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A conservative country? Really? June 1, 2009

Posted by laïcité in Liberalism v Conservativism, Singapore, Society.
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Singapore is a conservative country with a conservative majority who believe in traditional Asian values. That’s what we’ve always been told by the government and by the vocal conservatives who appear ever so often in the form of letters to the press, or personified by our “feminist mentor” herself, Dr Thio Su Mien. But how many of us actually are self-proclaimed conservatives? I honestly do not even know one person in real life who would be a prototypical example of a conservative who blames homosexuals and fornicators for the erosion of family values.

 The truth is, these people form a small but vocal minority in Singapore. It is they who assume that they hold the moral authority to represent the views and interests of all Singaporeans, and the government has nothing to lose by helping to perpetuate this convenient little generalization. After all, what else does conservativism entail but the discouragement of the questioning of authority, political or otherwise?

 But in everyday life, and even in little snippets covered in the press, we see signs that such conservative beliefs are anything but universal in Singapore. We don’t see the average Singaporean in a moral panic over the legal status of abortion, or homosexuality, or some other evil liberal scapegoat of the month. We don’t see couples divorcing or families breaking up as a direct result of these liberal evils. Neither do we see the average parent up in arms over the labeling of homosexuality as, god forbid, “neutral”, instead of the more acceptable “evil” or “abomination”. (My era of sex education was over a decade ago and even my parents didn’t have anything negative or positive to say about homosexuality. PS: neither negative nor positive = neutral)

 Instead, we are seeing the slow and steady growth of a liberal voice. The triumph of the Aware’s old guard over the conservative Christian steeplejackers, the public demonstration in support of tolerance and love regardless of sexuality during the Pink Dot event at Hong Lim park, and the numerous opinions expressed on the web and in the press during the s377a and Aware sagas all indicate that the liberals are not to be dismissed as a radical minority. We are not a bunch of crazy hippies; we are heartlanders, professionals, students, parents, children, religious, nonreligious, gay, straight… and we are being alienated when the conservatives claim to represent the views of all Singaporeans.

 Of course in no way am I implying that Singapore is a liberal country. I’m pretty certain we have a number of conservatives and liberals, a whole bunch of moderates, and a huge percentage of citizens who couldn’t care less about the legalization of homosexual sex or freedom of speech. The political, social and economic schools of thought that Singaporeans subscribe to are more diverse than we are led to believe: There are conservatives who create panic over the “decline of the family”, but there are also liberals denouncing discrimination against the LBGT community. There are authoritarianists who criticize anti-government opinions, but there are also anarchists who fight against excessive government control. There are capitalists who seek to benefit from free trade, but there are also socialists who demand more rights for workers.

 So who are conservatives to assert that they represent the opinions of the majority of Singapore? If the Pink Dot, or the Aware saga, or the liberal opinions in the press and on the Internet are not enough to illustrate that Singapore’s society consists of legitimate non-conservatives too, then what is? Perhaps that is the question that the vocal conservatives must answer before claiming to speak up for “our” conservative values.

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1. The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 2 Jun 2009 - June 2, 2009

[…] Takeover Aftermath – Laïcité – Secularity and Secularism: A conservative country? Really? – Article 14: Secularism – recycling an old article for the page 73 girl – Today In Singapore: […]

2. Seelan Palay - June 3, 2009

Hi friend, I found your writings well thought out and written so I forward your blog to be on the feature list of http://singaporedaily.net/ (one of Singapore’s top blog aggregation sites).

Just informing you that the above entry by you is including in their aggregation for June 2nd.

laïcité - June 3, 2009

Hi Seelan, thanks for your kind support! :)


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