Miss Singapore World, an Indian? It’s about time!

Beauty is in difference and not indifferent to difference.
Frankly, i was getting tired of seeing yellow-skinned, relatively small-nosed, quite-bridgeless females hogging the limelight in the sexploitative arena of ‘beauty’ pagents. Nothing wrong with being yellow-skinned, relative small-nosed, and quite bridgeless of course. But i’m the sort of bloke who likes a real spicy-enough-to-make-your-head-sweat sambal(Malay word for a spicy chilli dish) to go with my hor fun(chinese noodle dish). Beauty is in difference and not indifferent to difference.


The Singaporeans of today already make the monumental mistake of mistaking the present ‘singapore culture’ for the culture of all singaporeans as opposed to appreciating it as the culture that is left over after chinese culture is elevated and promoted over all others. That is why i personally welcome the influx of new foreigners (the singaporeans of today tend to be pretty amnesiac about their own origins - save the Malays whose ancestors are the original and non-foreign inhabitants of the country.) Perhaps, the infusion of different perspectives and a climate where the ‘chinese way’ isn’t the only highway, might do much in leading people to think out of the box. After all, the reason why Indians from the subcontinent are relatively quicker, logical, and multiangular thinkers is, largely, due to their being afforded the discomfort of having to re-evaluate norms given an ever-changing and highly variable cultural milieu.

Whether an Indian is representing singapore in a global pageant means little to one who can’t get a job because s/he doesn’t speak Mandarin; or children who are continuously taught to undervalue themselves because the Chinese are preferred or cast in preferable roles and not others; or to those who chance uppon a tourist information board in Syed Alwi Road in Little India and are ‘informed‘ on all that the Chinese did there whilst the Indians are presented as mere props in a wholly Chinese theatre. This must be the beginning, not an excuse to not appreciate more.
So now, we have an Indian with pretty un-chinese features and color in the limelight. It’s about bloody time! I’m tired of Chinese from China working in singapore, and even those i encounter in the UK, refusing the believe that i’m from singapore because i’m not chinese. The government has done a pretty good job in serving as the advance force in colonising singapore for China and presenting the state as a chinese one to the rest of the world via their Singapore airlines waitresses commonly known as ‘Singapore girls’; the Chinese design of their tourist promotion site some years back; the singapore blogawards being presented as a chinese event; holding foreigner-integration ceremonies on chinese new year; celebrating the Chinese New Year all across the state whilst other cultural celebrations are kept to their traditional enclaves; promoting chinese culture throughout the country whilst ‘for the sake of unity’ banning the tudung in schools; putting Chinese characters on the ‘Singapore Flyer’ during Chinese New Year - singapore’s version of the London Eye - and the list goes on and on and on. Being an egalitarian, i naturally baulk at such fascist nonsense.

However, now, i must nod my head in approval at the selection of Anusha for the Miss World nonsense. We are presented, finally, with another version of ‘beauty’. I’ve heard, often enough, the Chinese saying things like, ‘wah, that Indian girl very beautiful. She very fair.’ To which, in recent years, when i realised that to be tolerant is to be complicit in the evils it might reinforce, I would respond with a, ‘so she’s beautiful because she’s fair? So if she isn’t fair, then not beautiful?’ Of course, they always get taken back as they do not practice a culture ‘second-guessing’ the norm - unlike, say, the Indians, Japanese, or Brits (The Japanese , most admirably, practice a culture of ‘asking why 5 times’ whilst the Chinese practice a culture of not employing anyone who asks why. Not surprising that the former are well known for being innovators whilst the latter are world renown for copying them.)

