Cultural Cleansing in Singapore & the Plight of Chinese-lookalikes

Upon being included in a multicultural nation, one's culture becomes what one can be given new input, and not just what one was for lack of new input.

The following was meant to be a comment at a Singaporean site which equated ‘cultural cleansing’ with the shutting down of Chinese schools and ‘Nantah’. But, I thought it would do better as a standalone article.

Here goes,

'Cultural cleansing'? I dare say that the 'cultural cleansing' that took place occurred in the form of taking away the potential from 'Chinese-lookalikes' to be Malay, Indian and Chinese in culture, and therefore ‘Singaporean’ in race. In anything, the shutting down of Chinese schools and etc, is more of ‘cultural emancipation’ as opposed to ‘cultural cleansing’ as it bode quite well for becoming more as opposed to becoming the same. But, this was not to be.

Upon being included in a multicultural nation, one's culture becomes what one can be given new input, and not just what one was for lack of new input. Cultural replicationism is acceptable given relatively isolated circumstances. Hence, I wouldn’t look askance at the continuity of Chinese culture in China, or Indian culture in India, or Malay culture in Malay regions (though it must be stated that Malay culture is part Indian as they saw significant input from south Indians during the period known as the ‘Indianisation of s.e.Asia’).

However, in Singapore, the shutting down of Chinese schools and Nantah cannot be viewed as ‘cultural cleansing’, not by a long-shot delivered via the most technologically advanced trebuchet. In fact, what actually transpired with the shutting down of these was that it transitioned into less visible forms and which seemed less exclusive given the rationale, however nonsensical, supplied. i.e. SAP school system, ‘Mandarin is cool’ and ‘Chinese culture is worth promoting over others’ campaigns, proscription on non-chinese/malay/indian-lookalikes from learning each other’s language, etc. This enabled the shift from Chinese ‘communist’ influence (which theoretically threatened the idea of elitism) to Confucian influence (which maintained it at all levels from the familial, race, political, etc). In other words, this signalled a perspectival shift from ‘China 1949’ to ‘China 221 b.c.’. How nice.

Getting back to the scope of this observation, as stated, the ‘cultural cleansing’ that took place deprived the Chinese-lookalikes from doing what ought to be done in the face of new information. Adaptation and Integration. Or in Piagetian terms, ‘Assimilation and Accomodation’. That is where old formulae for understanding things is reformulated in view of new information, and in the Singaporean context, this would translate to fusion and dialectical interaction with Malay and Indian cultures and perspectives. Unfortunately, as Confucian/Legalist culture helped to reinforce the longevity of the Chinese Imperium for more than 2000 years, it was thought to serve well as the elixir of political immortality in singapore, and thus brought back with much rabid vigour. The proscription on race/religion-based parties enabled the government to become, in view of their policies, a ‘Chinese party’ promoting China’s values, first in the guise of ‘asian values’, and then, as ‘confucian values’, before Lee could finally announce that in a couple of generations, Mandarin would be the ‘mother tongue’. And the Chinese-lookalikes kept quite about much of this as they weren’t at the disadvantaged end, and because they were fast becoming associated with China’s culture by the government simply because they looked like them. Thus, the Chinese-lookalikes were deprived of the perspectival progress that comes with fusion with other perspectives. In singapore, that took the form of being deprived of inputs such as the communality and animated vibrancy of the Malays, and the analytical and perspectival vibrancy of the Indians (borne of 3000 years of cultural and philosophical flux, and oppositional movements and varying types of humanitarianism…its in the history, take a look.) (This doesn't apply to the English-speaking Chinese lookalikes I hung out with in church as an alter-boy in the 70s whom were really wonderful people in terms of being highly empathetic, considerate, intelligent, creative, thoughtful and quite witty - the Indians and Eurasians were heading the developmental trajectory as they were relatively more multicultural in origin. I still remember their names... Colin Foo, Joseph Goh, Uncle Sunny, Paul Goh, Gilbert Lim, Michael Tan...they were quite typical examples of cultural fusion. It's really unfortunate that what could have been a relatively 'uniquely Singaporean' cultural production process was thereafter 'outsourced' to Confucian China.)

So the logic is simple enough. We do not maintain a childish perspective in perpetuity simply because being a child is our point of origin. Instead, we value ourselves in terms of making the most of other potentials that comprises the human persona despite the proclivities of the child in us. In other words, we grow up. And ‘growing up’ is not just reaching an age where we are able create clones of ourselves in the womb of another and feed it thereafter, but in taking on board all information necessary to bring about a goodness-of-fit between our formulae for comprehending reality and reality. That is when we can enjoy maximal development and give ourselves a pat on the posterior saying that we’ve done our best – multiculturalism was and is singapore’s greatest and untapped resource.

Cultural replicationism, like replicating China’s culture in singapore, or keeping Britain ‘white’, or keeping a patriarchal society, well, patriarchal, turns a starting point from a springboard into a headstone. In such a situation, what actually takes place is not that we take on all available information, but we, or rather, those controlling the means of socialisation, ensure that information that contradicts the promoted culture is eradicated. In that, the same mindset that it took to produce a culture is replicated - hence, my proposition that the replication of a culture replicates the perspectival conditions that led to its emergence.

So, overtime, the Chinese-lookalikes in singapore were ‘reunited’ with the Chinese of ancient times whilst difference was clamped down on to the point that, as I had stated in a previous observation, one might see Indians, but not hear them as just about all the ‘Indians’ that I’ve encountered over the past decade are just about as Confucian as the next. In fact, you could say that most Indians are now ‘Indian-lookalikes’ compared to the Indians of the subcontinent. The Malays, however, have maintained their perspectival integrity quite well, but given the lack of space for this to be expressed through integration, equal respectful observance as afforded China’s culture, its promoted social irrelevance has hindered it from flowering in the fertile soil of multiculturalism that makes more of all via the egalitarian respect and attention of all. The Indians, given their paradoxical ‘intellectual individualism-cum-accommodation of new information’, could not depend on communality as could the Malays, and thus, after the Chinese-lookalikes had their neural pathways culturally connected to the post-Qin Chinese through Confucianism and Legalism and become the first victims of cultural cleansing in singapore, the Indians became the next to become Confucians.

So if the Chinese were culturally cleansed in singapore, it is not because of the shutting down of Chinese schools or ‘Nantah’ or etc. Rather, the renaissance of China’s culture caused the Chinese-lookalikes to be cleansed of the further development of their potentials past the childhood of cultures developed in a less globalised ancient world. In a relatively insulated past, being Chinese or Malay is the most we can be given said insulation. Thus, learning and replicating such cultures is an ‘adult’ act. But in a globalised world, these cultural legacies makes us children in the face of more cultural information. When the Chinese-lookalikes were detracted from appreciating these through a host of campaigns and pogroms by the Confucian/Legalist government of singapore in the face of difference, they were banished to childhood in perpetuity along with the Malays and Indians in that the culture of their biological ancestors in China was brought in to serve as a perspectival ceiling instead of springboard.

Oddly enough, I decided to plonk myself in the United Kingdom because the people here, as are the people of India, amongst others, remind me of what singaporeans could have become if the Chinese-lookalikes were not associated with China’s culture simply because they looked like them, and had become part of a multicultural race of Singaporeans - which will now probably never be of course.



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