Education, memory, Poetry, Politics

Don’t know much about history

Wrote this to the tune of the song “Wonderful World” by Sam Cooke (1959)

Don’t know much about history

We’re held hostage by History.
An accident of Geography.
Stamford Raffles was a Englishman
Trying to evade a Dutch trade ban.
Empire troops protected his crew,
He smuggled over his own Tungku,
To this Tungku he paid a fee.

So in 1819 Singapore was founded,
As it grew, separate sections were bounded.
Euro town was gardened well and good,
Chinatown – drug-ridden neighbourhood.
While Bugis had Kampung Glam,
And most people were living in slums.
Not a wonderful place then to be.

Larger still our city grew,
Built on rubber, tin and opium too.
And the Brits built a big naval base
To keep natives restless in their place.
With massive guns guarding Sentosa,
And battlecruisers parked off their Shangri-La
As ready for battle as they could be.

But the Japs came down a jungle path,
They reached the island and we faced their wrath.
Shelled and bombed and out of food,
The Brits surrendered right where they stood.
Leaving our city in Japanese hands,
Dark days descended over all these lands,
There was nowhere else left to flee…

But then the Japs lost the atomic war,
The Brits returned, but we were sore.
Started fighting for our nationhood,
And independence if we could
Be part of a greater Malaysia
We’d grow together – satu bangsa
What a wonderful world it could be.

This is where it gets a little fuzzy,
Communist threat and Konfrontasi.
Special Branch, Operation Coldstore,
(Secret files still locked behind sealed doors.)
Barisan, unions and students too,
Collective amnesia in our world view.
Does it really matter what came to be?

Yes it does, if we want to celebrate,
The last two hundred years, we need debate,
Open our eyes to really see
The truth and lies of how we came to be.
Then maybe we’ll appreciate,
This miracle our forefathers made.
What a wonderful world it could yet be.

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