National Identity & Shared Values

Compassion, inclusivity, and diversity… What kind of a society do we want to be? Find out what we the participants have to say on national identity and values.

A compassionate and cohesive society

We believe in the importance of a kind, compassionate and caring society. COVID-19 highlighted the need for us to be more understanding towards one another. We are heartened by the many examples of people stepping up to help one another during this difficult period. We believe in sharing the responsibility of helping each other, especially for the more vulnerable groups such as the elderly, persons with disabilities, and lower-income earners. For example, families and communities can reach out to those who are not digitally-savvy to help them stay socially connected. Group chats could be set up for neighbours to bond and look out for one another. We must not leave anyone behind, and we would like to share more stories of people supporting one another, to inspire others to do likewise.

We aspire to be a people open to diverse opinions, and respectful towards each other. We want to be more encouraging and grateful instead of being quick to complain and judge. We recognise that the discourse on social media is often judgmental and one-sided, and we do not want to become a more polarised society.

My hope for Singapore is to see a more compassionate society. I think we should all start from ourselves, be kinder and compassionate to ourselves, accept the flaws that we have.

A resilient and inclusive society

We are glad that Singaporeans have been united in fighting the crisis. Most of us complied with safe distancing measures and this reflected our consideration for others and our strong team spirit. We have learned to be more flexible, resilient, and willing to step out of our comfort zones to try new things. We hope that even after the pandemic, we can continue to hold ourselves to high standards of social responsibility, be inclusive towards minority groups, be gracious to one another, and stay united as a people.

Nevertheless, some of us observe that COVID-19 highlighted the divides between the elderly and young, the rich and poor, as well as locals and foreigners. There is a risk of us losing the kampong spirit and developing an “in-group versus out-group” mentality, if we keep to people similar to ourselves and think of others as outsiders. We hope that social mixing across educational and socio-economic lines can be inculcated from a young age, such as through schools and community events. We hope that by fostering a deeper sense of community and collective responsibility, we can also strengthen local support networks and reduce friction among neighbours over issues like second-hand smoke or noise levels.

A broader definition of success

COVID-19 gave many of us an opportunity to slow down, spend more time with our families and less time working. Many of us hope to shift away from narrow definitions of success in terms of academic results and wealth, and instead value our family, friends, neighbours and communities more. We hope to shift away from an overly competitive or “kiasu” culture. We may need to re-evaluate the “traditional Singaporean lifepath” and our narrative of meritocracy.

We hope that this re-evaluation of values will persist in the post-COVID-19 new normal, so that we can all pursue greater purpose and meaning in life. Through the pandemic, we have become more appreciative of what we have and picked up new skills and hobbies that we enjoy. We hope that striving for happiness and less stress in life can become part of the Singaporean identity.

Creating space for honest conversations

We want to have honest conversations with each other, which requires trust. This in turn takes time and effort, a willingness to value one another’s perspectives, and the ability to agree to disagree. Many of us recognise that it is not easy to engage with people different from ourselves, but if we do not do so, our conversations will lack diversity, and we may exclude views from vulnerable groups, or cross-generational perspectives.

We also want to create safe spaces to hold conversations and listen to each other’s views, especially from those who are not usually heard. These conversations could take place in schools, as youths are more open to discussing traditionally sensitive or uncomfortable topics, such as race and religion. This would also encourage our youth to reflect on these issues and discuss them in a constructive way. We can also hold conversations between tertiary students and older adults to build inter-generational understanding and support. We hope that the young would be more appreciative and learn positivity and resilience from our seniors.

Our cultural resources

Some of us feel that we can cultivate more home-grown Singaporean culture and arts. We would like to feature more prominently our ethnic diversity and harmony, or unique points like our hawker centre culture, to give ourselves a competitive edge and to create a unique place for ourselves in the world.

Some of us suggest promoting local products, grooming local artistes, and putting more local cultural events online, to attract a wider audience. We also want to include and involve Singaporeans living overseas, as well as other cultures present in Singapore.