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Singaporean Diversity and Politics


A mosque in Singapore ^

I think if there’s one striking difference between the US and Singapore- it’s the diversity that’s here. Everywhere you look, there are people of 20 different skin colors and 10 languages are being spoken in a room at any given time. This isn’t just the “tourist-y” places but pretty much everywhere in Singapore. Women working in burqas are a common sight and traditional clothing aren’t worn only for special events. Chinatown isn’t just a place filled with Chinese restaurants but has been enriched with Chinese cultures, including temples, a village filled with statues inspired by Chinese mythology, and rituals the public can join and participate in. Little India and Arab Street have huge mosques and places of worship welcome to visitors and street after street of traditionally painted murals. I’ve heard there is no Freedom of the Press here, and the government does this in order to maintain peace between the different races here. The government also instills quotas in neighborhoods so there can’t be more than a certain percentage of a race in one concentrated region. Prior to coming here, I wasn’t sure what living under an authoritarian regime would be like. The word ‘Authoritarian’ in my political science classes almost always carries a negative connotation. The role the government plays in Singaporean daily life is much more present. Walking through the metro, the ads are seldom ads for new watches or perfume, but ads sponsored by the government to be more active or a new housing grant for those earning below average wage. A running joke among my friends and I is that every subway station drops you off at a shopping center (proven to be true in the majority of subway stations we’ve gotten off at!) and many of these malls will have posters inside promoting healthy eating (reject fried food, choosing veggies) as well as posters that brand “Low Crime Doesn’t Mean No Crime”, warning citizens to always be aware. Further, most of the best museums, sport complexes, and tourist sites here are sponsored by the government, further emphasizing the role of the government in people’s daily lives. As an expat trying to experience daily life as a local Singaporean would, I’m honestly impressed by the services provided- perhaps this calls for a change of perspective on how we should be viewing these loose political terms and how a place with stricter rules can help lessen racial tensions in an extremely diverse society.

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