What the bibulous men say to us

Almost every night, from around 9 or 10 p.m. on, there is a group of  three to six Indian men hanging about outside a 7-11 convenience store near my flat. They talk animatedly among themselves in Tamil with the occasional English or Malay word thrown in and by midnight, they are at least half-inebriated. I don’t go to the 7-11 often enough to know if they’re always the same men; all I can say is that I cannot remember any evening when, should I go to the 7-11, a group is not there.

It is obvious why they’ve chosen that spot. The 7-11 is the only place in the neighbourhood where they can get booze after the coffeeshops have closed.

One should not read into the scene any more than what I have described. It is very easy to infer that the men are disturbing the neighbourhood by talking too loudly, or getting into drunken fights, or posing a hazard to young women walking by. Not at all. I have never seen them being troublesome to anyone walking past. In fact, some nights, the convenience store is manned by young female employees through the midnight shift, and they seem to have no concerns doing so.

And yet, I know I had to take the trouble to remind anyone not to infer too much. I know that in Singapore, we continue to hold stereotypical views of various racial groups, often with imaginations of threat.

I have a feeling too that what I have described is possibly repeated in front of many 7-11’s around Singapore. If you have a similar scene in your neighbourhood, do drop a comment; I’d like to know how common or uncommon it is. Other than that as a statistical curiosity, I’m not really interested in what Indians do, or what Indians are like. Any attempt at such judgement will surely be simplistic and unfair.

Why I described the scene was just to make one point: If we look around Singapore, particularly our heartlands, mono-racial groupings are almost the norm, be they Chinese, Indian, Malay or whatever. What does that say about “integration”, a controversial topic that Lee Kuan Yew touched on in his book Hard Truths?

There was a chorus of objection from People’s Action Party members of parliament to Lee’s opinion, a chorus so strong, Lee had to issue a statement to say that he stood corrected. But see that chorus for what it was: not reality, but political necessity. Simple observation will indicate what the reality is: socialisation in our heartlands is very much correlated with race.

Lee focussed particularly on the Malays, saying that they were inhibited from greater socialising because as a community, there was a religious revival over the last three decades. Today, there is a greater demand for stricter religious observance which creates a gulf between them and other racial groups.

Actually, the same can be said of the Christians, especially those in the megachurches. There is the convention to be bound to a cell group and spend disproportionate amounts of time in cell-group and church-related activities; there is peer pressure to donate a large chunk of one’s income as tithe, leaving little for other causes (thus contributing to the impoverishment of non-religious civil society in Singapore through lack of donations and volunteers). One sees in revivalist Christianity the same demand for exclusivity as a religious community as in revivalist Islam. The differences are that (1) Christianity does not map over race in any precise fit, and (2) religious observance in Christianity does not have dress and diet dimensions like Islam, thus making the Christian quasi-ghetto less visible than the Muslim quasi-ghetto. But quasi-ghetto it is.

This alerts us to oversimplification of the social issue. Is it really race? Or do people clump together for reasons other than race, but those reasons happen to map over, to coincide with race?

Linguistic ghettoes

I think the dimension of language is just as important as religion, if not more so. Language explains the clumping pattern better than race or religion, though the latter two doubtless play a part. As I have often told anyone who has asked, I think what we see are not racial divides but linguistic divides. The group of Indian men hanging about in front of the 7-11 are just more at ease with each other because they are more comfortable with Tamil. The ah peks and ah sohs (Hokkien for “uncles” and “aunts”) who sit for hours drinking coffee at the hawker centre are there because they share a familiarity with Hokkien. Sure, other factors come into play. The Indian men look like they belong to the same economic stratum, as do the ah peks and ah sohs (who also have age cohort as another common factor).

Language also explains — and I guess this is somewhat depressing in terms of Singapore’s future — the way even schoolkids clump. The Chinese kids tend to mix with other Chinese kids, because Mandlish (a mix of Mandarin Chinese and Singapore English) is the most natural language among them. Under the same bus shelter, standing two meters away, the Malay kids, from the same school (maybe even the same class) form their own group because Malish (a mix of Malay and Singapore English) is their comfort tongue. Chances are that these socialisation patterns they form in their adolescence will apply for the rest of their lives, which is why I said it’s quite depressing in terms of our future.

