An Inclusive Society

I was quite horrified to read this open letter to TRS from two tourists who were recently in Singapore for a holiday. I was horrified for two reasons: first, over their terrible experience in Singapore, and second, that they’d choose TRS to air unhappiness over a very serious issue. I’ll only be discussing the first reason here (there is subtext, in case you are wondering).

I was quite shocked to learn that there are still Singaporeans who think it’s okay to publicly and openly discriminate against a minority group. I know this isn’t surprising to many out there, but I’ve been extremely sheltered for most of my life — I went to a convent school and the culture was incredibly inclusive. In fact, almost all my friends are from different races/religions/sexual orientations. Festive celebrations in my home might as well be a successful and happy initiative for a racial harmony campaign.

So, to learn that a mother would openly (and clearly, loud enough for the two men to hear) tell her son to avert his eyes because being gay is abnormal seems just horrendous to me. Please note that the operative words here are “openly” and “loud enough”.

There is a world of difference between keeping opinions and beliefs that might hurt others to yourself and blatantly airing them for the world to see

I get it: we all have (and are entitled) to our own opinions. I dislike corn, peas, pork and a multitude of other harmless items. I also have less harmless opinions about this country, Singaporeans, various ethnic groups, and so on. But I know these opinions might end up causing more dissension than peace, so I am careful what I say and to whom (those who know me will know that I am not so good on volume control, so I am extra careful at times).

Openly airing our beliefs, especially if it may be hateful towards certain groups in society is not, and will never be, helpful. There is nothing to gain; nothing to achieve. The mother may have been caught unaware by her child’s curiosity in that moment, but the way she chose to handle the situation — trying to pass on sensitive values and beliefs loudly and in public – reflected a lack of wisdom and social awareness.

Be aware of what values we pass on to our children, when and where it happens

We’ve established that we’re all entitled to our own opinions. We were also raised with certain beliefs that we’ve assumed as our own. However, we should be mindful of the situation in which we attempt to convey these sensitive values and beliefs to the younger generations.

We should always do so with an awareness that the child will have to grow up (live and function) in a society where each individual has a different set of values and beliefs. In other words, we should teach them inclusion instead of exclusion.

We should do so behind closed doors (especially religious values that may be sensitive to a changing society), not with the intention of “hiding” our opinions, but simply being mindful that these values and beliefs we’ve cultivated may be hurtful to other members of society… and we don’t want our children, who might not have social awareness at a young age, slipping up and saying something harmful.

What that mother did publicly — covering her son’s eyes and telling him that the couple was “abnormal” — could have been done in a different way. I can’t fault the mother for her personal beliefs, but I can fault how she had expressed it, and the way she attempted to pass it on to a future generation.

Let me elaborate.

I am Christian. I grew up in a Christian family, which had a strong belief in the heterosexual family unit, according to the Bible. However, my parents never instilled hate along with the values and beliefs they passed on to me, instead, they made sure I understood humility. This was to ensure that I would be able to recognize fellow sinners and feel compassion before hate. In doing so, they passed on bigger and more important values of love. This also meant that in the face of a society with varying values and beliefs, I would not judge, instead, I’d attempt to understand first.

I would like to add that the children we mold today will grow up to be teenagers and adults of tomorrow, some of whom would think that it is perfectly okay to scream “f*cking faggots” to strangers and teach their children loudly and in public that being gay is “abnormal”.

The cycle continues. It’s time we break it.

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