Useful People

Recently, a lot of the classic Singaporean dramas and movies had been added to Netflix. These are titles such as The Unbeatables, Phua Chu Kang, and not forgetting the all-time classics: Jack Neo films. By the way, these dramas and movies had been free on meWATCH (previously known as Toggle) all this while, so if you don’t have a Netflix subscription, there’s an alternative platform to view them!

I was in my Primary School days when the first few Jack Neo films came out. I vaguely remembered his films to be funny, yet managed to provoke thoughts about societal issues back then, and allowed Singaporeans to empathise with characters in the films. To prove to you that the films really did touch the hearts of Singaporeans, I was able to, for the first time, see my father, who was usually stoic and what I thought to be emotionless, cry while watching Homerun (2003) at the theatres.

The most recent film I’ve watched is I Not Stupid (2002). I decided to re-watch it as I was curious to see, now that I am an adult, what some of the things I could not have picked up on as a kid were. I assume most of us would have already watched the film by now, so to briefly summarise the film, the story revolved around 3 Primary School students in the EM3 stream trying to overcome social stigmas academic elitism, and break the societal norm of how they would not be able to “make it” in terms of academic success.

As a Primary 3 student, when I first watched it, the only thing that struck a chord with me was the streaming system that I was about to go through. I remembered how I die die didn’t want to go through what the characters in the show went through, so I studied hard, and luckily enough, I landed myself in the best class in Primary 5. However, for those who know my academic path, it all went downhill from there. While you have those success stories of students that climbed from the worst in their Secondary School class to the Dean’s List, I was the opposite of that.

Now, as an adult, I picked up on things that I would not have been able to 18 years back, such as the political satire and sociocultural stereotypes. More importantly, I can appreciate the character arc of all 3 main characters, and how they found their drive to work hard and overcome the problems they faced. I find the story and what we can learn from the film closely linked to the theme song of the movie, 有用的人, or if I may loosely translate it into English, Useful People.

Here’s the last stanza of the song (once again, loosely translated):

其实你不是不能 只是你肯不肯

(Actually, it’s not that you can’t; it’s about whether you want)

给自己多一个机会 因为我们都是有用的人

(Give yourself another chance, because we are useful people)

It is very liberating and encouraging to hear this. Some may critique and argue that this song only makes people feel better about themselves, but I do not think so. I believe song intended to encourage people to never feel that they have failed, and to never give up at finding success. I don’t think this is any different from what God is trying to tell us too!

In Matthew 26:36-46, as Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples failed to join him in doing so even when instructed, and Jesus knew that “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41b). He knew they wanted to support Jesus in prayer, yet they succumbed to the temptation to sleep. Being a heavy sleeper, if you put me in the same position, I may very well have done the same thing as the disciples, so I would not be too harsh on them for doing so.

In today’s context, wherever we go, as long as we are on Earth, we will face temptations and run into things that try to bring our attention away from God. Similar to the song I’ve shared earlier, it’s not that we can’t overcome these temptations, but more of whether we want to overcome it. After all, God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can take (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Therefore, be encouraged! Whatever hardship you may be going through now, God did not put you there for no reason. It may be to refine you, it may be to challenge you, it may be so that you may come out a stronger person after this ordeal. If you are facing spiritual dryness, I encourage you to never give up, never stop picking up the Bible, never stop praying, never stop being in communion with God, overcome the flesh, and I believe God will quench your thirst at the most unexpected hour.

Justin Chua

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