Thursday, January 7, 2016

Let's be a cultural melting pot, not bowl of salad

Jan 7, 2016, 

When we take a train ride, we often hear many languages being spoken and see attire that hails from varied origins.

These are signs that we have become multi-faceted in terms of ethnicity and national origin.

But it begs the question: Are we evolving into a melting pot, where many distinct elements are forged into one? Or a bowl of salad, where each item remains separate from the other?

Many of us are of immigrant stock. Singapore was barren and it was these people who put aside their differences and made the country into what it is today.

Each community retained its self-help social establishment, but, on the whole, there was ample room for all to mingle and be part of Singapore's mainstream, including its English-medium schools and national service.

However, we have not replaced ourselves at a rate that can sustain the nation in the long run; hence, the need for immigration.

We have gained from immigrants.

They have added vibrancy to our economic and social landscapes, making Singapore more cosmopolitan.

The new immigrants are quite unlike our forefathers.

Many are professionals who are highly susceptible to more rosy propositions from elsewhere.

Many remain distinct in their language, bearing, schooling, dwelling and way of life. Some have developed enclaves of their own.

This makes the Singapore identity even more disparate and harder to define.

Assimilation is a two-way street. Much depends on the willingness of existing citizens and those who have newly arrived to reach out to the other side.

But are there enough occasions for them to do so? Are there initiatives to socialise people hailing from foreign lands?

Do they know and understand our history before taking the oath to be Singaporeans? Do we welcome them unreservedly as people who wish to be part of us?

We need to ask some tough questions and take a long-term view in seeking answers.

Everyone counts.

Lee Teck Chuan

[I wanted to interject at several points (like I often do), but he was on such a roll, I did not want to ruin his train of thought. Or the effect of his argument.

So have you "caught" his train of thought?

Let me start with a few of his inconsistencies, and assumptions.

"people who put aside their differences" - Yes. Put aside. Not eliminate. Not assimilate. Put aside their differences, not eliminated their identity.

"Assimiliation". What are we? The Borg? The assumption is that assimilation is our strategy? Principle? Reality? The reality is that we have kept our cultural identities distinct. That's why we celebrate Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Adil Fitri, Deepavali, and may other festivals that are NOT public holidays. 

It is precisely our recognition that "melting pot multi-culti" would NOT work in our diverse society that we have gone the route of distinct identity "multi-culti". 

In the US, "melting pot multi-culti" has led to people yelling at new Immigrants, "Speak American!" which is a form of heckling or bullying.

Do we want new immigrants to be able to speak the local languages, in particular, the common working language of English? Sure. But recognise that there are older Singaporeans who do not speak English and because of their background/history may be distinctly monolingual in some obscure dialect.

Are they less Singaporean?

"This makes the Singapore identity even more disparate and harder to define."

Yes. So of course the solution is to enforce some common language and culture. Who the fuck are you? The reincarnation of Emperor Shih Huang Ti?

Yes, the Singapore Identity is hard to define. The solution is NOT to force us into a convenient pigeon hole and call us Singaporeans. The best you can do at that time is to call us pigeons.

"We need to ask some tough questions and take a long-term view in seeking answers."

Well said. Motherhoody statement and all. At the end of a short-sighted answer that suggests a simple answer to tough questions. You get points for hypocrisy, naivete, and well-disguised bigotry and xenophobia.]

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