By: B Goode
A former President dies and as a Singaporean I am supposed to feel something. Right?
I tried to feel sad. I tried to be bereaved. I tried to grief. I tried to experience a sense of loss. But I am finding it hard to do all of that. I simply don’t have the feels.
I only have apathy.
Not wanting to be callous, I read on S R Nathan’s achievement and life story. I perused all the interviews given by people who knew him. I watched the live feeds of his funeral. 20,000 people paid their last respect including some luminaries the world over. He must have been a great man. Right?
Still, I don’t feel the feels.
I felt like he was just the neighbour whom I didn’t know whose funeral wake I passed by at the void-deck. I felt nothing. Just a slight curiosity to know who he was.
Am I a bad person?
Or am I just cold-hearted?
Nah. Because when my mom died, I bawled my eyes out. I felt sad when LKY died. I had the feels when Mandela died. And when Mother Theresa met her creator, I momentarily found God. For about 5 minutes.
And then it dawned upon me as to why the feels I was supposed to feel when S R Nathan died eluded me.
Unlike my mom who as far as I am concerned was Wonderwoman, or the other luminaries I mentioned, S R Nathan was just a normal man.
This is not to take the achievement away from him. Or to belittle the adoration and respect that he deserved.
This is due to the fact that throughout his life, he wanted to be just the normal guy. The normal son, brother, husband, father, grandfather and Uncle to all. The guy who smiled and said hello to everyone and who would dish out advice if you asked. You know, that smiling Uncle in the coffeeshop.
He wanted to be the silent worker. The quiet achiever along the corridors of power. He was never a glory-seeker and never dreamt to be in the spot-light.
Having been brought up in a generation that unless someone was on a golden chariot pulled by a herd of elephants with a full escort of a marching band and neon banners declaring his achievement, S R Nathan looked normal to me.
He was like Clerk Kent to his alter-ego Superman. Had Superman died, everyone including me would have felt the feels. But because he died as Clerk Kent, some people like me just didn’t feel it.
Quietly I wished that, that was how he wanted some people to feel. Nothing. Normal.
So now I am happy. My apathy towards S R Nathan’s passing was just a normal feeling towards someone who wanted to be normal.
So rest in peace Clerk Kent. We actually already knew your secret alter-ego.
You are S R Nathan.