The Goondu Phenomenon, Intermarriages, & the sad state of Romance in Singapore

Are Singaporeans 21st Century Individuals?

Those who protest and claim Singapore as a melting pot due to an increase in mixed marriages, need to witness that such interracial marital unions only occur in specific directions; for example, more Chinese women marry Caucasian men than Chinese men who marry Caucasian women. Even the expatriate communities here exist almost separately from the local communities despite the government’s best efforts to address this issue.

Hence, the question that really needs to be asked and addressed today is this – As Singaporeans, do we really possess the heart and mind of a twenty first century individual? - Reena Devi

[definition : 'Goondu' - In colloquial usage, may refer to 'awkward', 'silly', 'out of place', 'without style', 'badly dressed', 'mismatched', amongst others. A close equivalent is the American 'nerd'. It was a term commonly and frequently used in the 70s and early 80s.]

Seems like there is greater unity in Singapore now, but it is not a melting pot of difference as some erroneously claim, but a *'hor fun' with different ingredients that do not conflict with its traditional taste. ~ ed

[definition :*hor fun - chinese dish comprising 'fat' or 'thick' noodles served in a thick broth with prawns and squids.]

I would quite agree with Reena’s view on the specific directions of interracial marriages. However, it must also be said that intermarriages can also serve as evidence of assimilation before marriage. For instance, an 'Indian' becoming ‘more Confucian' prior to being able to pursue a relationship with a Chinese - who has been associated, through socialisation, to associate 'Chinese' with 'Confucian' without appreciating it in such terms but observing its ethos in thought, word and deed. That is more a union between soy sauce and spring onions as opposed to the former with chilli. In other words, in the study of intermarriages as evidence of the melting pot having reached frothy levels, we have to study the point at which intermarriages are on the rise and triangulate it with other factors such as the degree to which multiculturalism is indeed true in sound as opposed to mere sight, the reasons stated for this union, what ‘ideal’ characteristics are desired by both partners, etc.

This is very obvious to the 'westernised set' of the 80s - of which I am a part - as Chinese girls then tended to go for 'difference' and were quite attracted to strong, witty, intelligent and unique personalities, and tended to be attracted to the avant garde styles and perspectives of the westernised Chinese, Indians and Eurasians back then and in the 70s as well. That is not so much the case in the present where 'Indians' with Chinese girls seem indistinguishable in sight and sound, albeit not in tone, from the masses. I’ve personally had romantic relationships with Malay, Indian and Chinese girls as have my other friends of the 80s. And the reasons cited by them for having relationships with myself and the others were always a mix of, ‘intelligent’, ‘witty’, ‘different’, ‘great dancer’, ‘strong’, ‘fun’, ‘popular’, and ‘style’. This contrast with current times would escape the attention of following generations as they do not have the experience of different times for comparison. As I’ve said for quite some time now, the tabulation of loss requires comparison to varying times as opposed to the biases of our times.

When the few 80s mates I have at present, and who have managed to maintain the integrity of the individualistic self-respect of the 80s in their person, look at guys these days, they really wonder what happened to the ‘stylo mylos’ or individualistic-minded blokes of the 80s. Putting it another way, they certainly wouldn’t have elected to keep company with them back then for want of a critical and independent appreciation of reality, individualistic style, and wit. In fact, they, and I, find it quite hilarious that the less ‘visible’ the guy was these days, whatever the race, the more he is likely to be paired with girls of any race. It seems, to me at times, that guys these days come with ready-made potholes in their heads structured for the beaks of their feminine and thus better halves. And, generally, the girl now is far more outstanding than the guy in style, temperament, strength and fashion - what I’ve often termed, laughingly, as 'The Goondu Phenomenon' which throws out the ‘matching hypothesis’ that states that ‘similarities attract’. I’ve often quipped that we ought to approach these guys to find out where they purchase their fashion sense so that we might be equally appealing to contemporary women. Thus, my directive to some of my single friends, ‘if you want to be hitched quickly, be a Goondu’, come across as easily controlled, have a wardrobe full of Bermudas and polo t-shirts to emphasise your lack of individuality, and confine your sense to making dollars out of your cents. Quite different form past times where, ‘outstanding attracted’. But that is just the Singaporean scenario. Here in the UK – where multiculturalism and democracy is more of a reality – the said 80s descriptors still hold sway, and thus my relative attractiveness to women here.

