It is without doubt that Singapore has progressed rapidly over the past 44 years since Independence. In this short span of time, skyscrapers have dotted the landscape, a significant amount of mobile chatter has crowded the environment, and the community, especially the youth, are more often than not deriding their own traditional values and customs.
However, one may question what the growing loss of such traditions has got to do with our friends in the Western World. Well, perhaps that link can be made clearer with this illustration. Take for instance, what would the traditional values of an Asian society be? (Think Singapore 50 years ago or during your grandparents’ time) I believe for many, the first thoughts would be Filial, Conservative, Hardworking and Disciplined. Basically, the same values that Confucius propagated. Now, imagine the Western Society: Free, Free, Free. In this case, “Free” does not in any way imply goods given out with no returns wanted. More in line, it is the Freedom and Liberty that the West advocates.
Pair the ideology of the West with the same rapid ascent of the Media and what you have is a society enamored by the grass on the other side. Of course, Singapore has its own leaders who had fought for freedom, taught the idea to its people and influencing them to a belief from the West. For a conservative people then, liberty would appear almost synonymous with the West and it is possible that the idea, to be free was to be like the West, started.
But the modern westernization of Singapore probably began when a TV set started to appear in almost every household. Over the years, that transition has been enforced by the upstart of the Internet, where now most of the island nation is connected to the world, virtually. Singapore, 50 years then and now, is very much different. Unknowingly, its people are embracing a set of cultural values diverse from what was the norm. Kids once grew up being entertained by the Chinese Opera and marbles, but today, entertainment comes from Sesame Street and Blogs. As the nation progressed forward, some aspects of what it once was is slowly fading into the past.
This topic of Singapore’s erosion of a cultural value and belief is particularly intriguing for me. How is it that a set of people can be so influenced by others and another idea? Why is it that the community cannot remain as it is and not be convinced subconsciously that the other side is better? Personally, I think that answer would be the equation between modernity and progress.
Modernity has allowed people to become better educated. The old belief that girls should not go to school has been replaced with a meritocratic system in Singapore where all are able to achieve. Parents themselves have gone to school and understood that for one to be more successful in life (although there are exceptions), one has to receive a formal education. Mindsets change and the perception of the family unit is different. Honestly speaking in this sense, the age of our forefathers is over. The era of a global understanding has begun.
Progress has given society the technology, the skills and aptitude to be more efficient and effective. Yet it has also brought about the means for ideas and thoughts to be widely spread to the people. The directive from above that would have taken days if not months to spread to the masses through the means of word of mouth, but now all it takes is a simple push of the button and through the web, instant information is received.
Therefore despite efforts (if any) to retain that traditional uniqueness of our society, the constant exposure because of Progress and the belief in Modernity has led Singapore into a changed nation. Yet, I cannot say that all has been lost and the Western concept has taken over. We are still a conservative country by nature and certain key values like filial piety is observed. While I may have termed this essay as the modern westernization of Singapore, I think it would be more appropriate to call it The Influence of the West and Progress on Singapore. To say that the society here has changed completely would be a little too extreme. And it would be almost audacious to say that nothing has occurred.
However, now with the advent of Asia’s power in the world, we may start to see another evolution. The rise of China and India and especially during this current world economic downturn where most of the Western World is affected, one is left with almost no choice but to lower his head to the dragons in the East. Give or take another 10-20 years, we might just as well observe the Asianification of the World.