Can fiction teach us anything meaningful about the real world?
Suggested Response for GCE A-Level 2019 Q12
Human beings are storytellers. They enjoy reading, listening and sometimes watching fictional stories about different times, spatial dimensions and characters.Love,revenge, redemption, spiritual growth… These literary themes never fail to resonate with readers. People are fascinated by how stories use lies to reveal deeper truths, and how magical wands, time travel and Wonder Woman convince them the existence of alternative realities. Given the imaginary nature of fiction, some worrythat fiction merely offers people a source of entertainment, or a form of escapism, as it attracts people from imminent, real-life concerns while potentially reinforcing existing social injustice.However, in my opinion, fiction contains moral thought experiments, evocative storyline and cross-cultural subjects that unite humanity. I strongly believe that fiction can teach usmany meaningful lessons about the real world despite its imaginary nature.
I do acknowledge that fiction offers its readers a form of escapism as the story does not actually happen in the real world. People read fiction mainly as a source often entertainment during
their leisure time. They do not intend to engage with real-life concerns when they read fiction; rather, they wish to forget their real-life struggles, anxieties and responsibilities at least for a short while. Sometimes, certain fictional elements do seem far-fetched, and they appear to have little conspicuous relevance to real world and its imminent concerns. For example,Harry Potter is a fictional series about a wizard school and how benevolence eventually triumphed evil. It has been a popular series among teenagers, and its nostalgic, imaginative qualities have sometimes distracted its readers from the real world. As such, the Harry Potter series, for instance, cannot advise people how to respond to the recent coronavirus outbreak because doctors do not use magical spells to cure diseases in the real world. It is absurd even to think about that. I do find it reasonable if some accuse fiction of teaching nothing meaningful about the real world as people do not read fiction to be reminded of reality. It is possible that people only regard fiction as a means to escape from reality, and fiction writers appeal to that psychological need of their readers by crafting entertaining stories.
Moreover, some might worry that fiction mainly reinforces current social stigma instead of offering any solutions to real-life issues, achieving social justice or creating a more egalitarian world. Such worry is especially applicable to popular fiction because inorder to achieve mass appeal, fiction writers appeal to existing social norms that readers can immediately recognise. It is reasonable to assume that readers are often reluctant to be challenged too often when they read fiction. They want to explore different lives rather thanhave their belief systems questioned. For instance, James Bond has been a popular spy franchise about a fictional agent saving his nation while engaging in romantic relationships with different women. Despite its commercial success and long-lasting appeal, the franchise has received various criticisms. Feminist critics worry that the Reinforce patriarchal norms in society as women are often portrayed as physically attractive but incompetent.Saving the nation has to be a tough man’s job, and women are objectified in the meanwhile.In addition, several orientalist critics worry that the franchise also reinforces the image of a white male as the world saver while non-western countries are stereotypically depicted to be exotic and submissive. Some may even argue that thereal world would be better off if people stop watching film series like James Bond.They worry that, despite its mass appeal, popular fiction stops people from questioning existing social norms and subliminally reinforce stereotypes and existing power dynamics. It is indeed undesirable if more fiction values popularity over criticality, and it ends up reinforcing rather than challenging social injustice in the real world.
Granted, some fiction is meant to help readers relax and escape from reality. Manyfiction writers and publishers also value profits over literary qualities and ethical implications. However, these phenomena do not necessarily mean that fiction doesnot havethe potential to teach anything meaningful about the real world. In fact, fiction often contains recognisable elements for its readers. In the form of moral thought experiments, fiction does teach readers many meaningful things about the real world. One of the greatest joys of reading fiction is to search for messages about the real world and human condition. The Lord of the Rings, for example, is one of theall-time favourites among fantasy readers. Thestory ends with Frodo Baggins destroying thering but having to leave Middle Earth, the fictional world where the story happened. Frodo sensed that the ring had corrupted him although it had been destroyed, just when readers anticipate a happy ending for everyone. The twist towards the end implies some insightful thoughts about evil and how it corrupts everyone. Although Middle Earth is a fictional world with witches and dwarfs, the series reflects on human morality and engages its readers with an exploration, if not warning, about the banality of evil. Moral messages like this infiction do teach many meaningful lessons about human condition and the real world.
In addition, reading fiction is an earnest exercise of human compassion and a reflection on lasting human struggles and emotional pain. Although not all fiction explicitly addresses life and its unsatisfactory aspects, fiction contains evocative storylines andcharacter designs that are inspired by real-life events and people. In contrast to realistic reports and logical, argumentative essays, fiction provides an embodied, vivid journey into another character’s life, desire and destiny. It is an engaging experience that requires a reader to imagine herself into the lives of others and to see from other perspectives. Readers areunited and comforted as they have similar struggles in life. For example, The Kite Runner is about the life of a first-generation Afrighanistan migrant in the United States and his haunting childhood trauma. It is a story about an adult seeking redemption for a childhood mistake throughout his life. Although many readershave never visited Afghanistan or the U.S., The Kite Runner is a powerful story. Despite then fictional elements, most readers will find its depiction of brotherhood, father-son relationship and childhood nostalgia utterly relatable. The story has a bittersweet ending, and for a moment the reader finds her own resolution upon reaching the last chapter. Through imagination, readers often exercise their empathetic thinking. Fiction does teach its readers to understand others better,and that is an invaluable lesson about the real world.
Furthermore, fiction reflects a society’s collective will and political demand. Fictionas a genre has not stayed the same throughout history, and politically engaged writers often use their fiction to express their political views. Fiction from different historical periods has utilised different literary techniques, political contexts and symbols to engage with public discourse. As such, reading popular fiction can be a quick way to enter the current public discourse and to understand what people desire collectively. Just like how The Lord of Rings reflects on the heritage of the Industrial Revolution, the Harry Potter series alludes to social discrimination in the world today. A masterpiece of French romanticism, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame explores the life of a bell ringer. The story typifies a romanticist fiction which highlights overlooked individual lives, pre-reflective intuitions and heightened emotions in response tothe aristocratic and political structure after the Enlightenment. Reading The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is an effective way to contextualise French romanticism and modern European intellectual history. Reading fiction helps the reader understand grassroot voices and political expectations. Politicians and historians often find fiction exceptionally helpful as it revitalises history, illuminates the present and provides guidance for the future.
To conclude, the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato once dismissed fiction for being amere representation of the real world and a meaningless reproduction. Fiction was once analogous to lies which prevented people from seeing the truth. However, generations of fiction writers have proven Plato wrong. Fiction provides its readers moral lessons, exercises of compassion and guidance for achieving social justice. It is precisely these reality-inspired fictional elements that enable stories to teach so many meaningful lessons about the real world. Human beings cannot live without fiction, and no matter how new forms of media consumption emerge, people have continued to seek guidance, comfort and inspiration from fiction. Fiction is Our ultimate guide to the real world.
GP Model Essay
CITIZENS OF THE WORLD
How do we see ourselves? A good part of our identity is tethered to our birth, ancestry, race, and religious or political affiliation. It has become the crux of establishing our identity and has contributed to the reiteration of different ideologies and schools of thought. While it is not an entirely negative feature, it can be said that it parallels our already fractured and divided state. In recent years, we have observed a great many issues that impact communities across the world, and yet, we deliberate on the issue in isolation and fail to correspond with each other. The irrevocable outcome of such an arrangement is the polarised presentation of an issue, which fails to account for differentials and variations. I project that should we reframe our perception to see ourselves as ‘Citizens of the world’, we would be better able to organise our approaches to resolving global crises and actively attempt to address issues at hand as opposed to ensuring the success of individual agendas.
The phrase was coined to examine a state of consciousness that existed beyond geo-spatial attachments and called on a more cosmopolitan existence, that recognised the role of individual behaviour in a shared space; the world. Harmony and co-existence are amongst some of the core values of such an archetype, which is primarily aimed at recognising the importance of every contribution in a world that is becoming increasingly divisive and conflicted. There are variations on interpreting what it means to be a ‘Citizen of the world’, beginning from adapting to the changing socio-political climate and appreciating the cultural diversity of our shared space to assessing the presence of an international community in articulating a consensus about humanitarian crises and proceedings. Beginning with a more micro perspective, we observe prejudice and discrimination within scopes of employment, education, entertainment, and every imaginable avenue of life. While the consensus, generally, is that such behaviour is vitriolic and unspeakable, addressing it becomes problematic owing to its entanglement with concepts of privilege and power. This is where a communal recognition becomes imperative to addressing this damaging issue, whereby the preservation of individual status takes a secondary position in understanding the necessity for a space that is safe for all. The paradox of tolerance articulates this position rather concisely, wherein a society, to protect its inhabitants, is required to be intolerant of intolerant behaviour in order to sustain harmony and civility. By reappraising our identity as one that is interconnected with others, we are better able to grapple with coexisting in a shared space and regulating the space to ensure it is inhabitable for all. Extending beyond the personal appraisal of the term, examining it within the grander scale of things would highlight a similar principle, but also how the isolationist mentality has contributed to a mismanagement of major crises and exacerbated the current state of global inequality.