The vocal elite tend to ignore or dismiss these observations. They are probably the ones who rose up against Lee Kuan Yew for pointing out a hard truth, even if he did so in a rather skewed Malay-centric way. Singapore’s elite is generally English-speaking, and they themselves clump by language, with little interaction with other clumps defined by other languages. What is relatively unique about the English-speaking clumps is that they do not map over race well. There are among them, Chinese, Malay, Indian and no shortage of “others”, a mix which in turn informs their view of Singapore society. They generalise from their own social circles and believe: there is good social integration; Lee must be talking cock.

Anything to be concerned about?

Yet, everything I have described here is mirrored in every country around the world. People clump as a result of several common denominators, race (which is associated with culture) being only one of many. Language, religion, economic class, age and interest (e.g. sexuality, alcohol, mahjong) are perhaps just as important. So is there no reason to be concerned?

Yes and no.

No, because there is very little we can do about the fact that people choose their own friends and societies have always been granulated thus.  Even so, what we can do as a matter of public policy is perhaps to soften the dividers. For example, we could ask ourselves: To what extent has three decades of schizophrenic language policy in our schools contributed to the perpetuation of linguistic ghettoes even among the young? To what extent should the state intervene to counter religious leaders’ promotion of exclusive religious communities?

Yes, because while it is not so much segregation per se that presents a problem, there is a tendency for negative attitudes towards other groups/clumps to crowd out positive attitudes. It is the nature of bonding that negative aspersions against outside groups are happily circulated, while defending an outsider among one’s peers is seen as disloyalty. The Chinese keep reinforcing among themselves stereotypical views about non-Chinese; the mixed-race upper middle-class keep reinforcing among themselves stereotypical attitudes towards those who are not so well-off (e.g. subconsciously seeing the less well-off as less intelligent or lazier, therefore deserving of their poverty); and there is an unending discourse about how superstitious and primitive Taoism is within evangelical Christian circles.

Such negative attitudes fracture society; in times of crisis, one discovers there is very glue. Instead, the blame game is resorted to.

And so I come back to two important tasks for the state, tasks which I think have been badly neglected: (1) put more emphasis on creating a common language, because without this platform, there is no common conversation that all groups have access to; (2) work harder against exclusivist religious teaching while encouraging, funding and allowing more space for non-religious, non-communal civil society groups to flourish. Civil society, whether a boardsailing club, dog-lovers club, feed-the-homeless campaign, human rights advocacy or a Sengkang Residents’ Chorale can be remarkable bridge-builders. But for that, we come back to (1) again — everybody must be comfortable speaking the same language, otherwise they’d never even contemplate joining.

30 Responses to “What the bibulous men say to us”


  1. 1 K Das 5 April 2011 at 18:28

    An insightful and incisive piece.

    There is this de facto official language, deliberately created and resources poured into i.e. English, soon after Separation as a link language for the various races to use and bond together.

    The exclusivity of single race gatherings and communication may perhaps be a natural outcome as a result of elevating the teaching and learning of mother tongue and putting it on pedestal almost equal to English.

    You can’t roll back mother tongue now. It will be political suicide.

  2. 2 T 5 April 2011 at 18:47

    In the context of this article, the “true-ness” of MM Lee’s hard truth on the Malays becomes clear. The Malays may not integrate well into the broader Singaporean landscape, but the Chinese majority are themselves not any more friendlier or inclusive. It is easier (and more politically safe) to say that a minority is not integrating with other groups than it is to say that the majority is not integrating with other groups.

    MM Lee’s hard truth essentially puts the burden of integration solely on the Malays themselves when by right, the state and other ethnic/religious groups have a joint-responsibility for enabling the integration of all.

    “I think we were progressing very nicely until the surge of Islam came, and if you asked me for my observations, the other communities have easier integration — friends, intermarriages and so on, Indians with Chinese, Chinese with Indians — than Muslims. That’s the result of the surge from the Arab states,” said the former Prime Minister of Singapore.

    “I would say today, we can integrate all religions and races except Islam. I think the Muslims socially do not cause any trouble, but they are distinct and separate,” he added.

    Another instance of the state distancing itself from sensitive realms of race and religion whilst claiming to be a good government that ensures the prosperity and unity of all citizens?

    In addition, meritocracy dictates individual responsibility for one’s success/failure. Adding to this, the Singaporean meritocracy advocates minimal state intervention. As a result, racial inequalities continue to grow, with insufficient political/societal will to review the hardening of ethnic boundaries and to (even consider to) break them down.

