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Was Singapore’s Independence an Accident?

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In 1963, Singapore declared its independence from Great Britain. Without much land area or natural resources of its own, the new nation secured some protection and economic help by joining Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form the Federation of Malaysia. But just a few years later, Singapore was out on its own. 

The union was rocky right from the start, with Singaporean state leaders disagreeing with the federal officials on economic policy and federal affirmative action laws that gave preferential treatment to ethnic Malays. Meanwhile, Malay- and Chinese-Singaporean civilians clashed on the streets in a series of race riots that killed dozens of people, injured hundreds more, damaged infrastructure, caused food shortages, and further strained Singapore’s relations with the other states and federal government.

Federal authorities lost their patience quickly and leaders on both sides realized that the union was not sustainable. Forty-eight years ago this month, on August 9, 1965, the Parliament of Malaysia voted 126-0 to expel Singapore from the federation.

While other countries strived and fought for their independence, Singapore’s seems more like political fallout, or a punishment doled out to them. Just hours before the vote that created the new Republic of Singapore, its first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, broke down in tears during a press conference, saying, “For me, it is a moment of anguish. All my life, my whole adult life, I have believed in the merger and unity of the two territories." Wikipedia, in reference to the anniversary, even calls Singapore the “first and only country to date to gain independence unwillingly.”

But Singapore’s independence didn’t exactly happen without any input or action on the part of the state, argues Singaporean political blogger Palaniyapan:

While most nations fought to be sovereign, we didn't. It is often regarded that independence was unexpectedly thrusted upon us by Malaysia. Putatively neither did we possess a unique identity to preserve or common cause to pursue. Also, given our small size and lack of natural resources, complete self-determination appeared as both an unnecessary and unfeasible pursuit. This has led many to believe that Singapore’s eventual independence was an “accident.”

But if one were to dig deeper into the events preceding August 9th 1965, these commonly held beliefs get challenged: One would realize that our peaceful, unexpected independence belies the fact that it’s Singapore's active insistence on values such as equality and multi-racialism alongside demand for a higher degree of self-determination which precipitated its secession from Malaysia.

So was independence thrusted by Malaysia? A straightforward reading of history, would afford an affirmative to the question. Singapore never explicitly demanded to be independent. Our preferred option was to be part of Federal Malaysia.

However looking deeply, one would find that though it was Malaysia which broached the topic of secession first, the move was to a large extent precipitated by Singapore’s actions. Also, when given with the choice of moving ahead as the part of the union and accepting the compromise of having limited say in governance and giving up on the vision of Malaysian Malaysia where all races were treated equally, we consistently stuck to our convictions despite the attendant risks—which had been fully grasped.

In other words, the collective Singaporean vision of what society and government should look like was revolutionary enough to force Malaysia to stage the bloodless revolution for them. That’s actually a pretty good start for a national narrative, and something worth toasting with a Singapore Sling.

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Why Does Turkey Make You Tired?
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Why do people have such a hard time staying awake after Thanksgiving dinner? Most people blame tryptophan, but that's not really the main culprit. And what is tryptophan, anyway?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses in the processes of making vitamin B3 and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. It can't be produced by our bodies, so we need to get it through our diet. From which foods, exactly? Turkey, of course, but also other meats, chocolate, bananas, mangoes, dairy products, eggs, chickpeas, peanuts, and a slew of other foods. Some of these foods, like cheddar cheese, have more tryptophan per gram than turkey. Tryptophan doesn't have much of an impact unless it's taken on an empty stomach and in an amount larger than what we're getting from our drumstick. So why does turkey get the rap as a one-way ticket to a nap?

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor:

Fats: That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.

Alcohol: What Homer Simpson called the cause of—and solution to—all of life's problems is also a central nervous system depressant.

Overeating: Same deal as fats. It takes a lot of energy to digest a big feast (the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat), so blood is sent to the digestive process system, leaving the brain a little tired.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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How Are Balloons Chosen for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?
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The balloons for this year's Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade range from the classics like Charlie Brown to more modern characters who have debuted in the past few years, including The Elf On The Shelf. New to the parade this year are Olaf from Disney's Frozen and Chase from Paw Patrol. But how does the retail giant choose which characters will appear in the lineup?

Balloon characters are chosen in different ways. For example, in 2011, Macy’s requested B. Boy after parade organizers saw the Tim Burton retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. (The company had been adding a series of art balloons to the parade lineup since 2005, which it called the Blue Sky Gallery.) When it comes to commercial balloons, though, it appears to be all about the Benjamins.

First-time balloons cost at least $190,000—this covers admission into the parade and the cost of balloon construction. After the initial year, companies can expect to pay Macy’s about $90,000 to get a character into the parade lineup. If you consider that the balloons are out for only an hour or so, that’s about $1500 a minute.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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