Part of understanding global citizenry stems from being able to recognise discordance within the spheres of multicultural communities and observing the responses to such situations. The idea behind analysing such unrest and instability is to observe the barriers to achieving the identity of being a global citizen. One of the most apparent obstructions is the imperial ideology and the narratives that sustain discrimination. A contentious example that appropriately articulates this is the proposition of ‘Brexit’; Britain’s exit from the European Union. Proponents of this separation have and continue to cite the negative impact of immigration into the United Kingdom and how it has contributed to a rise in crime and impacted employment for the local population. The sustained viewpoint of immigrants endangering the constitutional rights and normative of the domestic environment, even though discredited umpteen times, has endured and contributed to the overwhelming support for the UK to secede from the European Union. The ongoing debate about the exact motivations behind this move have also revealed political appraisal of a diverse constituency, including criticisms about how the influx of immigrants has tampered the national narrative, but does not elaborate how. The issue with such public proclamations from political figures is that it feeds into the nationalist movements that disregard the rationale behind immigration and push forward the agenda of preserving monopoly over their territories. The uncanny resemblance to imperial motivations of the late nineteenth-century Western orders is no coincidence and is a sobering reminder of the ideological potency of imperialism and its narratives. The promulgation of ideas that champion the interests and stakes of a single, dominant community continue to contribute to the degradation of a global community and augment hostility. There is a myriad of consequences to this continued resistance to cosmopolitan cities and the idea of global citizenry. In addition to augmenting negative rhetoric concerning multiculturalism and diversity, it also inhibits an international response from addressing the issue.
Yet another obstacle to successfully initiating global citizenry is the state advocated disassociation from global communities. This encouraged disengagement is evidenced in the essentialization of global conflicts and issues. From honour killings to genocide, we have noticed a trend in how the issues are framed to be the responsibility of the community within which it occurs, as opposed to proposing an intervention that calls on an international community’s appraisal of the issue and subsequent addressing of it. A recent example of this phenomenon would be the Syrian refugee crisis, that saw thousands crossing the Mediterranean, fleeing persecution, war, and famine. While there was documentation of the brutalities that the Assad regime had inflicted upon the Syrian civilians, the international communities’ involvement ceased with verbal condemnation of the activities and sought to retain active distance. Apart from emphasizing the political and social instability of the region and reinforcing the collective disparaging of the ongoing regime, there was no tangible assistance extended to the refugees that were trapped at the borders of Europe. What occurred with almost immediate effect was a surge of anti–immigrant sentiments as invoked by mainstream media outputs of the mass exodus and the potential dangers they carried, in perfect tandem with arcane imperialist narratives about oriental barbarism. Even though international laws were and are clear on their position about sovereign states’ responsibility to render assistance to refugees, the enforceability of that convention is very much tethered to the sovereign recognition of the refugee crisis as a collective issue. Often, this appraisal does not occur as there is no incentive that follows the expenditure of national resources to contribute to the international resolutions. Additionally, another consideration goes back to sovereign rights and any intervention being construed as intrusive. The very idea of sovereign rule superseding human rights is one that has contributed to the longevity of brutal regimes and crimes against humanity. For instance, within the scope of honour killings, the perennial essentialisation of the issue to be a cultural component or practice within Eastern communities translates to the legitimisation of what is tantamount to grievous violence and in some cases, murder. The implicit message of those assertions is that any intervention would be construed as a challenge to cultural narratives, subtly quashing any intent to address the violence. The condemnation of the practice becomes redundant considering how Eurocentric narratives cement the relationship between specific cultures and violence. Apart from the vilification of non-white cultures, the narratives depict those sanctions to exist within a pseudo–formal system that incorporates violence as a legitimate response. This process of reducing humanitarian issues to specific geographical territories and barricading collective accountability summarises our inability to achieve global citizenry.
