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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reclaiming Singapore's Malay Soul

"All of the books in the world contain no more information than is broadcast as video in a single large American city in a single year. Not all bits have equal value." - Carl Sagan

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A: It's sometimes sad to think that as a writer, one has devoted a good part of one's life to the exploration of an ideal, only to realise that reality diverges from the rhetoric. For 10 years I've been trying to figure out what 'Singaporean identity' really means. But very little of it has resonated with me, from 'kiasuism' to 'Confucianism' to 'Chinese-influenced Singlish'. Now what becomes urgent is a project of Malay revivalism--reclaiming Singapore's Malay past, its Malay soul. And may this project last me till the end of my days.

B: I urge to also consider looking into Indigenous histories across the continent; you know a lot of my fascination with Tino Rangatiratanga Maori call to self-determination in Aotearoa, stems from a need to connect the deathly silence on marginalisation politics in Singapura. How come Maori can survive past colonialisation and still exist to continue their people's liberation movement TODAY? much to learn through oral traditions, history of land occupation and territorial claims and I am convinced somewhere in there is a glimmer of inspiration for Malay revivalism.

C: Many modern nation states are still babies on a historical time scale.
Giving up after 10 years. Falling back on tribal identity. Too easy.

A: But C, Singapore identity *is* Chinese settler tribal identity disguising itself as national identity. Thus the problem.

D: That' why i posted this on my status a few days ago: "Hopefully if ever the time comes whereby the Govt wants to acquire the land in Bugis where there is an old Malay/Muslim cemetary (near Malabar Mosque), the Singapore Heritage Society and Singaporeans in general will rally to protect it from being developed like what they are now doing for the graves at Bukit Brown Cemetary. Don't just pay lip service saying that heritage is important and then erasing traces of history of the original Malay inhabitants of this country."

C: Two tribes don't make a democracy.

E: Does a nation's identity have to be based on the broad strokes of culture, religion or even race? Especially since all these things are based on a multitude of individual actions, beliefs and identities. A country can just be a place that issues a passport and 'allows' the gathering of all sorts. One might as well describe a nation's identity in how its passport looks like. Surely it's doesn't serve any purpose to describe ANY Mr Average of a Nation because it would be an insult to every other single individual of the same nation?

F: A,I always thought that if non-Malay Singaporeans truly want to distinguish themselves from from say,Indians and PRCs,then they better start asking themselves what is the soul of this country.At this rate,the continuing inflow of Indians and Chinese have diminshed my ability to differentiate between them and non-Malay Singaporeans.

G: I am completely supportive of reviving Malay culture. I just think that you should first, stop framing this project as a tussle between rival ethnic cultures and second, cease to hold up Malaysia as your "model" society as you have done in various posts. Such antagonism - justified, deliberate or otherwise - will only give Chinese bigotry just cause.

Me: When will Malaysia reclaim its Orang Asli or Japan its Ainu heritage?

C: I ♥ stalking A' antagonistic posts because Singaporeans are so much better at articulating their thoughts than my fellow Malaysians (on FB).

H: this sounds so politically, like picking up the work that the govt left off from the constitution! hope you are not going to be essentialist and leave out anything that is non-Malay or remotely Chinese, or people like me will become cultural orphans - i grew up totally confused as to whether the words i was learning were Cantonese, Malay or Hokkien..

G: Exactly. 'Chinese-influenced Singlish'? don't anyhow hantam, A!

I: it is also difficult to accept the observation : 'But Daniel, Singapore identity *is* Chinese settler tribal identity disguising itself as national identity. Thus the problem.' i find myself as un-Chinese as much as you find yourself alieanated from the 'Malayness' often already changed from the day the 'other' tribes arrived, not only from China
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