Thursday, November 22, 2007

CMIO system CMI (cannot make it)

I have a few posts lining up, but have yet to publish them.

Here's a quick one.

The PSLE results were out today. The press has reported it. But what has continually caught my attention is the use of "best Chinese", "best Malay", "best Indian" and "best Eurasian" students. Same goes for Ordinary Levels too.

Why do we want to reinforce racial differences? Are we trying to appease major segments of the population with good news? There are Malay-Indian, Chinese-Malay, Chinese-Eurasian children out there. Do they get represented?

I do hope this pigeonhole-ing of children and performance can be reduced in the future. This to me is communal politics, identity politics, singling out and using role models from each ethnic community to bring good news. I am sure, among the "Malays", there are people of Arab and Javanese descent. Why not break down the dialect groups of the Chinese and say "best Hokkien" or "best Haka" student? And the Indians too have a large diversity of dialect groups. Do we have "best Sikh" student?

How do we draw the line for racial good news? The more we are reminded about our ethnic identity, the more we are aware of it and this is a double-edged sword. Will it help racism, ethnocentrism and xenophobia? I doubt so. This system still upholds the CMIO system of classifying our fellow Singaporeans. We can do without it. We can be happy together without it.

As for ethnic "quotas" in public housing, it will then seem that wherever an ethnic minorities resides, they will still be a numerical minority, which translate to a voting minority. Are they ultimately truly represented? Enough said about that.

The majority Chinese-dominated population should not treat ethnic minorities like minorities, but like their own. But the reinforcement of ethnic identity via the press and such CMIO-classification apparatuses, does little service to this. The publishment of good news and achievements in the Malay or Indian (with emphasis on the race) community seems to me like a ploy by the media to appease the minorities. Yes, the media has a social responsibility to maintain peace and harmony, but are they doing it with purposefulness and meaningfully so, or are they doing it for the sake of doing it? When a Chinese Singaporean achieves something, he/she becomes just a Singaporean, no race. Individuals of whichever ethnic group they choose to affiliate themselves with, administratively or culturally, should not only identify with their ethnic group, they should do so themselves, without being reminded by the government; they should also be able to identify themselves as a Singaporean.

It is good to maintain one's own culture and practice it, whether for nostalgia, heritage, or superstition. Mixing with people from other cultures and ethnicities will not necessarily dilute one's one culture. Responsibility to maintain one's culture has nothing to do with the influence external forces and globalisation, but the individual and his/her family.

If the CMIO-classification was removed, it will not signal an end to C, M, I, and O identities. It just signals an end to the government's institutional mechanisms of segmenting/pigeonhole-ing society and more automony of cultural heritage and maintenance is placed in the hands of the respective communities. An ethnic Chinese man will not be more/less of a Chinese if CMIO was scrapped.

Our sense of belonging should be to this little island (if you grew up in it) and in my honest opinion, race is just fragmenting it. Furthermore, although skin colour is permanent, cultures practised are not. If this system remains, people's minds will only be a rigid as the system, and may be vulnerable to being intolerant of diversity, for example criticising a young Chinese man speaking fluent Malay, but unable to speak Mandarin well.

We already have spaces to practice our cultures and other ethnicities with other cultures have also joined in the mix. That is what matters, not some system of segmentation. Singapore is growing up. Is race and ethnicity as newsworthy today as it was in the 1960s? I've seen the Straits Times continuing to report "good news" and achievements of ethnic minorities, but when they report "good news" and achievements of an ethnic Chinese, his/her race is not played up significantly.

Leave the celebration of differences to the people, but please stop reminding the people of their differences.

No comments: