A timebomb ticking

Friday � April 25, 2008 CHITRA RAJARAM Deputy Editorial Director chitrarajaram@mediacorp.com.sg ARE Singaporeans racially sensitive as a society? Do we merely tolerate each other or do we really understand and care about the different races and sensitivities in our midst. While we pride ourselves as one people, one nation, one Singapore; I am not sure there is real depth of understanding at all when it comes to racial sensitivities. My recent experience with public transport is testimony to this. I drive to work four days a week and every Friday I take taxis, sometimes even in the wee hours of the morning. I have to confess, I have been appalled at the lack of sensitivity by taxi drivers. Why? Every time I had gotten into a taxi, it was to blaring music in a language I do not understand. The first few times, I kept quiet and endured the "noisy" journey back home. But once, after a 14-hour exhausting work day, I refused to take it any longer. When I told the driver to turn off the music, he told me he had to listen to it because it gave him traffic updates!... As a Singaporean, I find such behaviour rude and somewhat odd. We have grown up here on the mantra of four races. We have inter-religious organisations (IROs) to build understanding and tolerance. We also have celebrations of the four main festivals.... But my experience is not uncommon in societies where there are predominantly majority societies. The hegemonic behaviours of such groups of people is not extraordinary. But it is the minorities in these communities who perpetuate this hegemonic behaviour by adopting "paths of least resistance", one of which is silence. Once the sounds of silence set in, then the behaviours transcend from the personal, to the state and systemic levels. Admittedly, the Government has recognised this and has provided many avenues for us to be sensitive and sensitised to our innate differences. However, we are products of the socio-cultural systems we are born into and learn these traits in our social context, traits which are not biologically determined. So, we as a society (majority and minority) need to unlearn and reconstruct ourselves. How? To put it simply, we need to challenge ourselves, speak up when we are uncomfortable and reconstruct the social dynamics of our society � then we will truly be one people, one nation, one Singapore. Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved. The above article is an early sign of the stresses building up in our society. It is good that it is being aired for if kept unspoken and unchecked, it will blow up in the most unexpected and ugly way. I have personally witnessed a few cases of citizens finding one another annoying in SMRT, and they spoke up, with their fists. If we cannot appreciate the intensity of this tension, we should expedite it by increasing the population at a faster speed and hit our 6 mil or 7 mil target quicker. Then everything will become real for all to see and experience. Our 40 years of nation building is going to go under with this thoughtless influx of superficial residents that would want their rights to be different in our own home.


Anonymous said...

"I have to confess, I have been appalled at the lack of sensitivity by taxi drivers. Why? Every time I had gotten into a taxi, it was to blaring music in a language I do not understand."

Or perhaps he is being too racially sensitive. Ironic isn't it, that it was him who couldn't tolerate racial differences.

When he desensitizes himself to the point that such gestures are no longer deemed offensive but as rich humane multicultural expression to be celebrated - there will no longer be lack of racial sensitivities.

Anonymous said...

Do people seriously expect taxi drivers in Korean to air radio programmes in their language of choice?

redbean said...

the taxi drivers are just taxi drivers. some are just a bit dull. some want to make a statement or a point. it is not easy to live in a multi racial society. we went through 40 years of nation building. and as we are getting use to each other, some bright spark thought it is a smart move to have more foreigners and at a pace that will quickly destroy the mood of 40 years of adaptation. now my feeling is that the new residents are much more demanding and care two hoot about the locals and will make their demands on the belief that we owe them a living and the locals must appease them.

just when things are settling down, everything is starting to boil again.

Matilah_Singapura said...

This guy is an idiot. A hung-up insecure and immature idiot as well.

All you have to do is ask the cabbie to turn off the music. If you do this politely, it will always be done. I do thei ALL the time, as I hate loud music.

"Race" is the worst from of collectivism -- it takes away the sovereignty of the individual and forces people into "catagories".

If someone seems "insensitive" to your presence, all it takes is to remind that person politely and gently that you are "there", and make your request. Most people are reasonable. But if you exude hostility and start the "rascist' card, look out, you'll bring on unwelcome consequences.

Anonymous said...

> just when things are settling down,
> everything is starting to boil
> again.

But redbean, there's no racism on the part of the cab driver at all.

"But my experience is not uncommon in societies where there are predominantly majority societies. The hegemonic behaviours of such groups of people is not extraordinary."