    As for linguistic concerns, the Singapore government adopts an approach towards “linguistic purity” through the Speak Good English Movement and the Speak Mandarin Campaign. (are there equivalent programs and publicity for the Malay and Indian languages/communities?). Such an approach can be said to be in agreement with Task 1 of this article: creating a common language or languages

    But are such public campaigns sufficient in themselves in inculcating cross-group interaction? I do not think so. For one thing, this is the same government that frowns upon the use of Singlish, even in the private sphere.
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,322685,00.html

    If the vocal elite is just as uncomfortable in using Singlish (for whatever reasons) as other people are uncomfortable in using English, adopting a common language might benefit one group over others and breed the linguistic ghettos mentioned in the article.

    To add on, dialects have been largely banned for use in public mass media. This alone already isolates groups of individuals of certain age cohorts from the larger English-speaking community. Furthermore, many of these individuals have children whom might:

    either assimilate into the English-speaking community (through education) and risk an extent of disassociation from their parents (in terms of shared history, culture, lived habits)

    or maintain linguistic ties with their parents and risk some loss in proficiency in English and its attendant benefits.

    The true reality of how children differ from their parents’ linguistics and networks should be somewhere in the middle, but the main point is this: the expense of not being good in English is becoming far too high for a country that claims to be multiracial (and even multi-lingual). This calls into the question the efficacy of bilingual education to a) enable one to be good in English in a national/global context and b) to be sufficiently proficient in one’s Mother Tongue and its associated culture. Singapore’s education is not thought to be the most organic and nurturing, which might play a part in why a significant number of Singaporeans are essentially “mono-and a quarter-lingual” (knowing 1 language rather well and another, modestly)

    On a separate note, Singlish had the potential to fulfill both Tasks 1 and 2 of this article. This is because it borrows from several languages in a localized context. Ironically, the government’s position to advocate English showed a possible contradiction in accomplishing the two tasks of uniting ethnicities on the basis of a common language. Hence in addition to Tasks 1 and 2, I propose a more difficult Task 3: persuading everyone to learn languages outside English and their mother tongue.*

    *I have met a few Malays who seem to have a basic understanding of Chinese. On the other hand, I have not met a (Singaporean) Chinese or Indian who knew Malay. Although this is not representative, the fact that these individuals acquired a rudimentary form of a 3rd langauge (other than English and Malay), whether by compulsion or willingness, testifies to the fact that given a strong will and a supportive environment, people can certainly attain a grasp of more than 2 languages. Even if the proficiencies in all 3 languages might be highly unequal.

    Perhaps other than learning from these Malays (and other minority groups), we might have something to learn about “lived languages” from Malaysian Indians and Chinese who are themselves, minorities in their own country too.

    • 3 yawningbread 5 April 2011 at 21:54

      You wrote: “It is easier (and more politically safe) to say that a minority is not integrating with other groups than it is to say that the majority is not integrating with other groups.” You’re absolutely right. Thanks for reminding me that one of the points of departure I had from Lee’s words was the way he implied that “integration” was largely the responsibility of the minority. It is a very sore point for me. Too many heterosexual persons think that (a) there is no discrimination against gay people and if gay people think there is, then (b) it is the responsibility of gay people to fit in by “changing” themselves. The same majoritarian self-centredness is at work here when the Chinese think they aren’t part of the problem.

  3. 4 SN 5 April 2011 at 21:30

    Dear Alex,

    Nice observations.

    But the point remains that had Lee Kuan Yew articulated his view the way you did, there would have been much less or no ruckus at all over his statement, “elite” morality or no.

    Or don’t you agree?

    Regards.

    • 5 yawningbread 5 April 2011 at 21:48

      Frankly, I’m not much interested in examining Lee Kuan Yew’s remarks under a microscope. I think Singapore has much uncompleted business in terms of cross-cultural understanding and yes, “integration”. It is a huge distraction to spend time looking at what such and such a politician says, when 95% of the problems lie within us the people. If we think that Singapore’s social glue or lack of is due to politicians and what they do or not do, I think we’re just avoiding our own responsibility. The point of this essay is to help open a more honest and critical look at what is actually happening on the ground and to see that “race relations” may not even be just a simple matter of race.

