(Unpublished - March 23, 2010)
In light of recent events that raised considerable public discussion on social harmony in Singapore, I feel that there are a lot more things we should consider as each of us play our part is fostering and maintaining peace and harmony.
While it is continually made known to us that Singapore is multicultural and multireligious, it is important that we also recognise that we are multi-valued.
We have the freedom and protection to live our lives according to the values we hold, so long as they do not impinge on the rights and well-being of others.
That includes the discrimination and denigration of others and their respective sets of values. The right to hold your values does not involve making another person feel fearful, guilty or inferior, psychological weapons that either coerce the abandonment of one’s values or the forceful adoption of another.
It is unfortunate that some are overzealous in their ideological campaign to conquer, as numbers alone do not prove the superiority of a particular set of values.
It is not only culture and religion that determine difference in one’s values, but other legitimate identity markers such as age, gender, family background and upbringing, class, sexuality, political leanings and personal experiences.
Some may believe that social harmony is derived from the creation of homogeneity of values, at the expense of a diversity of values, but I believe that we can achieve harmony despite our differences, so long as we have graciousness, respect and humility.
Harmony involves more than just tolerance, but a legitimate acceptance that diversity, of any kind, is a natural and key part of our daily lives. Co-existence rests not on mere tolerance, but is underpinned by strong relationships forged by communities of different beliefs.
We should not be resigned to the idea of co-existence, but look forward to how we can make it meaningful for ourselves and others.
With this respectful and humble acceptance, only then will we be able to have continuous and meaningful dialogues that bridge peoples torn apart by polarisation and fed by fear, stereotypes and misinformation.
We can first start by recognising that different values exist and that each holds special significance for some.
Ho Chi Sam