(Unpublished - Dec 2, 2009)
I refer to the report ‘Unite against alternative values, Anglicans urged’ (ST, Nov 30).
While the sermon delivered by Archbishop John Chew pertains more specifically to the parish, it poses possible widespread repercussions in diverse Singapore.
I disagree that mainstream culture is being threatened or eroded by what has been suggested as undesirable counter-cultures.
Given we are multi-religious, multi-cultural and subsequently multi-valued, no Singaporean can exclusively claim and define mainstream culture.
Mainstream culture and values are not a collective absolute set, but a mix of heterogeneous cultures and values, in constant dialogue with one another.
I believe the way to go is to acknowledge, appreciate and respect diversity, which includes diversity of identities, communities, values and opinion.
We cannot move forward if we seek to isolate ourselves and create a bunker or siege mentality against cultures and values that appear contrary to ours.
This is not without implications, as policy may be influenced in a way that might bring greater disincentives, discrimination and stigmatism of people who do not meet the dogmatic standards of any politically influential group.
For instance, single parents and divorcees may perceivably pose an ideological threat to some, but in reality, they need all the help and support they can get, and they can definitely do without being identified as demonised posterboys for any specific socio-religious agenda.
I am personally not affected by the reality that people, as individuals, are redefining for themselves what constitutes family. I am neither interested in casting these persons as threats to the ‘traditional family’. For instance, I do not see homosexuality as a threat to my family or my personhood.
The procreative traditional family structure is not exclusively synonymous with mainstream family values. There are young couples, old couples, couples who cannot conceive, couples who adopt, and couples who choose to remain childless and each unit decides for itself what constitutes “family”, “love” and “safety”. They too are deserving stakeholders of “mainstream family values”.
The fact that there is diversity in our everchanging landscape shows that there are persons who are no longer bound by the guilt-traps and fear-mongering, but independently make decisions for themselves.
I urge people to critically observe how we identify threats and scapegoats whenever we are faced with emerging social problems. The fact that people and values change does not necessarily translate to a cultural threat.
Our concern should not be on the lack of consensus on mainstream values, an issue Archbishop Chew raised, but should be on how we can derive harmony and peace in a land of diversity and difference.
Ho Chi Sam