  4. 6 MN 5 April 2011 at 22:38

    Great piece! With reference to linguistic ghettos and school kids clumping- the mother tongue policy is divisive. When I was in school it was not yet in force and we had a lovely racial mix of students doing Malay- Straits Chinese, Malaysian Chinese,North Indians, South Indians and ofcourse a couple of Malay students too. We were all united by the learning of Malay and never thought in terms of racial stereotypes. Students these days are so racially polarised simply because the mother tongue policy sends a powerful message, no thanks to this, once a day at least a class is racially divided not just for mother tongue but for civics and moral ed (chinese students stay and Malay and Indian kids move out to smaller classes for their languages)- just imagine the impact that this alone has in a childs’ eyes (it starts in primary school not adolosence!)- we’re are all set up for dis-integration!

    • 7 silencedshadow 6 April 2011 at 13:37

      But aren’t we all still “united” by the learning of English now too? It seems to be suggested that the learning of mother tongues should be done away with altogether since it is racially divisive.

      Des

      • 8 MN 6 April 2011 at 21:52

        the language you choose to learn should not be predetermined by your race- we don’t need to do away with the learning of mother tongue- what we need to do is re-introduce the concept of a “second language”- which was what is was before.

      • 9 twasher 6 April 2011 at 22:18

        It would be less racially divisive if students were allowed to learn a second language other than the one associated with their race.

  5. 10 brad greenspan 5 April 2011 at 23:08

    you are way wrong on the language vs race clumping issues. I’m from LA and in high school, everyone mixed within their racial circles and these are 2nd gen immigrant who speak american english.

  6. 11 liew kai khiun 6 April 2011 at 09:23

    At one kopitiam in my estate in Potong Pasir, there would usually be some middle-age Singaporean indian and Chinese men drinking together almost every night and chattering merrily with the beer ladies from PRC. While i personally feel that they are wasting their lives away, it is indeed one of the rarer sightings you see in Singapore. Actually, speaking about ethnic interactions, one school in Potong Pasir, St Andrews, has a very healthy representation of ethnic Indian students who do not seem to bunch together. Again, this may be the exception rather than the norm.

    YB has hardened the truths which the MM has pointed out in an unfortunately clumsy and prejudiced way. However, it is the ostrich-like cowardice construed as political correctness of the present leadership that these trends of ghettoisation gets increasingly swept under the carpet.

    I do agree with YB that the often disregarded troublesome civil society is criticial in enlarging the common space in which the concept of mega-faiths (not just christianity, but other world religions) have shrunk deliberately as they try to envelop the entire attention of their followers. One can now spend his/her entire weekends and rest of his non-working hours in the church, mosque or temple in endless teambuilding sessions, religious instructions and cell group meetings. And, i have not mentioned of course the huge donations as well.

    The issue is on how to get people to “go out” of their so call comfort zones of either the state dominated residental committees or the religious cell groups and meet different people more frequently.

  7. 12 wikigam 6 April 2011 at 10:52

    To : MN

    In you view , divided student with diffrence mother tongue into diffenrce class is act of “Dis-integration ”

    How about enforce non-christian student to stay in the class while christion religions lesson. is it toward integration or empower of induvidualist right to oppress other ?

    Human Right balancing and Equality Right is needed in Singapore.

    • 13 MN 6 April 2011 at 22:01

      Are non-Christian students forced to stay in class and listen for Christian religous lessons? That would be surprising in view of religous sensitivites- in any event opression is in the mind- view it as an opportunity to learn about another religon, a little extra knowledge would go along way towards building wisdom and maybe,softening the divide….

      • 14 laïcité 7 April 2011 at 02:48

        When I was a student I was forced to sit through Christian sermons and I can say that they do anything but “soften the divide”. It sure seemed as though the only purpose of us non Christians being there was so that we could be convinced to “accept Jesus”. And even if we didn’t, we still had to silently tolerate the verbal abuse denouncing our godless lifestyle as empty and sinful, and the criticisms of the evil Satanistic practices of our Taoist and Buddhist elders. I was SO jealous that the Muslim students could be excused from this.

      • 15 quirkyhill 7 April 2011 at 12:35

        laïcité,

        why were only muslim students excused?

      • 16 laïcité 7 April 2011 at 18:22

        quirkyhill,
        I suppose it was because Christians were not allowed to convert Muslims, whereas the rest of us unbelievers, Buddhists and Taoists were “fair game”.

      • 17 quirkyhill 7 April 2011 at 22:20

        and why do you think was/is this the case?

        that said, could parents of non-christian/muslims choose to take their children out of these classes?

