Unless you’ve been living in a box somewhere, you’ll know that it’s elections time in Singapore and for me, it’s exciting because it brings out all the issues and topics that usually go unnoticed (or less noticed) at other times. Bloggers start blogging more and I get to read more thought-provoking stuff.
There is no one perfect political party so while one may admire certain aspects of one party, there will most certainly be areas in which that same party fails (or is less than acceptable for the person) in. So as I ponder my election votes (and in where I live, there will surely be a contest), here are the issues that are close to my heart.
Straddling two races isn’t the easiest thing to do in Singapore (and if you’re my parents who are reading this, please don’t feel bad/guilty) and when your official, printed-on-your-IC race is a minority one, things get even more complicated. I don’t like people questioning what race I am. I don’t like how it is compulsory I reveal my race when I complete forms. I don’t like how people judge me and my accomplishments based on my race.
I hate the continued focus on separating Singaporeans by race. As someone of mixed race, I often feel ignored and often feel like people need me to choose one race to belong to. As someone who belongs to the minority race, I often face discrimination, both blatant and subtle. As someone who looks like she belongs to the majority race, I see discrimination by them almost everywhere. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, the fact that there is a refusal to do anything about the SAP schools or to racially-divided self-help groups (which self-help group do I go to?) tells me that race will always play a big part in our society. Divide and conquer?
And yet, although there is this need to publicise education results by race (suggesting that our racial make-up determines our success or lack of academically), there is little help or consideration given to the minority race that appears to be lagging behind. No one seems to care that there are likely to be structural or deep-seated societal issues that lead to the minority race always lagging behind. Oh no – it’s their laziness, their lack of discipline. If only life is so simple.
Basically, beyond all my ranting, I don’t like how we emphasise race in our society and yet, keep insisting that race has nothing to do with it.
It should come as no surprise that what happens in the education system is something that is important to me. I do think that we have a pretty solid education system but as Singapore’s society’s income gap gets bigger, my feeling is that we are neglecting those who don’t have the money or the smarts to get into expensive independent schools. For all our claims of meritocracy, all schools are not equal and that bugs me.
What also bugs me is the emphasis on examinations to the neglect of everything else. I don’t like it when teachers focus only on the examinations and I definitely don’t like it when students see examinations as the only reason to study. Unfortunately, this view is drilled into us from young and is not easy to change.
Minority Groups, Discrimination, Social Welfare & Meritocracy
I suppose the common thread is that I feel that we don’t care enough for those who are disadvantaged. When I was younger, I bought into the whole “if you work hard, you will succeed” message that is sent out. And luckily for me, that was the case – I worked hard and now, I’ve a fairly comfortable life. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for everyone and this message that is sent out, I think, can be very detrimental. People don’t succeed for a variety of reasons and a lack of hard work isn’t it. But when you go round and tell people that success is simply a matter of working hard, you suggest that their lack of success is a direct result of their own short-comings.This is fine if everyone is born equal but not everybody is. Don’t pretend that being born into a financially well-off family, being born not disabled or being born a majority race doesn’t help.
And I guess my biggest beef with what is happening today is the lack of understanding, compassion and care for those of us who do not fit the Singapore success story. If you are old, poor, gay, foreign, a single parent etc, you don’t belong to the mainstream and you don’t matter. And that’s the saddest part of all – how cold, pragmatic and uncaring we have become.