berthahenson

Listen to the international conversation

In News Reports, Politics, Society on September 17, 2012 at 3:45 am

Let’s put aside the national conversation and listen to the international one going on instead. Man… it’s very loud. Here we are wondering about what to do about getting people to return their trays at eating places and there is the rest of the world wondering about what to do about dialling down the level of violence.
So the Japanese and the Chinese are literally eyeballing each other over some benighted islands and the Chinese people are asserting their strength of numbers. It’s tough to be a Japanese in any Chinese city but I suppose if they don’t say a word, they could blend in.
At least that fight is a bit further away and unlike what happens whenever the North Koreans are involved – we haven’t heard talk of violence going nuclear! But then there’s that silly video which is making Muslims angry, even the Muslims in next-door Malaysia. So much for the US government distancing itself from the video. No State involvement or sanction, it says. But no, no. just because an American made the video, America must pay. So Google and the likes are blocking access to the video – a small but belated move methinks.
Old historical wounds are being opened up. The Jap-Chinese animosity goes back centuries. The Islam versus the Great Satan debate has always been simmering. Massive diplomatic work and greater economic ties don’t seem to be able to paper over the differences, and the freedom that social media brings only widens gaps. Years of bilateral and international work undone because someone wants to exercise freedom of speech…never mind a dead envoy or two…Crazy.
Can we stay immune? This little red dot? Can we keep our distance even as we host a hotch-potch of nationalities of all races and religions here? Can we still enjoy the luxury of bitching about the MRT and getting frazzled over the need for tuition for our children? Times like this makes the national conversation more, rather than less relevant, methinks. We have to settle what we want our country to be before we can think about insulating ourselves against all that international noise. One reason this LRD has been a calm oasis is that we are rich. Never mind we can’t afford landed property and the income inequality is climbing, the fact is, there’s no enough economic dissatisfaction for others to exploit.
I know we sniff at terms like national resilience, total defence and societal cohesion. I suppose we see them as brainwashing techniques to get people to toe a certain line. But that “line’’ is important – we must all have a say in what that line is and should be. One example: How tough should we get over hate speech? What’s the consensus on this?
Actually I am a bit worried about something that’s happening even further away – in the Artic. Chinese ice-breakers which want to carve out a sea-route that would allow shipping to bypass the Straits of Malacca – our very important economic artery. Will this happen in my life-time or will we see yet another fight for resources there among the Chinese, the Russians and the Canadians before this happens?
I don’t see how Singapore can sit by and make polite noises when this comes to pass. So let’s take stock while we can and add to our strengths. And let’s add some “defence’’ elements into our national conversation. Maybe we should ditch phrases like national resilience et al. Maybe we should just say Be Strong, Stay Strong.

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