I never thought that Indians were exceptionally beautiful, or more beautiful than the Chinese or those of any other 'race'. But I do think that all races, in the variance of their features, teach us how to appreciate the many faces of beauty, and through the perspectives they all impart, we are in a better position to appreciate beauty in itself.
But, to be fair, i’ve heard many Indians spout such nonsense as well. And they, unlike the Chinese, are not let off so easily by myself - and especially since they tend to engage with criticism or a difference in perspective as opposed to just shrugging it off. With a couple of singaporean Indians, some years ago, this discussion carried on for more than an hour and we agreed, amongst others, that the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ with white vs. black can only be logically confined to the former being more easy to spot in the dark whilst the latter is easier to spot during the day; and that when it comes to certain expressions, those whom are less ‘fair’ have an advantage due to the contrast between, say, the colour of their eyes and teeth and their skin tone. I also added that Indians and Africans, amongst others, do not have a ‘dark’ colour but a richer one whilst the ‘whites’ and chinese, amongst others, are not ‘fair’ but subtly-toned. The usage of dark and fair, because of its being associated with right and wrong, and other historically-inherited values arising out of class discrimination (darker skinned people being thought inferior not because of their skin color, but their skin colour being a product of having to work for a living as opposed to fairer-skinned people living on the fruits of their work under the shade of a tree of palace), amongst others. It was an interesting discussion and was on par with the discussions i’ve had with the Brits on a host of other topics.(it was this that contributed to my noticing the perspectival and intellectual contrast between the chinese and others, and which in turn led me to wonder after the political-cultural causes for it.)

But sharing the same approach toward color as the Chinese only tended to disadvantage all the Indians as a whole whether they were ‘dark’ or ‘fair’. You see, the penchant for one’s ‘own color’, also reinforces the generic tendency to ‘prefer our own’. In that, a fair Indian may be ‘fair’ like the chinese, but s/he is still ‘not our own’. Hence, the ‘fair’ Indian may be ‘more preferred’ but not ‘as preferred’(as the chinese). Bigotry in one arena, such as color, always tends to reinforce one generic bigotry and further strengthen subsidiary forms of bigotry. Transporting to singapore the colour bias of the Indians of the subcontinent, thus, led to the marginalisation of the lot of them. However relatively smart the Indians of the subcontinent are, this colour bias severely compromises the further fruition of their culturally endowed proficiencies.

So, getting back to this Miss Singapore World nonsense. The selection of an Indian who isn’t very ‘fair’ is a good thing as it serves as an ‘equally good alternative’ and casts the state-reinforced ‘chinese preferred’ approach as nothing but an alternative as opposed to the summum bonum of civilisation. Whilst i’m still averse to the ‘beauty’ pageants for presenting one version of beauty as the criteria by which all beauty should be judged - such as the height and figure requirement - it is unfortunate that we have to rely on an evil to promote a good. I’m well aware that the usage of an evil to promote a good tends to incorporate all into an evil - such as women being given equality and becoming as bad as men.

Well, i hope that this small event will serve as one, albeit lilliputian, step toward teaching all within s.e.Asia that the path to self-realisation is constructed with a host of materials as opposed to being defined by those who sashay on it.Well, i hope that this small event will serve as one, albeit lilliputian, step toward teaching all within s.e.Asia that the path to self-realisation is constructed with a host of materials as opposed to being defined by those who sashay on it. I am not satisfied by ‘figurehead’ concessions in the face of general discrimination. Whether an Indian is representing singapore in a global pageant means little to one who isn't able to get a job because s/he doesn’t speak Mandarin despite English being the first language in the state; or children who are continuously taught to assimilate to the Chinese, or to undervalue themselves because the Chinese are preferred or cast in preferable roles and not others; or to those who chance uppon a tourist information board in Syed Alwi Road in Little India and are ‘informed‘ on all that the Chinese did there whilst the Indians are presented as mere props in a wholly Chinese theatre. This must be the beginning, not an excuse to not appreciate more. Perhaps, then, we might see the chinese appreciating things even though it is different and not as publicised. Reminds me of the old and humble Chinese ladies I encountered in my younger days whom tended to think that Indians were beautiful because of their relatively pronounced features.

I never thought that Indians were exceptionally beautiful, or more beautiful than the Chinese or those of any other 'race'. But I do think that all races, in the variance of their features, teach us how to appreciate the many faces of beauty, and through the perspectives they all impart, we are in a better position to appreciate beauty in itself.


[thanks to Vanessa Neo for bringing this event to my attention]


ed

1 comment:

  1. Good observation and thanks to you and Vanessa, for letting the ignorant open up their biased closed thoughts.

    eagleye

    ReplyDelete

The Inquisitive venture is a collaborative one. Let's collaborate.

Ad hominem is fine so long as it is accompanied with an argument, as opposed to being confused for an argument. In the latter case, deletion will follow.

Blogger Template by Clairvo