"Hard to overcome cultural instinct", says Lee senior - comment

Hard to overcome cultural instinct

Singaporeans say the National Pledge and sing the National Anthem, but suppose there was a famine - would your neighbour share the last few grains of rice with you if you are of different ethnicity or religion?

It will take "many, many years" to overcome that cultural instinct, according to Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. Despite the shared spaces that have been built up, he believes Singaporeans live in "concentric circles" - starting with family, relatives and friends.

"In the outer circles, you have common ground but you can even invite them into your home and visit each other on festive occasions and so on, but when it comes to marriage and becoming part of the family, that's a very different happiness," he said.

"Cross marriages, yes a few, usually the parents are most unhappy."

Asked by interviewer Mark Jacobson if his goal was to break down those barriers, Mr Lee said: "I think we just leave it alone."

"You try to break it down, you're going to cause a lot of unhappiness and the older generation vote solidly against."

On the religious front, though, Mr Lee is confident the different groups are aware not to get politically active unless they want to incite others to push back.

But he noted that evangelism is on the rise, for example, in Christianity.

"They catch them in their teens, in their late teens when they're malleable and open to suggestions and then they become fervent evangelists themselves. My granddaughter is one of them. She's now 28," he said.

Despite such trends, Mr Lee sees a more integrated Singapore ahead. Though he called Singapore "a few hundred years" shy of being a nation, he also said: "It's a nation in the making. The optimistic view. We must have optimism."
 source: todayonline

Now if this isn’t a justification for racism, i don’t know what is. If anything, Lee is coming across as some sort of apologist for racism. My point has always been that given 50 years, what has the government done to get rid of racism as opposed to putting in place policies that promote it. Facts point to the latter.

What has been done when it comes to media representation? How has the SAP school system facilitated the chinese takeover of the economy and which in the longer run serves to enable all to attribute success to ‘Chinese’ culture and even racism? To what extent does the ‘mother tongue’ policy facilitate cultural integration? Why is it that whilst Muslims were not allowed to wear the Islamic (women’s) headdress to schools for the sake of ‘integration’, Chinese culture was celebrated with increasing pomp in central locations? Why is it that Mandarin was promoted as ‘cool’ whilst other languages were just ignored? Why is it that there were ‘appreciate Mandarin culture’ campaigns whilst others were similarly ignored?

It seems that to enable ‘Chinese’ culture to take the credit for everything, all difference was put down long enough for the former to deliver results. And thereafter, this serves as the reason for the continued ignorance of difference - which in turn delivered a docile enough population that required the importation of foreigners to get around said docility for economic prudence.

But i suppose that, in a particular twist, Lee is right. It is ‘hard to overcome cultural instinct’. Given China’s monocultural and ‘one way or the highway’ history, the first reaction of those socialised within it is to go by tradition as opposed to reason, and to be averse to difference in favour of familiarity.

In the longer run, Singapore, and Lee, has sent a clear signal to China to keep on with its monocultural ways. In controlled conditions, in Singapore, he had showed the west that the east need not follow the multicultural route for economic affluence. And China, seeing this, is validated as is and as was. We are on the verge of a greater Chinese union throughout the region. India, being multicultural since before the time of Christ, is too busy being accommodating to appreciate this. And the west, led by the elite, recognises the capitalist ethos of the Confucian/Legalist amalgam in delivering consumers and labourers with greater ease. Hence, i wasn’t surprised that Obama just about handed south east Asia to China.

Ah well, i’ve said this for the record, as nobody else in Singapore have a multiculturally-induced intelligence enough to realise this. Optimism? A few hundred years before it becomes a nation? Yes, i'm sure, but by which time, the only distinction between the 'Chinese' and those who aren't will be only skin deep - which it already seems to be the case - excluding ed of course. I suppose Lee is just playing for time. It's always nice to put off integration for the future so that it might be deemed to be achieved by both the majority and assimilated minorities in a time when people are underdeveloped enough not to know better. But then again, that has just about been achieved.




  1. Very well put Sir Ed!
    The present policies certainly gives the Chinese a good lead over the other races. If these policies still continue than the minority races will take many more years to keep abreast with the Chinese.As you enlighteningly put it Sir,'Lee is just playing for time.' - sadsack

  2. Thanks for appreciating the view SadSack :)

    Just to add, the ethnic minorities, in 'keeping abreast' with the chinese, will also be conforming to their vision of 'what is'. Both will not be able to gain from cultural and perspectival integration and ethnic minorities will gradually be minorities in sight but not thought - for instance, i've met more Indians these days who know where one might find great hokkien mee or carrot cake but look blank when i talk politics;)

    Another thing as well. Ethnic minorities might even become less than the Chinese. Not only would they cease to be truly Malay or Indian, they will also have their aspirations cut by viewing this or that profession as 'a chinese thing'. So, overtime, they might begin to do less than the chinese. For instance, whilst one might find more Indian photographers back in the 70s and 80s, you don't see much these days. The same applies in quite a few arenas.

    Overtime, discrimination can deliver inferiority amongst ethnic minorities and thus come across as if they had always been that way and that the chinese have always been ahead - which, in quite a few respects is true in the inverse in the past.



Post a comment

The Inquisitive venture is a collaborative one. Let's collaborate.

Ad hominem is fine so long as it is accompanied with an argument, as opposed to being confused for an argument. In the latter case, deletion will follow.

Popular posts