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As a foreigner in Singapore, I wanted to become acquainted with the nation in a more personal way than what is given in common tourist books such as Lonely Planet and Eyewitness. As I browsed through the titles in the bookstore, I eventually came across a book titled Got Singapore: Bits and Pieces from a Dot in the World. The book is a collection of essays, originally published in the Straits Times, written by a thirty-year newspaper veteran named Richard Lim.
While reading the book, I felt like I was able to get to know both Singapore and Richard Lim. The book is divided into five sections, all of them rich and interesting. The first section of the book was originally a National Day supplement of the Straits Times in 1989. Notably, it was one of the longest articles ever published by the paper. In the article, Lim reminisces about his family's past and his experience growing up as a Baby Boomer. He includes details about his polyamorous grandfather, his boyhood education at Raffles' Institution, his breakaway from many Buddhist traditions, his love of Jimi Hendrix, and his personal struggles as a writer.
In the second section of the book, Lim has included some essays about living and relaxing in Singapore. He presents accounts of moving into different HDB flats, romancing a fellow factory worker in the 1970s, and spending leisure time at West Coast park. The third section contains details about his many travels around Asia and the world. The fourth chapter of the book contains reflections on several authors who have been influenced by Singapore. To name a few that Lim mentions: Herman Hesse, Joseph Conrad and VS Naipaul.
As a Westerner, the fifth section about government was the most shocking for me to read. Aside from some rather dull details about the formation of POS Bank, Lim provides a lengthy analysis of the political philosophy of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first prime minister. Among the assertions that confronted my Western Classically-Liberal sensibilities, were the ideas that it is the duty of the press to support the government, that "All men are brothers, but they are never equal," and that "what works is what counts" because "ideologies do not lead to flexibility."
Overall, I think this is a good book. People who have lived in Singapore their entire lives may find the information too obvious; but for a Westerner, it was just what I needed to get a little more acquainted with the people and the culture.