tropics in Asia.

But the people are not Europeans. About a third of the population is Chinese, about a third is Malaysian, and about a third is Indian. Perhaps thirty percent of Singaporeans are Muslim, but there are also large Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian segments of the population.
There are a lot of gods and heroes on that roof
They light the cross so you can find them even at night
When the city-state formed, they created some pretty strict laws, or at least they seem so by our society's mores. For example, while there is freedom of speech, there are many limits on that. You are not allowed to make racist comments or to speak out against people of any religion. The founders of Singapore were determined that the people here were going to get along.

Punishments are also harsh. Pretty much any conviction has a caning as part of its punishment, in addition to any fees and/or jail time. They only have one prison and it is not nice. So whether you commit white color crime or violent crime, you are in the same place. And some crimes, such as dealing drugs, have a mandatory death penalty.

It's a bit big brother too. There are cameras watching you all over the city. This allows Singapore to have a very small police force while still maintaining a very safe city. If you commit a crime, you can pretty much count on being seen doing it and therefore getting caught. And since the punishments are so harsh, it's so not worth it.

So if you can get past that, you get an incredible city. There's no litter anywhere. The streets are safe. The subways are bright, clean, with easy to understand maps. The official language is English, but even if you didn't know English, all the stations and lines are labeled with numbers to make it easy to find the train you want and the station you need.

There is plenty of public art to behold.
Talk about some big shoes to fill
There is spectacular architecture.
It's a science museum, but it looks like a broken egg
It must have been some huge flood to get a boat that large on top of buildings that tall
And of course, the Lion City has the Merlion.
We named him Haba
Plus, it has fire hydrants. I mean, who can resist those?
Sometimes horizontal stripes are still slimming
Singapore is pricey, though you can find cheap food in the Hawker Markets. Even some of the restaurants are pretty reasonable. We enjoyed Italian food, Indian food, and perhaps best of all, a very uniquely Singaporean breakfast: the prata. (The prata is a roti, and probably not unique to Singapore, but probably isn't done in quite the same way anywhere else.)

While we didn't spend too long in Singapore...
They grow people big in Singapore has everything you might need all in one convenient little package.
Just pop out the pieces, instant life goods!
'Cause everything's up to date, and perhaps even ahead of its time, in the Lion City.

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