13 Identity Issues Singapore Must Deal With

United we stand, divided we rant

Singapore is by far the worst example of a homogeneous country.

Our common identity is the exact opposite: a multi-cultural melting pot, united by our love for food, travel, showing off and complaining about the government (don’t bluff).

As melting pots go, sometimes things can get very heated up and cause huge friction between people with polar opposite opinions, but I want to show you how the reverse can also happen because some Singaporeans are fully embracing of the rojak nation we are.

We’ve been grappling with 4 identity issues for over 50 years now. Even before we completely put these issues to rest, more have arisen as we become more multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-faceted.

1. Language

Remember when there was a mini uproar over Borders bookstore banning the use of languages other than English?

Yet the exposure to multiple languages present in Singapore made it possible for Singaporean Nuradillah Zakbah to mediate a misunderstanding between Chinese tourists and an African American tourist using her “best broken Mandarin” skills she picked up from watching Channel 8 dramas and from friends growing up.

singapore-language-nuradillah-zakbah

2. Race

Chinese privilege is a term that has wormed its way back into Singaporeans’ social vocabulary in 2016 after changes to the Elected Presidency which caused quite a bit of murmurs of tokenism, racism and lack of meritocracy.

But Chinese privilege is a fact we cannot deny exists, as pointed out by minorities here, here, here, here and here.

Regardless of race, there are inspiring stories of Singaporeans crossing the racial divide to unite over friendship, community values and in times of need.

racial-harmony-singapore

3. Religion

How attuned are we to religious sensitivities?

It is inevitable people will step on each others’ toes if they’re not careful, but many incidents have been resolved by a sincere apology and promoting awareness of religious harmony.

Social media has also been quick to moderate itself, although discussions such as this one can still get really hot (melting pot remember?).

Among the 261 comments, the majority of comments were pretty sane, and there even was a little snippet about being considerate of others.

religious harmony singapore

4. Gender

Females are lousy drivers, fathers are never better with children compared to mothers. Females can’t read maps, males cannot lose.

No one likes to be pigeonholed because of the way they were born.

Here are some who have broken gender stereotypes:

Singaporean Juvena Huang who has travelled the world for almost one and a half years on her Vespa.

Househusbands who stay at home to look after the kids while the wife works:

Daddies

What else can drive us apart?

Even if we overcome the sensitivities of language, race, religion and gender, there are other forces present in our society which can be manipulated to break the strength of our social fabric.

Just look at what sparks conversation online and you can figure out what they are:

  • ageism: young vs old
  • discrimination: abled vs disabled
  • sexuality: homophobes vs LGBT
  • social inequality: rich vs poor
  • social mobility: can poor and middle class keep up with the rich?
  • cost of living: inflation vs wage increases
  • citizenship: new vs existing, born overseas vs born in Singapore
  • culture: local identity vs imported identity
  • health: mental, physical, emotional, spiritual

The question is whether we spend our time and energy fighting internal battles, or work together for internal solutions and focus on tackling regional and global challenges as a nation.

Image Credits: Nuradillah Zakbah Facebook, SGAG, Facebook.

About the author

Jules Of Singapore

I’m Jules, from Singapore. I live and work here, and although it’s a great place to be, I feel there are many issues swept under the carpet. I’m also hoping to meet other women (and men) who actively want to discuss and further the interests of women who make up half our population, but whose voices are not amplified enough.

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