Right now, it is ‘complementarity’ that attracts. The men are expected to be outstanding or acceptable in that which is conventional – i.e. making money, not causing trouble, conforming, sports maybe, being subservient to authority, etc – whilst the women, being traditionally a stoker of the hearth, and now a force to be reckoned with in the economic milieu, are more empowered to keep men in line in all arenas so that familial interests is not compromised. So, it is generally the girl who holds the reins and which is fast becoming the status quo amongst all. This was generally the case with the Chinese as the men have suffered greater popular political failure in the face of a seemingly unassailable authority. This paved the way for women to take the lead in the only 'pragmatism' that was left, and which is the family-oriented one as opposed to political pragmatism. I’ve also noticed that there are more relationships between Chinese girls and Indian guys as opposed to Indian girls and Chinese guys. This could indicate that Chinese guys have remained more perspectivally narrow – which is supported by their political failure in the face of authority - Indian guys incorporated into the Confucian ethos, and Chinese girls occupying the helm.

Additionally, it would also be interesting to note that the problems my(80s) Indian friends had from time to time with their Chinese wives was founded on the latter's declining appreciation of the traits they had been valued for in the 80s. I would expect that, as popular political failure led to the diminution of the traits typical of the 70s and 80s amongst the westernised/multicultural sector. Hence, even though their Chinese wives were also a part of the 80s multicultural clan, the overarching socio-political devaluation of the said traits led to an increase in the conflict between them as the guys maintained a spirit and perspective that was being devalued in their wives' eyes by its being devalued in the overarching and increasingly Confucianising milieu.

Over a decade, however, their husbands too began to conform and were gradually exorcised of the 80s spirit. That is when increasing 'harmony' prevailed in their homes - and which is how one might make sense of 'harmony' in singapore on all fronts. I also noted that this was the same amongst my Chinese friends in their relationships with their wives. But in contrast to my Indian friends, they didn't see it as a cause for complaint from the start as they already complemented them from the start - but sought to get around the consequences by extraneous means. This also began to be the case with my Indian friends some years later. With the cessation of the conflict between the 80s and Confucian persona via the death of the former, efforts to compensate ensued - which basically amounted to seeking out distractions - and some even began to don the 'bermudas and polo t-shirts' which they had years earlier said they never would.

It is quite interesting actually. With popular political failure, and where politics was the traditional arena of men, it is the women who generally emerge as the next viable social force. However, as they had been traditionally kept within familial interests, their entry into the economic arena will see their family-focus being brought into the overarching milieu. This will in turn see them serving as the government’s ‘leash’ on the men by their being even more empowered, because of their increasing economic equality, to keep men focused on the family as opposed to the political. This is perhaps why I've often observed Chinese men being quite subservient toward Chinese women. You could say that the passing of the relatively multicultural and democratic 70s and 80s served to reinforce the role of women as the government’s watchdog, and the change in the reasons that might be cited for attraction.

(I have to emphasise that this is not a 'Chinese thing' but a perspectival one. If I use the terms 'Chinese' and 'Confucian' as interchangeable terms, it is only because of the enforced association between the one and the other by official policies and perspectives.(ref. Cultural Cleansing in Singapore and the Plight of Chinese-lookalikes) Given that the Chinese have had the general worldview thrust upon them by the political from 221 b.c. (prior to which, in the Chou period, the Chinese abided by a culture that produced great intellectual brilliance that could have potentially rivaled the Grecian or Indian ones - which is why I have previously called for a renaissance of the Chou to displace 'Children of the Han'.)they have not truly taken the helm in cultural production but were forced to turn the efforts to put up with top-down oppression into a culture. Thus, i view the truly multicultural Singapore of the past as the opportunity to 'bring back the Chou' and make the most of all ethnic groups through cultural exchange and true integration. The purpose of integration is to enable all to learn from each other's unique insights borne of relatively disparate histories, and enable these insights to relieve them of the deficiencies borne of the selfsame 'relatively disparate histories'. None of the 'bright minds', as far as I know, in the Singaporean milieu, have appreciated this point to date.)

