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Seems like the Happenstance feature is a pretty good idea; both Wan Ni and Hwee Fang have already jumped in on it. As usual, I’m two steps behind, but it’s never too late, right? (Right?)

Friday’s always a good time to take it slow at the office, so today I managed to squeeze in some shelf browsing for relaxation. The book that caught my eye today is The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age by Daniel A. Bell and Avner de-Shalit.

I’ve lived in Singapore all my life and have also traveled to various parts of Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North America. While I crave wide open spaces and natural landscapes, I inevitably remember the places I’ve been to in terms of their cities and urban centers. Because the majority of people in any country converge in cities for jobs and social infrastructure, they are probably also the best places for you to get a feel of what the people in a country are like.

Naturally, I flipped to the contents pages to see if they had a chapter on Singapore; well lookee here, they do, and it’s not too small either. On most world maps, Singapore is generally represented by nothing but a name squeezed in with a bunch of other names; you’d need Google Maps (with a lot of “zooming in”) to find us.

So what does the book have to say about Singapore? Good, bad, something we might want to think about when we celebrate SG50 or all our National Days? Here’s an excerpt from the chapter “Singapore: The City of Nation Building.”

[If] its form of government meant rich and fulfilling communal attachments instead of the no-holds-barred individualism, rootlessness, alienation from the political process, and other phenomena stemming from the erosion of communal life in Western democracies, then it would be worth it. Perhaps the Singaporean model couldn’t be generalized, but it might be suitable for a “communitarian Canadian” newly married to a woman from mainland China. Three years later, however, I was packing my bags after being told by the acting head of the department that I didn’t “fit in.” – p. 78