The only form of hegemonic behavior exhibited in this incident is by Rajaram, who wants people to conform to what he wants. This done in the name of 'racial sensitivities'. This is just intolerance and bigotry couched in sophisticated language. Racism under the veneer of anti-racism.

Anonymous said...

So it is alright for everyone to accept the cultural behavior of a particular race even though it intrudes into our very personal lives. Why must there be so much obnoxious smoke that burns throughout the entire day and night that pervades our homes and wherever we go and we have to endure it? This is healthy, when there are so many people young and old that has asthma?

Or HDB residents who knows better but ignore the fact that they are not allowed to own large dogs or more than one. Those who walk their dog and allow it to poop without picking up the litter. Those with large dogs unleashed in public parks who think their dogs are harmless. They probably are, but to other people who for reasons of their own object to this, do they have to accept this? There are some people afraid of dogs due to past personal bad experience when they were bitten, or have an innate fear of dogs, they would like to see them leashed. Can these dog owners understand why they have to leashed their dogs in public places?

I can give many examples of why Singaporeans are insensitve people, and I would say the Chinese people are particularly bad. I am a Chinese born in Singapore and until today, I simply cannot accept the insensitivity of my race to other humans.

On a personal level, I have observes the obnoxious behavior of the overseas Chinese and it appears to be universal, whether in Philippines or Indonesia.

Anonymous said...

"So it is alright for everyone to accept the cultural behavior of a particular race even though it intrudes into our very personal lives."

You're stupid if you think playing Chinese music if a form of intrusion. And stop tarring smokers or dog owners as if they were all Chinese.

Anonymous said...

Please check before making any references. It was stated as HDB residents, not Chinese residents. By stating the poster is stupid shows your own personal lack of tolerance. Your lack of comprehension re-smoke refers to the incessant Chinese ancestor worship that requires descendants to burn things (the more the merrier) and not to cigarette smokers. Is it not obvious to all that cigarette smoking does not confine itself only to a particular race? No? Please read again if you cannot grasp what was actually said.

Anonymous said...

fuck em mutants.

Anonymous said...

re: anon 10:12 - your posts starts off as a rant against HDB residents, then targets the ethnic Chinese grouping SPECIFICALLY. And I find your ambitious generalizations to be offensive.

So are we mutually accusing one another for lack of racial sensitivity?

lol this is fun

redbean said...

i will consider most of us here are in a better position to look at things from a bigger perspective. and we can differentiate and distinguish the perpetrators of silly things like uncouth and unreasonable behaviour by some people without stereoyping. we could also appreciate why the less educated or illiterate or the unthinking would do things that are offensive, knowingly or unknowingly.

but as one anonymous pointed out, it is the author of that article that is intolerant, for he is a much well informed person who could rationalise things better but is putting the blame on a low life. sorry to use this term. we are not all the same and there are some whose behaviour are just too much to bear for others, regardless of their station in life. we have millionaires slapping stewardess or treating maids as slaves.

there were some coarse remarks about the uncouth behaviour of the Chinese, i am a chinese, so i would like to add a few words here. i always look at the chinese behaviour from the angle of history and economic devt. for the last few centuries, the chinese have been relegated to the station of farmers, peasants, and bandits. basically poor in the pocket and poor in the head. their behaviour are boorish. just look at what is promoted as a way of life in the movies, the way they drink and poor wines over their whole body as good taste will tell that these are peasant refinement. there are many bad examples of what were thought as good and acceptable behaviour but actually very crass.

but give them wealth and knowledge of what refined taste and behaviour are, after some time they will learn and veer away from being peasants. but many will remain as peasants and farmers to irritate others for sure.

good or bad behaviour, racial tolerance or intolerance transcend all races and social class. we are not very graceful as a people. only a few will move up and bloom like the lotus, but many will stay in the mud, and remain muddy and earthy.

Anonymous said...

Ranting against one's race is more acceptable otherwise the post will smack of originating from a racist. Of course as Redbean implied, you can take the people from the kampung but you cannot take the kampung from them.

Every race has their low life who is oblivious that there are their neighbours who deemed their behavior as socially unacceptable. Redbean has more or less elaborate on this aspect of Chinese behaviour. Just because we are Chinese does not prevent us from looking askance at ourselves before pointing out at other races.

Being the majority race in Singapore, we cannot claim to be tolerant as most minority races are not in the position to say much except to bear with such insensitivities.

Anonymous said...