    • 18 Fox 11 April 2011 at 05:13

      My experience in ACPS was that if you’re not a Muslim, then you’re not allowed to sit out the sermons. The preaching session was run by someone who later, according to The Newpaper, thought that the Harry Potter books were about witchcraft and devil worship and discouraged his pupils from reading them.

      It was an incredibly unfair policy in those days because only two schools offered the gifted education programme in those days (for boys) and people who lived in the western part of the island had little choice but to attend ACPS (the other choice was Rosyth which was in the east).

  8. 19 nice 6 April 2011 at 12:04

    Like MM Lee, I too noticed the shift some years back with Malay ladies donning black face veil and men in some Arabic clothes and cap. This has become lesser recently. Other issue is how the police has kept mum about the Kong Hee Church investigation. Guess we will find out after the heat of the elections so as not to disturb the voting ground.

  9. 20 Jezebella 6 April 2011 at 14:47

    I’m going to talk about a certain group, but I have no idea if they are Indians, Bangladeshi, Pakistani or Sri Lankans. But you get the idea of which group I’m referring to.

    They make me uncomfortable because whenever I walk past them, they grow quiet and STARE. Grow quiet, ok, maybe somehow the sight of a native intimidates them since they are in a foreign land. But staring, no. In a straight path, they would stare right even after I walk past them; I can feel the eyes still on me.

    I’ve experienced this ever since I was a young teenager and needless to say I felt disturbed by the unwanted attention. Making this worse is for a time, the media was reporting of rapes of local women committed by foreign workers. But of course what the general media don’t report is that actually the risk of strange rape is much, much lower than rapes committed by people you are familiar with. But the fear is already there.

    Other than that, I have no issues with them.

    • 21 yawningbread 6 April 2011 at 18:26

      I am posting the above comment when by any measure it falls foul of guidelines. To begin with, it is completely off-topic since the article was about minority citizen communities and social fracturing, not about migrant workers. Secondly, the comment generalises an aspersion upon an entire group, based on no more than subjective perception (which could be totally imaginary), and this is, prima facie, unfair. But the time has come when I need to post examples of comments that I will bar, so that readers know what I consider unacceptable. Needless to say, I will not entertain any further follow-up along this line of thought.

  10. 22 laïcité 6 April 2011 at 19:35

    I think that it is really unfortunate how language has become a barrier to integration when in all other respects, Singaporeans seem perfectly willing and able to mix with other races. I have experienced really awkward situations where, at a lunch table with a few Chinese friends and one non Chinese friend, the Chinese friends suddenly start carrying out the rest of the conversation in Chinese leaving the one non Chinese girl to sit there in linguistic isolation. It is this intentional or unintentional lack of sensitivity that underscores the importance of using English in the public sphere.

    I also appreciate that you mentioned the certain groups of Christians that have trouble integrating. Somehow it strikes me that unlike the Muslims who supposedly do not integrate well, these Christian groups tend to keep their social circles exclusive to fellow Christians on purpose. That is to say, without having a linguistic barrier, or a barrier due to dietary restrictions, they still seem to keep to an exclusive Christian social circle, and perhaps the token heathen is included for potential conversion purposes. At least to these people, metaphysical beliefs have become a dealbreaker for friendships.

  11. 23 Lee Peng Hui 6 April 2011 at 19:49

    As an expat Singaporean living in the UK, I have found that things here are pretty integrated, apart from the odd ghetto in a few towns. By comparison, I now notice that Singaporeans are incrediby race-obsessed, to a degree which would be considered quite peculiar over here. There are probably some lessons to be learnt. As an aside it is a relief not to have Chinese-ness or any other culture rammed down my throat every where I turn.

  12. 24 wikigam 7 April 2011 at 11:05

    To : MN

    Knew your reply in advance , so i added the ” Balancing” after the term “Human Right”. What you thinks is “Right” , doesn’t mean that it is always “Right” for other while your ” Right” is hurt / abuse another party.

    You may want to conduct a Lesson : “HeterolSexual Make Sex” included playing a film . i told you that i am homosexual. I reply me that it is just a extra knowledge and integation….softening the divide….

    Oh . no …..you doesn’t see that it will be a seriuos mental abuse in my life!

  13. 25 banglacow 8 April 2011 at 02:26

    Just a brief comment

    how about the IC issue which is a legacy of our colonial masters. We are all branded CMIO from our birth and this does constitute to segregation.

    I took sociology 101 last year and read alot of articles which discussed this issue at length. Of integration in Singapore.

