We have fallen into a pattern of talking about matters of little significance.
After taking a long hard look at our country’s unsettling state, Grace Fu, Singapore’s Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, is setting out on a new mission: to build a strong national identity that can withstand the test of time.
At a media conference in March, Ms Fu gave a rundown on her plans on reinforcing our sense of national identity. She said Singaporeans should shift focus from the constant conversations on the best food in town – and delve into our country’s culture and heritage instead.
Ms Fu said, “People should ask one another, ‘Have you seen our artists’ work in the National Gallery? Have you seen our disabled athletes perform on the world stage? Have you seen our performers put up a great cultural show of our unique brand of local music?’”
The local politician firmly believes we need to gain a deeper understanding of who we are in order to bring our country to a higher tier. She continued, “If Singaporeans can better understand themselves as a people, their pride in being Singaporean will increase over time.”
To address the worrying trend of our dwindling national identity, Ms Fu shared that more school field trips to the National Gallery and other art institutions will be carried out. She stressed the importance of making these excursions engaging in order to make it worthwhile to younger students.
In addition to boosting our national identity, Ms Fu is also working towards another high-priority goal – to foster a compassionate society in Singapore. Citing “traditional faultlines between racial groups and religious communities” and the new divide between “the rich and the poor, foreigners and locals, and conservatives and liberals”, she talked about how these dilemmas could cause friction in our country.
Ms Fu’s sentiments certainly aligned with Lien Foundation’s recent findings. In July, the philanthropic house’s latest survey unearthed troubling results of special needs children living in Singapore – one in three of them faces inconsiderate treatment from the public.
As the media conference drew to a close, Ms Fu proposed volunteering to promote empathy among Singaporeans. She turned the spotlight on the necessity of coming forward and spending time with the less fortunate, to make a positive impact on our country and build an accepting and inclusive society.
One such start-up that strives for this common goal is Society Staples, a social enterprise that organises outreach events and disability simulation activities in hopes of banishing the stigma associated with the disabled. Holding their inaugural Singapore Giant Games Festival at The Red Box on August 5-6, 2016, the public can participate in sports such as badminton and bowling – only this time round, they’re played using bigger equipment.
Whether it’s mental wellness or disability, amongst other issues, these initiatives are a step in the right direction. It’s on us to boost our national identity and cultivate a caring society in Singapore. It will be time-consuming and extremely difficult – but important all the same.
The last thing we want for Singapore is to be a plastic society devoid of soul.