A timebomb ticking
Friday � April 25, 2008 CHITRA RAJARAM Deputy Editorial Director firstname.lastname@example.org 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.