Missing the kampung spirit that connects us

July 11, 2016

There are two sides to kampung life and Ms Zhang Ruihe has written an excellent, well-balanced article (“The romance and reality of kampung life“; last Saturday), which seeks to disabuse romantics like me.

Modern-day conveniences have made me appreciate the easier life we have now. Piped water, for example, is now taken for granted but I remember the shared well that my kampung drew water from.

Truth be told, it was also rougher. Besides shared wells, there were also outhouses – younger Singaporeans may not even know what those were.

So what is it with the kampung that has many of us in the pioneer generation pining for it?

Not many will long for the cold morning shower, what with our aching bones. But many fondly remember the simple and fresh food from the farms. Others reminisce aboutthe tranquillity of a rural setting, a setting that is now practically non-existent.

Personally, I miss the camaraderie that the village shared – the sense of knowing and being known. There was a feeling of belonging and being home because neighbours were socially connected to the community.

Knowing that my neighbours had my back and I had theirs gave us a general sense of social well-being.

Today, even in the confined space of lifts heading up to our floors, we look at our mobile phones.

If the kampung spirit were alive, we would be engaging in conversations with neighbours who have become friends.

That is where the spirit of the kampung is missing. We are social creatures with a need to be connected. But modern connectivity connects virtually and the more so, the more disconnected socially we become.

So, it is the kampung spirit that I pine for, not the physical kampung.

The spirit is the soul of our lives together, without which we are merely faceless people pretending to be neighbours.

And perhaps to overcome the loneliness of our soulless existence, we retreat further into the virtual world.

To quote the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

William Wan (Dr)
General Secretary
Singapore Kindness Movement

First published in The Straits Times – July 2, 2016

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