With regards to expatriate communities existing separately from the local communities, I can quite understand the reasons for this by some sectors as I myself dislike associating with contemporary Singaporeans and thus go by the dictum, ‘no company is better than boring company’. Their Confucian outlook puts me off my breakfast. Being accustomed to witty, intelligent and out-of-the-box repartee, I’d personally rather associate with the British, or the multicultural/westernised Chinese, Eurasians and Indians of the 70s and 80s – it’s not a ‘race’ thing, it’s a perspectival one. The current Confucian-style interactions basically require the different to conform and be incorporated. In that, we have to tolerate more and switch off the individualistic two and two-thirds of our cranial mass to ‘get along’. I didn’t have to do that in the 80s, nor do I have to do that in the UK – which is one of the reasons why I have enough animated brain cells to keep myself entertained even when I’m on my own.

Seems like there is greater unity in Singapore now, but it is not a melting pot of difference, but a hor fun with different ingredients that do not conflict with its traditional taste.

Finally, in answer to Reena's question, 'Are Singaporeans 21st century individuals'? Yes, they certainly are. They have shown how the ultra-conformist/authoritarian Confucian and Legalist perspective institutedfrom 221 b.c. and thereafter (Legalism was implemented first by the Qin, and fused with Confucianism in following dynasties to provide the popular support base for the political/Legalists) is still applicable and potent in the 21st century given how it has managed, in the face of difference of hitherto inexperienced great contrast, to eradicate it and subsume it all into a singular and monocultural whole that would make even the Singaporean 'Indians' who hail from a diametrically opposite cultural perspective, into 'Children of the Han' themselves. Hence, as a whole, they are a testament to the duality of the '21st century individual' that is divided between the 'western them' and the 'asian democratic us' but which is still able to deliver economic affluence along with a monocultural personality to appreciate little besides.




  1. Hi again! I got my doctorate in the trivial, so please allow me to offer the term "dork" which is a better equivalent to what you describe. The term "nerd" is used to deride someone for being smart or for being interested in learning something. It also implies "dork" (also an 80's term) for flavor. Sort of like "all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares."
    I can't believe I just seriously explained that to someone. As a nerd and a dork, I just thought I would clarify things a little.

    I just hope that Singaporean 21st Century Individuals don't end up like the US 21st Century Individuals... I can't help but say that the words/phrases "21st Century" and "Individual" do not describe our society right now. It has very little to do with who seems to be in charge or how much technology we haven't developed, but more to do with the way that we strive to poison our minds, our hearts, and our bodies (moreso our minds.) Sometimes, there seems to be nothing individual about us either. We're still pointing out nerds, geeks, dorks, liberals, wingnuts, and minorities. By marginialising individuality, we are failing to be free thinkers.
    Maybe, I also have a masters in failure. My arrogance forces me to protest that I am too young to have really failed yet.

  2. Hi Nik,

    Ah yes. You're right. I stand corrected. Yes, 'dork' would certainly be an apt term. Now that you mentioned it, yes, i certainly recall the term being used quite often in 80s shows - which i love for the youthfulness and naturalness of characters. Hey, it's alright your explaining this. It's an education i'm sure...Doctor;)

    Haha. I must say i love your candour. You're right about our pointing out 'nerds' et al. However, I have insinuated it in this article because of the underlying meaning of it, and not because i have a problem with 'dork' et al. But i'm sure you got that.



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