Gayle Goh’s article from BlogTV:
Singaporeans have often been accused of not having a heart for home. The identity angst of our young nation-state has manifested itself variously in aspects such as high emigration statistics and cultural dialogue. “Singapore you are not my country”, poet and activist Alfian Sa’at once wrote. “Singapore you are not a country at all.”
A recent paradox has emerged in the bitter debate over immigration policy that challenges this impassioned shout. On the one hand, Singaporeans profess to feel alienated and second-class in their homeland – Singaporean, perhaps, but cynical as to what this identity actually offers or entails; on the other hand, they retreat into terms such as ‘us’ and ‘them, ‘ordinary citizens’ and ‘foreign trash’ – terms which I have seen thrown around Internet forums with alarming frequency.
This polarizing rhetoric of difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’ demonstrates that our alienation has developed into an identity of its own; that some long-buried territorial instinct to defend our home, long suspected of being absent in our kind, has given us the energy to say that we have some manner of definitive rights to its riches. Yet this very rhetoric damages our sense of self. It amplifies our emotions of disenfranchisement and reinforces our insecurity in our identity as Singaporeans. To and fro, these two phenomena – alienation and xenophobia – feed each other.
If nothing else, the dynamic of interaction between them demonstrates that when it suits us, Singapore is a country. When it concerns our rice bowl and our future, Singapore becomes our country.
Gayle Goh is currently reading Literature at Cambridge University.
Read the full article on BlogTV.
Gayle’s I Speak blog.