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Singaporeans have no identity?

Hi everyone

Just last week, I happened to watch Face-2-Face, a Channel NewsAsia talk programme in which eight locally known personalities discussed an issue dear to the hearts of Singaporeans. The topic was "Singaporeans Have No Identity".

All eight were unanimous in agreeing that Singaporeans did not have an identity. One participant, poet Kirpal Singh, argued that Memory, Metaphor, Ritual & Myth were the four factors necessary for constituting a national identity.

As I was merely watching the programme at home, there was no way for me to add my two cents worth. I am sure there were many others, like me, who had a thing or two to say but could only watch passively as the discussion progressed to a close.

If I were to go by Kirpal's guidelines, I can never convince anyone that we Singaporeans have an identity. In the first instance, we are not a homogenous people, for unlike the Japanese, we are multi-racial in our make-up. So, if we were to follow his argument, we can never proclaim ourselves as having a national identity because there is no way for Singaporeans to ever clear that hurdle.

But, then, I remember - rules and guidelines are set by men so that they can have a benchmark which is generally acceptable to all and sundry. So, I thought to myself - why not we have our very own guidelines for multi-racial Singapore. I looked up the term "identity" in the dictionary. It says, "the identity of a people is the characteristics that they have which distinguish them from others".

So what do we Singaporeans have that distinguish us from others? I came up with some factors - both good and bad. I am sure you can identify with them as I describe them to you.

1. You have no doubt heard of the term "ugly Singaporeans", haven't you? Apparently, this label was stuck on Singaporeans by others both in and outside Singapore. 

2. We are quite "kiasu" by habit. We want to be the first in line for anything.

3. Regardless of our race, we have a common communication medium known as Singlish - that strange language we created to bond with other Singaporeans.

4. We have a common liking for the use of acronyms - PUB, HDB, MRT, SIA, and the lot.

5. We have a common love for certain food, such as chicken rice, roti prata, mee siam and laksa, which have - through the years - become identified as being dear to our Singaporean palates. 

6. Names of places, such as Toa Payoh, Ang Mo Kio, Plaza Singapura, Marina Square and Centrepoint, conjure up memories in us all. For instance, we remember the Centrepoint kids. This goes to show we Singaporeans share a common memory of these places which have watched us grow up as well as grow old.

What I have just mentioned is but a sprinkling of the characteristics which make us Singaporeans unique to our kind and which set us apart from others in the eyes of foreigners who happen to cross paths with us. These foreigners know how to identify Singaporeans. They use the yardstick which I have listed earlier. Similarly, we Singaporeans can recognise fellow Singaporeans while we are holidaying in other countries.  

That means, simply, we do have an identity, regardless of what discussion panels may say about us Singaporeans. But, actually, there's no real need for me to get involved in all these discussions or arguments. You see, I carry an identity card with me where ever I go. It identifies me as a Singapore citizen - a Singaporean. That's enough proof for me that as a Singaporean I have an identity. And that's what matters to me anyway. Don't you agree with me? 

Have a good week ahead!




Enjoy  New community section for Singaporeans based overseas and foreign expats.

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Dare - newest women's magazine

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SARS - A Nation's Tribute: PM Goh Chok Tong


Singapore-Malaysia Updates

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Public Holidays DEEPAVALI is the next public holiday. It falls on 24 October 2003.


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11 August 2003

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