National Geographic : 2010 Jan
Confucius's belief "that man could be perfected." is was, the MM said with a sigh, "an optimis- tic way of looking at life." People abuse freedom. at is his beef with America: e rights of in- dividuals to do their own thing allow them to misbehave at the expense of an orderly society. As they say in Singapore: What good are all those rights if you're afraid to go out at night? When I got to the top of the hill, I thought I might be rewarded with a view of the entire city- state. But there was no view at all---only a rust- ing communication tower and a cyclone fence a xed with a sign saying "Protected Place" and showing a stick gure drawing of a soldier aim- ing a ri e at a man with his hands raised. Later I mentioned this to Calvin Fones, the shrink. "See, that shows the progress we've made," he said. "Until a few years ago, we had the same sign, except the guy was lying on the ground, already shot." And then, being a Sin- gaporean, living a life he didn't believe possible anywhere else in Asia, he laughed. j the "highfalutin" speech in a rare appearance on the parliament oor. e patriarch, in case any- one needed reminding, was not yet in his grave. a disconcerting place, even to the people who call it home, though they'd never think of leaving. As one local put it, "Singapore is like a warm bath. You sink in, slit your wrists, your lifeblood oats away, but hey, it's warm." If that's so, most Singaporeans gure they might as well go down the tubes eating pepper crabs, with a couple of curry pu s on the side. Eating is the true national pastime and refuge. e longer I stayed, the more I ate. It got so I'd go over to the marvel- ously overcrowded Maxwell Road Food Centre, stand in the 20-minute queue for a plate at the Tian Tian food stall, eat it, then line up again. On my last day, I climbed the hill in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, at 537 feet the highest point on the island and the closest thing in Singa- pore to the jungle it once was. In the unexpected quiet, I returned to what the MM had said about AMBITION Under construction in the city center (left), a casino will lure foreign tourists but allow citizens to place bets only after they pay a $70 charge meant to discourage gambling. Contemplating the showroom amenities of a $1,000-a-square-foot condo (com- plete with fake skyline view), a couple (below) is ready to invest in the Singapore dream.