These examples converge at the detrimental state of our international community and consensus, which highlights highly fractured relations and an actively encouraged disengagement from global participation. Yet, we do observe pockets of global citizenry in the face of malicious establishments, from the galvanisation of a global participants in the Arab Spring to the “MeToo” movement that drew attention to the dark figures of sexual assault and the procedural fallacies of handling sexual assault. The dawn of the information age has changed the landscape of identity formulation, tapping on the global network to keep the international community apprised of ongoing issues and mobilising dialogues about addressing said issues. The current socio–political climate, as characterised by a growing decentralisation of power and, a rise in public engagement in politics and policies is proving quite conducive for the current generation to attempt identifying themselves within a global arena as citizens of the world. Considering growing conflicts and discontent, it is incumbent on us, now more than ever, to reimage ourselves as citizens of the world and appraise global issues as ones which we also have stakes in to encourage participation and resolution.
GP Model Essay
It would be remiss to dismiss the significance of the internet. As a beacon of globalisation and innovation, the internet has ushered in the information age, propelling information technology and affiliate composites into spheres of power and control. The establishment of a global network has augmented our access to information and facilitates exchanges for social, political, and economic faculties, internationally. While it has become emblematic of a communicative compendium of ideas, it has also become a place that has drawn a fair amount of scepticism for feeding the narcissistic surge of the twenty-first century. The sentiment is directed primarily at youths and tends to culminate with the internet at a supposed disservice to the youths’ cognizance. While this claim has some heft, it would be a gross oversimplification of the interaction youths have with this modality of technology. The essay aims to explore how the internet has positively impacted youth populations and has contributed to mobilisation of the youths in the realm of economics and international politics.
Since the advent of the internet, the scope of careers has evolved to accommodate spaces that would not have satisfied traditional requirements for employment. The market for creative media and entrepreneurship has burgeoned since the advent of the internet, with social media moguls, such as Facebook and YouTube, introducing modes of monetising social media participation and engaged the youth populous in challenging conventional employment and earning opportunities. Alongside the rise of influencer culture, which opened up economic opportunities for individuals who had amassed a major following, we also observed a reappraisal of entertainment output which has allowed for mass creative content producers to capitalise on the outreach capacities of social media and generate a steady stream of income. This is a demonstration of youth capacity to engage complex platforms, identify their position as stakeholders and manage the terms of their engagement to transform basic utility into employment. Adapting to the shifting structural layouts that are an eventuality of the information age requires a nuanced understanding and assessment of the differing employment tangents that emerge, including the manipulation of virtual spaces to innovate and invent. Apart from social media, we also observe how the internet has become a part of basic human essentials, a consequence of understanding its potency when wielded by the current generation.
However, closer examination reveals that while monumental shifts have been made through the internet, specifically social media, it cannot be denied that a good majority of youth behaviour on social media is indulgent. This scathing indictment stems from youth projections on social media platforms, a formatted interface that allows for the projection of oneself onto an internationally accessed platform for communication, circulation, and participation. The primary grievance appears in the form of complaints that social media participation has engendered sentiments of self-indulgence and narcissism among youths, harnessing their attention towards garnering validation in the form of likes and shares as opposed to actively seeking opportunities for progression and betterment. It has brought about an entire league of discussions about the detrimental impact of social media on the youth self-identity and self-esteem. Youth social health has been documented to have suffered as a direct result of uninhibited engagement on platforms that scrutinise virtual projections, leading to a surge in psychological breakdowns. Adolescents are researched to be more susceptible to social-psychological issues, given their volatile relationship and newfound agency. While their participation can be construed as positive, they are still unable to navigate a space well enough to avoid entrapment in chokeholds of instant gratification and validation. Social media becomes an echo chamber that sets the precedent about acceptable imagery, celebrity status and fame, which seems viable for impressionable minds. The fine-print of such situations goes unread and they become entangled in the vicious scope of pursuing fame at a hefty price. The unbridled pressure of securing validation in a broad marketspace has proven injurious, specifically to a vulnerable population. While this bears merit and has been linked to affiliate conditions of self-esteem and body image issues, social media cannot be dismissed entirely as serving no purpose beyond menial gratification.