  14. 26 Koh Choon Hwee 11 April 2011 at 02:29

    I wish they would make us learn 3 languages from primary 1!! For majority Chinese children, it would mean we have to learn either Malay or Tamil. The Swiss can do it, why not us?

    Okay parents are going to complain about stress etc etc but they could just make the 3rd language pass/fail and only until primary 6! You might resent it when you’re 12 but when you’re 21/22, I think you’ll feel grateful! Same way how I feel grateful we had to take Chinese all those years now!

    Just a thought =)

    • 27 Fox 11 April 2011 at 13:07

      Koh Choon Hwee,

      German, French and Italian, the three major languages of Switzerland, are related Indo-European languages. It is not difficult to learn these languages together since they are related. The learning difficulty would be akin to that of a Mandarin speaker learning colloquial Cantonese and Shanghainese.

      Mandarin, English, Malay and Tamil are utterly different languages with little commmonality in grammar, lexis or phonology. It is more difficult for a native English speaker to pick up Mandarin than it is for him/her to pick up French or Italian.

  15. 28 Ms Carpe Diem 11 April 2011 at 06:23

    Really interesting, thought-provoking piece.

    While I agree with the point of language (whether manglish, maglish or singlish) as a unifying enabler, I also think that we need to consider integration not just nationally, but also globally which points to the need of grasping standard English (barring differences in accents, pronunciation and terms of references (e.g cab vs taxi)). The key lies in the sensitivity and knowledge to use the right language in the right setting?

    I’m also bemused by the singling out of religious groups for mention as a category of interest groups. While I agree that there needs to be a common space for civic participation, I also believe there needs to exist personal or group-centric space to express our personal beliefs, likes and potential which thrives in that personal domain that includes the right of operation of charitable and educational organizations. (e.g Maha Bodhi School, Ren Ci Hospital, roots of Anglo-Chinese/St Margaret’s School etc)

    That expression also includes the right to speak about it, including to people who don’t belong to that interest group. That is one of the reasons why this site exists, one of which is to share the awareness of homosexuality as a valid lifestyle to other people who are either unaware of this alternative, or who do not believe in this.

    What also needs to exist is the ability of the other party to make a choice not to be part of that particular group or to participate in a group’s agenda without being excluded from social contact or society as a whole. That I think is the main argument why society as a whole has to be against racists, homophobes, fundamentalists who believe in persecuting non-adherents and people who hate people within religious groups/ other religious groups.

    Being a responsible citizen then means the sensitivity and ability to switch between the common/social domain and the personal/group one in the appropriate setting?

  16. 29 Laoshi 11 April 2011 at 15:31

    I strongly believe that the emphasis on mother tongue learning has contributed to our present situation. In the old days when students were just taking ‘second languages’ as a subject, we could see that children from different races were much closer. It could be said that they were definitely less race (or language) conscious. Does it really matter whether a singaporean chinese had not attained high proficiency in mandarin or a singaporean indian in tamil? Would it be better if the average singaporean, regardless of race, is really more proficient in english? Could we be better off to let individuals decide for themselves whether or not they choose to be proficient in their mother tongues?

  17. 30 Carpe Diem 15 April 2011 at 13:26

    If you’re a laoshi (teacher, if I were to understand it correctly), I think the general educational principle of “What is not assessed, will not be perceived to be important.” (paraphrased, can’t recall the exact wording.) Thus it boils down to the importance of the mother tongue.

    Although I agree with you on the general principle that students should be given a choice on whether they would like to excel in the mother tongue without being penalised within the educational system, it may also be significant to look at it from society’s angle should people know their mother tongue.

    On the familial level, knowing the mother tongue helps bridge the inter-generational gap.

    Language is also one way by which we connect with our culture and its way of observing and interpreting events as they unfold. One example is the subtle difference between the English Straits Times and the Mandarin Lianhe Zaobao. It can sometimes be an interesting experience seeing how they draw slightly different inferences and sharing from different angles from the same factual events or announcement of national policies. I believe the sometimes slightly more cynical view taken by the Mandarin newspapers may have been coloured by the historical fact of the closing down of Nantah. Interesting the knowledge of another language had led to the enlightenment of a different viewpoint.

    It can only present benefits for a society to retain diversity of viewpoints which can be shared (via a common language, Snglish in our case) with others as long as these viewpoints do not persecute or impose itself upon other viewpoints. Wouldn’t you agree?


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