Thursday, August 24, 2006

The history of Singapore

Earlier this year, Discovery Channel released a series called The History of Singapore which was shown on cable here in Singapore. At the same time, some clips also were shown on channel 5 if I'm not wrong.

Unfortunately, monkeys don't have cable in their trees so I was unable to catch this series.

Recently, I caught a commercial on TV that advertised the release of the series on DVD. 2 days ago when I was at Borders, I decided to look for the series.

It would appear that the DVD was either not selling very well or it's been out for a while already. There was even a 3 dollar discount for the item. You can now get your very own copy at just $33.95.

Of course I'm not going to argue with low prices. In fact, had it been any more expensive I wouldn't have gone for it at all!

I haven't even taken it out of shrinkwrap yet but the synopsis proves to be very promising.

Disc 1: Episode 1 - Raffles' Little Child
The first episode chronicles the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles, and tells the story of Singapore's birth and growing pains through to the high noon of Empire. With a vision of Singapore as a trading port in its own right, Raffles attempted to shift the centre of the trading network to Singapore with the promise of free trade. But money-making schemes, monopoly of the opium and alcohol supplies, secret societies and other vices plagued the tiny nation, and the city grew more squalid and violent as there was no government to speak of. However, with the opening of the Suez Canal, Singapore became a truly international port, no longer having to rely on regional trade. With this transformation, Britain began to be more concerned about Singapore and granted it colonial status. By applying some governance and sorting out the social problems, Singapore became more stable and Raffles' vision was becoming reality. But the seeds of Singapore's downfall were also being sown as the arrival of new goods and people also brought new ideas which would convulse Singapore in the 20th century.

Disc 2: Episode 2 - Accidental Nation
Nationalism arrived in Singapore in 1901 with Sun Yat Sen. Japan's invasion of China in the 1930s further fueled this, triggering a nationalist outpouring. Japan soon attacked the small island and Britain surrendered Singapore in February 1942. After the war, it was clear that the British no longer had the funds for the Empire and it was time for Singaporeans to fill the political vacuum. A new professional class of people like Lee Kuan Yew became the first Singaporean nationalists - they regarded Singapore as their homeland, not China or India. This episode follows the political changes that took place in the mid 1950s, in particular the struggle between Lee Kuan Yew and Lim Chin Siong. Viewers learn of the threat of communism, Singapore's relationship with and separation from Malaya, and the eventual formation of an independent government and nation.

Disc 3: Episode 3 - Lion City, Asian Tiger
Singapore's journey did not have a promising start, and few believed it could survive as an independent nation state. After its separation from Malaya, Singapore had lost its industrial and emotional hinterland, was surrounded by potentially hostile neighbours, and was beleaguered by political unrest. This episode shows how Singapore turned yet another weakness into strength under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, political opponents were neutralized, trade union activism was discouraged and the nation was re-educated with a series of public campaigns. With the influx of multi-national corporations, Singapore's programme of state capitalism flourished. But even with a hard-working and efficient population, the nation lacked entrepreneurial or political energies. It needed to re-invent itself to continue to flourish in the 20th century. The challenge for Singapore as it moves from youth to middle age is to be a nation that can draw on its past as an inspiration for its future.
Reading those words in bold reminds me of my favourite national day song, "There was a time, when people said that Singapore won't make it, but we did..." For some reason they have axed this song from the songlist in recent years national day parade. What a shame. We do need to remember our past afterall. But the DVD seem to have missed out on changes in the 21st century.

I suppose I wouldn't know till I watch it. Hope I find the time soon.


Leila said...

I watched this on a Singapore Airlines flight on the inflight entertainment. An excellent documentary and one which I am trying to purchase here in Australia however I am having no luck and emails to the contact at Discovery are going unanswered...

Kevin said...

I'm also trying to buy a copy in the US. I saw it on TV and its an excellent dvd. Any ideas where I can get it??

Monkey said...

I gave my copy away recently to my future motherinlaw. But I got my copy in Borders Singapore.

I just tried googling and couldn't find... even the discovery channel store doesn't have. bizarre.

and the dvd was PAL and had problems playing in US so it was a real bummer. Probably lying worthless in US when the dvd is now a priceless unobtainable collectible item haha