Internet activism is a growing scene of activism to have emerged from this modality of multimedia and has taken on creating political scenes in spaces of gratuitous indulgence. The documented majority of participants who are active on social media are youths, who lend themselves readily to generating traction for highly political situations or major crises. The support tends to be critical for issues to transcend the rather limited scope of mainstream media outputs and extend towards reaching a global amphitheatre that then speaks on an issue to the point of encouraging intervention, either philanthropically or an international faculty front. One of the most recent movements that has captured and inspired a reinvention of criminal justice processing of sexual assault cases would be the ‘Me Too’ movement, which was a twitter-led revolution about dark figures concerning sexual assault. The movement caught fire almost instantaneously, with millions around the world, men and women alike, sharing their stories and the caption. The movement inspired a more critical approach to addressing concerns and allegations of misconduct, especially amongst popular figures in the higher echelons of society. This included, but was not limited to celebrities within the cinema industry. While the movement was accused to have inspired a spade of false reporting, it was also recognised as a critical in creating a specific avenue for sexual assault victims to speak and be heard. Even in the early years of the new decade, social media was an imperative feature of the Arab Spring, which saw a series of protests within the Middle East, addressing flaws with the establishment and the governing of their nations. The protests were galvanised by youths who were dissatisfied with consistent state-sanctioned misconduct and were intent on seeing a revision. Millions worldwide were tuned to the series of protests spread across eleven countries in the Middle East, either as participants or spectators. Either through broadcasting messages to gather others in protest or inform the wider community, youths took to social media to apprise people of the occurrences and follow-ups. It is the quintessential expression of youth agency and represents the current generations’ ability to synthesize, organize, and mobilise themselves through the internet, a far-cry from allegations of an eroded ability to think. It is a demonstration of active intellectual engagement and the purposeful utility of a platform to initiate discussions and challenge the status quo. Despite the purposeful activity, it seems like the sentiment that the current generation has decayed as a result of the internet has endured in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Universal human rights discussions, primarily in the realm of necessity and potency have materialised as a result of documented research identifying the internet’s role in galvanising young persons participation in socio-political and socio-cultural movements within the last two decades. It has also been imperative in facilitating access to academic information, global news and incidents, and public opinions in response to those events. The extent of its strength is properly understood by governments, evidenced by their strategies involving the disabling of the internet in order to suppress dissent and insurrection. Over the last five years, disruptions to telecommunications and internet services have been a feature of government sanctions towards addressing state protests and unrest. The ramifications of depriving entire populations from access to communication applications and information outlets include keeping the international community in the dark and preventing any critical aid from reaching those communities. Furthermore, it has contributed to the longevity of cruel, totalitarian regimes that engage in unbridled censorship to prevent a circular flow of intelligence and information, and present disinformation to sustain authority. The internet is a potent factor in both augmenting and undermining the civil mobility of many worldwide. In recent years, we have observed the virtual space take on a highly political tone, with youths leading conscious protests against establishments that cut into realms of civil rights. In response to major crises or events, great many have taken to the internet to project their opinions and stand on the issue. While it may be regarded as a colloquial form, it has become a rather formidable expression of political will and participation. The articulation of sentiments pertaining to issues on social media has often gained major traction and encouraged involvement from communities across the world. Its importance has also been reaffirmed in the judicial scene in different jurisdictions, whereby access to the internet is tethered to the right to information and education. A district court in Kerala, India, ruled in favour of a student who had been expelled by her institution for utilising her phone outside curriculum hours. Citing the United Nations appraisal of access to the internet as very much invested in the Indian constitutional right to information as well as the right to education, the court ruled for an overturning of her expulsion. This approach reiterates the exact nuances of our current social organisations’ relationship with the internet and the strength of influence it has in our spheres.
Akin to other catalysts, the internet is a device that serves the purpose and executes the intent of the user. Its versatility has allowed for its application to extend into varying industries, from education to security. While the typical grievance expressed about the relationship that the current generation share with the internet is that it insulates them from the world and entraps them within the confines of seeking basic validation, there is overwhelming evidence that demonstrates active political participation superseding any recorded levels within the last fifty years. The current political climate and the consequent rearrangement of power structures inspired the youths of this generation to seek out the transformative potential of the internet and utilise it as a medium for civilian congregation, dialogue and political expression. In essence, the internet has sparked innovation and tapped into the agency of the current generation, expanding their horizons and provoking both domestic and global movements pertaining to civil and human rights.
