Once upon a time, celebrating National Day was about painting the town red. Literally.
HDB blocks all over the country would be decked out in national colours, as residents proudly hung the national flag outside their bedroom windows or along the corridors. The unabashed display of patriotism ensured that Singapore’s birthday didn’t simply feel like an exclusive affair for the pro-establishment folk.
Neither would it, in the words of a few sceptics, feel like a “wayang parade”.
And even though it meant an additional household chore to keep the cloth in pristine condition, most parents would still relent. How could you tell a child that being patriotic was burdensome or wrong?
There were probably a few residents who felt pressured to conform or be singled out as the black sheep on the block. But you could still feel the community spirit in the air, and it was clear that National Education was indeed a success.
You would be hard-pressed to find an HDB block that has even a quarter of units sticking to old traditions. Estates that are still gloriously decorated by flags are no longer the artistic work of the residents, but the task of Residents’ Committees (RCs) which are part of the People’s Association. Even then, it’s only those blocks with long common corridors that are selected for decorations, and these are typically found in the more mature estates.
Before I could ask about what he thought of his neighbours who didn’t care, he slams the door in my face.
Maybe it’s the thought of having to wash the flag, or the annoying flapping of the cloth in strong wind conditions that puts people off hanging one. Or maybe Singaporeans today do not want their homes – their most private space – to be so publicly associated with any ideology. We proudly wear red, white and pink when out on Orchard Road, but hanging a flag outside a window attracts too much attention.
Punggol may be a sea of dull and lukewarm concrete, but who’s to say that the individuals living in these flats do not show their patriotism in less visible ways?
Would you hang a flag outside your home even if it was free? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org.