What’s Mine is Ours

It was the story that got the entire world talking. The rescue of the Chilean miners was allegedly watched by a billion people around the globe, created 33 instant heroes, made the country’s mining minister an shoo-in for next president, and saw every other country scramble to claim credit for its own role in the miracle, however minor. A country last in the spotlight for a devastating earthquake now basks in goodwill, new hope and the attention of a hundred ravenous Hollywood screenwriters. As rebranding exercises go, it was a risky one, but it seems to have worked. And perhaps it’s about time we undertook one of our own.Note that at various times the Chilean story played to all the national stereotypes—lax laws on safety, cheating Latino lotharios, an opportunist government—before dismantling them in a blaze of well-wishing. We can adopt the same approach in upending our own image, except that we’re known for stringent health & safety, being so prim and proper that we wouldn’t put butter in our mouths never mind let it melt there, and a government so beyond reproach that it would be no surprise to learn that ministers drink their tea cold for fear of showing bias toward the electricity board. What we’re proposing would send all of that up in a giant bonfire of misjudged preconception.The drama would unfold at a secretive chewing gum factory inside an abandoned hotel skybar. Called in to investigate rumors of littering, a group of dignitaries finds they are stuck to the floor for a perilous 69 minutes. As time passes and talk of kway teow turns to cannibalism, it’s revealed that one of the older men is not in fact related to the boys and girls gathered at TV showrooms throughout the city who call him Uncle. By now the group have had no access to their cellphones for an entire hour.Just when all hope appears to be lost, the floor itself—seemingly constructed to the very highest standards—collapses beneath them. (Days later, websites will spring up claiming that the resultant dust cloud was the shape of Malaysia.) Tragedy is averted when the men land unharmed in the warm, springy-mattressed embrace of the brothel on the floor below. None emerge as heroes. All request to be caned on the spot.For their part in exposing the system’s flaws, the chewing gum barons are given official permission to operate. The world looks on as health & safety standards are cut to a minimum, all uncles are barred from office and corporal punishment becomes another paid-for commodity. Singapore is revealed to be as reassuringly sleazy and imperfect as everywhere else on earth. Now that’d be news worth watching.