GP Model Essay
In the era of globalisation, we observe our cities becoming increasingly diverse and our social make-up changing to accommodate evolving economic, social, and political needs. The phenomenon is not endemic to Singapore and has been documented across the world, where communities of different diasporas enter cultural streams in different arenas to explore opportunities. While the theoretical pitch of this situation is benign and innocuous, the researched reality of such a transition has been far from mundane. From territorial disputes to discrimination, the active resistance to global citizenry and diversity within international landscapes has demonstrated a lack of adaptability and a consistent tension with imperial narratives. While international incidents set precedents for domestic public policy and approaches, Singapore’s community at large is obscured from impending prospects of destabilisation and anomie by the regulated proselytization and consequent conditioned focus on economic participation. Furthermore, our appraisal of harmony is far from the coordinated collaborative culture that promotes healthy relationships. Instead, I purport that it relies on punitive action to invoke fear and subsequently, materialise a façade of togetherness. The essay will explore how Singapore takes its harmony for granted by highlighting examples of our complacency, our excessive reliance on legal reforms to preserve order and how we misconstrue passivity for harmony.
Our history, no doubt brief, is filled with a multitude of incidents that convey the precarious nature of our social binds and how easily they can unravel. Formative education curriculum conveys how the 1960s in Singapore was characterised by violent racial and religious riots. Disputes between conclaves were commonly occurring, with fragile inter-group relations consistently strained by political rearrangements post-colonial struggles for dominance. The overwhelming fear of communist insurgency and insurrection drove state agencies to strategically implement mandates that would quash any possibilities of a singular rhetoric burgeoning within the newly independent city-state. The Ethnic-integration policy under the statutory purview of the Housing Development Board was a cornerstone in mandated measures that would position different communities amidst each other. Public policy, both literally and figuratively, would serve as the architect of cohesion. Additionally, the enactment of multiple provisions within the Penal Code and subsidiary legislature targeted towards addressing racial and religious intolerance, alongside the set-up of the Internal Security Division dedicated to expressly handle internal threats to national security represented the executive vanguard enacted to preserve the sanctity of the fostered cohesion. While it served its purpose of quelling volatility in that period, this current climate and the evolving threats could render our laws obsolete.
Since the 9/11 attacks in the United States, international security agencies have ratified their focus to combat terrorism and extremism. Singapore’s internal Security Division, alongside other South-East Asian security counterparts, was involved in the tracking and reporting of extremist activities in the region. While a good majority of Singaporeans recognised the sombre nature of the act of terror, it was still well within a complacency complex fortified on the lack of understanding the schematics of terrorism in the 21st century. This contributed to a latency in perceiving both the impending nature and the axiom of such activities. Singapore launched its largest manhunt in search of an Indonesia-born Singaporean extremist escapee, Mas Selamat Bin Kastari. News of the naturalised citizen’s involvement in a prolific terrorist movement and his direct involvement in ploys to attack key installations in Singapore brought about sentiments of shock that reaffirmed our parochial appraisal of terrorism and extremism. It was evident that we had not considered the prospects of terrorism ever reaching our shores. While the work of the Internal Security Division was kept classified, the response to both his detention, his escape in 2008 and his subsequent recapture in 2009 highlighted the public consensus, or lack thereof, surrounding the issue of a terrorist threat. Our efforts towards awareness pertaining to terrorism has experienced a monumental shift since, with active efforts directed towards educating the population about the viability of terrorist attacks in this current volatile socio-political climate. From advertising in public spaces and simulations of active terrorist incidents to introducing mobile applications that circulate crucial information, recognising Singapore’s lack of sentience regarding terrorism inspired motivated efforts to insert it into our everyday vernacular. These ventures also brought to light our unique make-up, including how our population is a multicultural melting pot that is both our crowning glory, but also our Achilles’ heel. Ideological threats are not confined to fundamentalism within secular societies, racism and classism are just as potent and injurious. While terrorism may be a very real threat, we have come to appreciate in the last two decades and dedicated our efforts towards enhancing our vigilance capacities, we may have neglected to engage the root of targeted violence and created an echo chamber that sustains segregation and discrimination; both umbilical to inspiring extremism and terrorism.
