Has Cultural Marxism Spread to Singapore?

Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno of the Frankfurt School in 1964.
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By June Low

The concept of Cultural Marxism has been used everywhere, and there are differing opinions on what it’s about. Some say it’s a conspiracy theory, some say it doesn’t exist, and yet some say that it’s the number one enemy of Western Civilisation.

So, what is it really? Loosely defined, Cultural Marxism is a theory that states that Marxist ideas are now getting entrenched in popular culture, surrounded by the core idea that there is a class struggle between the ‘upper’ and ‘working’ class, or in the perspective of Cultural Marxists, the ‘oppressors’ and the ‘oppressed’.

When we look at social media, we are constantly being bombarded by information and culture, and like it or not, that is what shapes our worldview. The origins of Cultural Marxism can be traced to the Frankfurt School in Germany, which was a school of social theory and philosophy established during the interwar period. It was founded by Western Marxists who rejected existing systems, even that of Classical Marxism.

The Frankfurt School’s writings pointed to an alternative path to social development, and their work came to be known as Critical Theory. Critical Theory is broadly defined by instruments for social change, based on the Marxist definition of inequality and class struggle.

It held that capitalism was deceptive, and people should aim for the Marxists’ definition of ‘free society’ by undermining traditional social ties. As the founders of the Frankfurt School fled Nazi Germany to America, their writings had wide acceptance in American universities.

There, Critical Theory gained traction and spread throughout college campuses, first in Columbia University, then to other academic institutions. It made the distinction between the “oppressors” and the “oppressed” and pointed to liberation of society, with the oppressed overthrowing the oppressors. For example, the book ‘Eros and Civilisation: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud’ by Herbert Marcuse, one of the key thinkers of the Frankfurt School, proposes a non-repressive society. In addition, it explores the potential of collective memory to be a source of disobedience and revolt
to point the way to an alternative future.

A ‘Slut Walk’ protest in progress, to protest against society’s expectation of how women should dress in order not to get sexually assaulted.

He also argued for “liberating tolerance”, which would involve “the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements” of the Right, and promotion of speech, groups, and progressive movements of the Left.

These theories gave rise to many of the movements during the 1960s in modern America, like sexual liberation, radical feminism, antiwhiteness
and so on. This is also where concepts of political correctness, social justice and ‘safe spaces’ come from.

The outcome of these movements is to increasingly overthrow the majority, who are seen as “oppressors”, by twisting social norms and even by altering patterns of speech, ultimately overthrowing traditional Western culture.
Recently, an intriguing case showed this exact phenomenon.

In the United Kingdom, BBC staff have been told to use non-binary gender pronouns when addressing gender-fluid or transgender employees to ensure that the company does not develop a “heteronormative culture”.

The outcome of these movements is to increasingly overthrow the majority, who are seen as “oppressors”, by twisting social norms and even by altering patterns of speech, Ultimately overthrowing traditional Western culture.

This means that BBC employees will be encouraged to refer to non-binary colleagues as “they” or “them”, rather than “he” or “she”. A heteronormative culture is now seen as an anomaly, when it used to be the social norm.
This rhetoric of being ‘inclusive’ has now, in fact, shunned heterosexuals, who are the majority. But what about somewhere closer to home, in Singapore?

Singapore, while maintaining many traditional values, is being influenced by modern Western culture. Cultural Marxism is well and alive in Singapore society, despite it being much more covert than in the West.

The new breed of a hypersensitive culture, or PC (politically correct) culture, is now deeply entrenched in Singapore society, where almost everything is heavily scrutinised based on sexism, racism or politics.

“I’m offended” or “That was offensive” is now a mainstay in Facebook comments and threads. People are now taking offence to anything and everything, with ‘call out’ activism being at the core of it. Just last year in 2017, actor Shrey Bhargava’s Facebook post went viral after he was made to speak in an Indian accent in order to sound comical during an ‘Ah Boys To Men 4’ audition.

He felt that he was reduced to a caricature of his race, as not all Indians speak with an Indian accent in Singapore. Some netizens decried the casting directors’ racism, while other netizens insisted that as an actor, he should have been able to adapt and act according to directions given. A heated debate ensued as people called out some netizens for having Chinese privilege, as they never had to worry about being stereotyped against.

This incident, amongst many others, showed PC culture at its peak. It is debatable whether it was right for the casting directors to ask him to speak in an Indian accent; however, we see the rise of a PC culture in Singapore where only one opinion is right—and others are silenced with ‘race’ and ‘privilege’ cards.

These instances are all too familiar in everyday life. We see people getting called out for being “rich”, “privileged”, or the “majority” on social media spaces like Facebook or Twitter. But here is where the issue lies—there is an inherent assumption that there is a moral problem with being “privileged” or the “majority”. Thus, the narrative of the ‘evil and privileged’ oppressing the ‘good minority’ is perpetuated, ironically stereotyping the “majority” as well. But is this narrative really accurate?

Social issues are being questioned, for better or for worse, but the issue lies in being politically correct for the sake of being politically correct. When there is so much hypersensitivity going on, people are scared to voice their opinions for fear of being seen as non-inclusive or ‘bigoted’.

However, candid discussions are needed more than ever in today’s world, to dispel misconceptions through mature conversation and debate.

Shutting down conversations for fear of being ‘politically incorrect’ is tantamount to avoiding the elephant in the room—which does not erase its existence just because you don’t call it an ‘elephant’ or give it a different name.

The new breed of a hypersensitive culture, or PC politically correct) culture, is now deeply entrenched in Singapore society, where almost everything is heavily scrutinised based on sexism, racism or politics.

While it may not be immediately obvious, this is an instance of Cultural Marxism at work. It is the use of ‘privilege’ to overthrow the majority, and to perpetuate the notion that only one way of thinking is the right one. The majority is now the ‘other’, and people are afraid to speak out.

PC culture then becomes detrimental when it undermines free speech, and when everything is scrutinised under the lens of race, religion or sexuality.

This also extends heavily into other areas, such as sexual and gender emancipation—where it is now considered empowering for women to have casual sex, and people who do not think so can be considered bigoted or anti-feminist.

Interestingly, a Bloomberg columnist wrote in his recent Oct 18 article: “Of course there is a lot of racism out there, which makes political correctness all the more tempting.

Yet polling data suggests that up to 80 percent of Americans are opposed to politically correct thinking in its current manifestations. Latinos and Asian Americans are among the groups most opposed, and even 61 percent of self-professed liberals do not like political correctness.”

Of course, liberal views are still more commonly seen in the West, but we can see how Cultural Marxism is slowly entrenching itself in the world.

Despite small, unrelated incidents, there is indeed an overall pattern of our society becoming more hypersensitised, and a trend towards liberation from traditional norms.

Marxism is then well and alive in the world, even if we do not realise it. Even though it may not be affecting us economically, it is certainly affecting us culturally.

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