The chinese displaced malays as the majority people of Singapore. Now, the wheel has come full circle, and the Singapore born Chinese are now being replaced by foreigners. Notice how much of the angst against FTs are coming from the Chinese. Now you know how the malays must hvae felt at one time. This is karmic retribution of epic proportions.

redbean said...

one thing i respect mahathir on such issues is that he is the only asean leader who could see who was really at fault. he does not blame the salt or sugar because the broth is too saltish or sweet. he blame the bugger who put the salt and sugar in.

the chinese and indians came to this part of the world with the blessing of the colonial masters. without the colonial masters, they may not be here or in that numbers.

i will say that it is terribly unfair to blame them for being here. for they came just for economic survival and nothing else. they did not set out to conquer or rule the locals.

the present situation is a legacy of the past. you would need to get past this mindset or you will be blaming the sugar and salt for your life. anyway, the chinese and indians did contribute to the general economic devt of the region.

now that we are all here, lets live and let live lah.

and whether it is chinese, indian or malay or orang puteh, there are the detestable among them with detestable manners and behaviour. there are also the decent ones.

Anonymous said...

Redbean, the malays have moved on and accepted our fellow chinese and indian citizens as equal stakeholders in the country. why dont you and the other whinging chinese singaporeans extend the same hospitality to the more recent arrivals to our shore ? by continuially harping on this broken record, youa re the one in danger of blaming the 'salt and sugar' for the rest of your life. go figure.

redbean said...

oh, my reply was in response to anonymous 1:11.

i am concerned about the future of singapore and the size of the population that we can hold. it is just like mother earth, 6b or 7b or 8b or a family of 5,6 or 10?

i think we are pushing our luck too far by asking for the population to grow to 6 or 7 mil. being greedy on this is opening ourselves to bigger problems. a 5 rm flat is good, a 8 rm bungalow is better. owning several bungalows is a different thing altogether. now they have abolished the estate duty. otherwise a big fortune will have to be coughed out when a person dies.

we better consolidate on our population size and grow gradually, and be selective in the quality of the new ciizens. adding another mil low life will bring another mil of low life problems.

i am never against foreign talents per se. do things carefully and thoughtfully. there is no rewinding of the clock, just like the british brought in the indians and chinese to the region.

Anonymous said...

There is no going back. that is right. now that the FTs are all here, why don't we all live and let live ? natural attrition will take care of any 'excess'. Why get so worked up over factors that are not in your control ?

redbean said...

that i disagree. if we don't kpkb, then we must prepare for 6-8 mil pop and an astronomical cost of living and many people begging for help.

this craziness must be stopped before it is too late.

Anonymous said...

The col is already astronomical. Don't think it can get any worse. You should have started to kpkb eleven years ago, when the floodgates were first opened. It is too late now. the FTs are now a permanent feature of the Singaporean demographic landscape.

Matilah_Singapura said...

I serious doubt anything we say on the net is going to make any difference in the real world.

S'pore will grow naturally in population--to what size, no one can say, because the whole process is a SPONTANEOUS ORDER, i.e. nature at work.

The reason S'pore is popular is because it is the undisputed favourite choice in SE Asia, perhaps in Asia. EVerything works, taxes are low, "open bordrs" policy means almost anyone can come to live nd work.

Even if you think the govt sucks ass, your next destination is a short cab ride away to Changi airport. Cheap airfares abound... so no one need feel that he or she is "imprisoned".

I'll guarantee that I'm not the only one around who thinks S'pore is a great HOTEL. You can come and go as you please, make as much money as you please, have as much sex as you please, eat and shop as you please...

...what more could I want, as an unrepentant materialistic infidel?

redbean said...

kpkb is just a past time and people can choose to listen or to ignore you. no problem and don't expect anything.

singapore is a great place and can be a great place but can go to the dogs any time if we are not careful.

there is no urgency to push everything to the limit in double quick time. better to move in a steady pace. let's not behave like gamblers and go for double or broke.

Matilah_Singapura said...

I don't expect anything. That's the point! Whether S'pore prevails or is sucked down the toilet like a smelly turd is not my concern, simply because it is BEYOND my control.

No one can control what the govt (any govt) does -- so don't even bother worring about it. The people get the govt they deserve, so nothing you say or do will have ANY effect.

8 million in S'pore? Bring it on. That means there'll simply be more women to have sex with. Ah... that I have at least some choice in. So, at least for me, "sex with women" definitely occupies a much higher priority than "oh-my-god-what-is-the-government-doing!?"