Over the last decade, we have observed a surge in both domestic terrorist threats and fractures to our own multicultural binds. The latter is the remnant of neo-colonial struggles for dominance, which have evolved to present themselves outside the realm of physical violence and instead have emerged within the politicisation of issues that are undergirded by pre-existing prejudices. Our current social reality is very much characterised by nuanced conflicts that tend to draw attention to the insecure state of our internal relations and harmony. One of the most contentious incidents that surfaced the underlying dissonance occurred in 2013, which inspired scrutiny of our legal recourse and public populism about immigration. The response to the Little India riot in 2013, which started out as a call to emergency services to respond to an accident involving a male India-national. The entirety of the event would span several hours, culminating in the overturning of an emergency vehicle and over 400 civilians gathering to riot against the officials who had arrived on scene. Within hours of the incident settling, mainstream and independent media outlets took to reporting the incident, sensational headlines and graphic details overshadowing the actual sequence of events. The executive pitch following the incident took on a highly incendiary tone towards vilifying alcohol and how its consumption was pivotal in the escalation of events. While the restriction expressly provides for exceptions to licensed outlets and premises to serve alcohol, it did provoke questions concerning how the moral panic stirred with alcohol was insufficient to extract it from circulation altogether and the true nature of the proposed implementation. The incident and subsequent implementations, including enhanced surveillance of Little India, generated major conversations about the discourse surrounding foreigners employed in Singapore and the broader discussion about selective xenophobia and systemic discrimination. While the violence was suppressed and subdued, the base ideology of inequality still endured. One of the supported projections amongst academics and social researchers was how the riots were the crescendo of layered discrimination and an internalised sentiment concerning the state’s negligent attitude toward their welfare.
Our economy’s unique make-up and our reliance on foreign nations to provide skilled manpower to expand and strengthen our local industries is often diffused with narratives that tend to cast them in unfavourable light. Avenues of lateral surveillance bring to light local collisions with foreigners, alongside arcane xenophobic arguments about how immigrants are depriving locals of opportunities. While our island became a trade hub through the hard work of immigrants, a lack of recognising their role in our history and transformation has augmented local hostility towards them. Furthermore, incidents of manpower mismanagement and maltreatment of foreigners has seen an observable surge and invites more questions about the state’s underlying appraisal of such personnel. The violation of contractual obligations without consequence alongside a wilful omission of their rights and powers occurs at quite an unprecedented rate, especially amongst blue-collar foreign labourers. The disparity takes multiple forms; recall seeing ten to fifteen men huddled together at the back of a pick-up truck with no shelter or shade from the elements or exhaust emissions, men seeking respite on the dusty floors of the void deck, workers without access to safety or protective gear that work within imperilled environments. Unbeknownst to them, there are legal consequences for employers who allow such misdemeanours, and they continue to be subject to substandard treatment. A lack of appropriate grounding in an alien terrain, societal relegation, and the lack of access to legal aid positions them in a highly disadvantageous position, inspiring feelings of anger and distress. Stereotypes are cemented by spurious, sensationalist reporting, public disdain towards them is ratified and any bridge to close the gap between communities is burned to ashes. Helplessness, a lack of sense of belonging, discrimination, and hostility could spur on even the most reluctant to take arms. While we may have taken steps towards enhancing vigilance, we may be sustaining a hostile environment that pushes even the most docile to being destructive without allowing them an opportunity to speak and be heard.
The conventional talking points concerning harmony revolve around either preserving racial ties or the broader notion of harmony as solidarity against both ideological and physical insurgency. Our social, political, and economic organisation has undergone tremendous changes and so should our conversations. While the role of the law within the scope of harmony cannot be dismissed, suppressing violence is not the equivalency of harmony, for harmony is not the same as order. It is definitely a cause for concern that our notion of harmony is inextricably linked to executive initiatives as opposed to the product of purposeful education and dialogue that allows for and intellectual transmission of sentiments and more opportunities to seek clarity. The fear of legal persecution for libel or discriminatory commentary outweighs the desire to learn about others and develop respect for others. A multicultural society is an asset, offering varied perspectives and experiences that serve as testimonies for learning and enhancement. In acknowledging the specialised position each and every member of our society holds and recognising their contributions to our community, we weed out indifference that begins as the whisper to apathy, dissent and violence. Understanding how we are also accountable for inspiring extremism and terrorism gives us an advantage in addressing those missteps and revitalising our vulnerabilities.