A reader had posted a comment in the Part 1 of this article, sharing that the Singaporeans need to take responsibility for our xenophobic attitudes as well. I agree and I have more to add as well. This was my response to her:
If I may add, as to why Singaporeans do not seem to exhibit accepting attitudes towards others, you are right and this isn’t just reflected in our attitudes towards foreigners, but also on our attitudes to other races and other populations as well.
There are two attributions to this – first – on the people themselves, and this is why the people need to be more aware and need to learn to look within and deeply to reflect on themselves and their own attitudes and second, this can be attributed to the government’s policies.
Why do I say this? The government’s policies of segregating the races, for one, has inevitable created a situation where the different races have as well a less understanding of one another. Whereas in our parent’s and grandparent’s time where they had close kinship with their fellow neighbours of all races, is this as prevalent in Singapore now?
Also, because discourse on racial and cultural issues are strongly frowned upon and the Singaporean society is not encouraged to reflect and think about social issues, because of laws in place which causes people to inhibit social and political thinking, it has bred a people whose ability to think critically and deeply is severely stunted.
So, when people judge another, do they step back and take the time to think about and understand why they judge another, and in doing so, learn not to do so? They don’t. In our culture where we’ve learnt to be look at things on the surface, we’ve inevitably created a people who judge because they think in reactionary ways and do not explore their reactions deeply.
Do I fault them? It has to be an equal share where both the government and the people play a part. But I would attribute more missteps to the government’s policies. You see, I know of some people who are able to learn to be aware, and it requires a mind that is willing to challenge the system and think beyond the system, to be able to then learn to identify with the fellow human person and to learn to understand what another person is going through, so that we can then learn to understand and accept them.
With government policies which causes undue stress among the people, where day in, day out, they have to think about their own survival, people are unlikely to spend time empathising with another. Not only that, nearly 50 years of controlled education and political landscape has created a people who have been severely limited in their minds and imaginations to be able to think otherwise. Yes, we might have a well-educated population, but one which is educated in hard sciences, where our ability to understand the human psyche and society has been severely compromised.
Do I fault the people for not being able to appreciate and accept differences? Yes, because we should try to break out of the mould and learn to think deeply about our own attitudes and learn to show acceptance to others. But, I would place most of the attribution on the government for refusing to overhaul or reform a system which has created people who are unthinking and obedient, and because of this, has created people who have become so sorely self-centred and self-protectionist. This government has to allow for people’s rights and autonomy to be respected if we are to move the Singaporean society into a first world society. We have a first world economy but hardly a first world government or society.
Do I fault our people for behaving like cultured barbarians when their government, which isn’t too far off, has set the tone and standards which they are made to abide by?