Coolies, Generations Later

Had a small gathering with just a handful of high school friends late last year (still in Phase 2 reopening in Singapore anyways) and the conversation drifted to social commentary about our generation of Singaporeans and how we step forward as a society. I talked about the idea of having inherited the narratives of our parents and the boomers, gaining that awakening that empowers us to write our own story instead.

One of them brought out the point that most of the Chinese migrants who came to Singapore and whose descendents now form the majority of the population here were ‘coolies’ or manual labourers who came to Singapore to seek out employment opportunities and a better life. The mindset really was to find a boss to serve, and gain a good life through that loyalty. Life was basic and more about survival than really thriving.

Generations later, the bar for living standards have gone up, and so have expectations of how much you achieve and how much you need to live on. But has that coolie mindset changed? Are we still just trying to follow directions to a better life? Are we thinking independently and by ourselves? Are we looking to continue to use resources at our disposal just for ourselves or to make the future a better place?

This article is being read and recorded for readers here to increase accessibility of my writings and also to prepare myself to start a podcast that is currently in the works. Note that the written article is not an exact transcript to the reading.

Audio Article: Coolies, Generations Later

Meanwhile, you might like to check out some really amazing recoloured photos of historical Singaporeans here. Get a sense of the hardship they went through and what life really means for them.