Creating an inclusive, multidimensional society of Singapore
There has always been a struggle with Singapore’s national identity; Being strongly shaped by a crisis discourse centred on the struggle for survival and security. This discourse is geared towards reminding Singaporeans of the vulnerabilities associated with being a predominantly Chinese city-state surrounded by larger, densely populated, resource rich and potentially hostile Malay states. The acrimonious nature of Singapore’s merger and separation from Malaysia, continued reliance on neighbouring countries for even the most basic necessities such as water and food, experience of Indonesia’s low-intensity Konfrontasi military campaign and communal riots in the 1950s and 60s, and persistence of regional ethno nationalist sentiments have contributed to the PAP leadership’s acute insecurity. These factors have, according to Deck, ‘created a near paranoid cluster of communal security attitudes in Singapore’ (Deck, 1999:251). Driven by these insecurities, survival has become a ‘one word political slogan’ that has underpinned the PAP’s reading of Singapore’s many national Challenges. (Deck, 1999:251; Chan, 1971:48)
People may always view Singapore as the ‘Perfect’ most expensive city in the world. As a small island, Singapore’s government always had a hardline on publicity- They would not allow any mistakes, it is very controlled, terrified of image and the media. Hence in the public and other countries, they will always show off their best image, to create their national identity, creating an inclusive, multidimensional society in the eyes of others, but also themselves.
Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew was quoted as saying in the book Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going: “My definition of a Singaporean, which will make us different from any others, is that we accept that whoever joins us is a part of us. And that’s an American concept. You can keep your name, Brzezinski, Berlusconi, whatever it is, you have come, join me, you are American. We need talent. We accept them. That must be our defining attribute.”
There are not only one, but many ways Singapore has dealt with their identity crisis. With the use and projection of buildings, waterfront and commercial hubs (casinos and hotels), how Marina Bay was first reclaimed and pinpointed in the 1970s to help create the new image of Singapore after decolonization, becoming independent from Malaysia. As well as national branding through SAF (Singapore Armed Forces), and finally the big day where Singapore hits half a century – SG50. Singapore has long made a big show of National Day, with aerial acrobatic feats by the Singapore Air Force, tanks and war machines, as well as dance performances on floats. But for many of the residents –Singaporean or otherwise – the parade and fireworks were usually more a sight to behold than something to induce patriotic enthusiasm.
Nonetheless, it can be simply said that Singapore has done a decent job in displaying their national identity through the use of publicity and media, and with the help of their national military forces also in strengthening the younger generations. The strong national identity builds a sense of belonging among Singaporeans, striving to nurture a gracious and resilient nation, whose people remain rooted and loyal to Singapore in the face of globalization and in times of crises.
Rahim, Lily Zubaidah. Singapore in the Malay World: Building and Breaching Regional Bridges. London: Routledge, 2009.