The message and the messenger.
In Singapore it is not just the message that counts, but the messenger, too. Whether or not a viewpoint is accepted or criticized seems to depend on who the messenger is.
I have been an observer of Singapore's blogosphere for a couple of years, now - and an observer of Singapore since 1999. Thus, I have had time to accumulate impressions about the nature of discourse here. Well, I have noticed something. Sometimes, a viewpoint which, if expressed by a Singaporean, would be endorsed and supported by other Singaporeans, is attacked, by Singaporeans, if expressed by an outsider. I find this strange. It seems that the messenger is more important than the message, here.
I have seen opinions and arguments presented by outsiders, which are very similar to opinions expressed by Singaporean commentators - yet, the outsiders views are roundly attacked by a number of Singaporeans, whereas, when a Singaporean writes the very same views they find support from other Singaporeans, who voice like views and experiences.
My conclusion from this is that a subset of Singaporeans don't like outsiders to comment on Singapore - even if those comments are the very same ones that a local person would make, in the same circumstances. There seems to be an undercurrent that if you are not born and bred in Singapore, then you are not allowed to voice your thoughts on it.
I am not saying that all Singaporeans think this way (indeed I have seen some Singaporeans speak out in support of the outsider's right to comment - and noting the similarity of their comments to locals') - but it is clear that some do.
I think this is a pity. If the views of outsiders are not welcomed, then Singapore can only be impoverished by this exclusion. Whereas an outsider might come to the same view as a local, sometimes they will see something that locals have overlooked, for the lack of certain comparative experiences and understandings. It is this fact which means that, far from being closed to the viewpoints of outsiders, that Singaporeans should be particularly OPEN to their viewpoints, in the hope of coming to understand something in a different way, and from a different perspective.
Singapore is still not fully at home with the presence of foreigners in its midst. Some Singaporeans have accepted them, befriended them, even married them - but others still think that foreign means "unwelcome" and feel that they should be excluded - their ideas included.
A message should be considered, irrespective of the messenger. It should not be rejected just because of the colour of skin, religious views, or other quality of the messenger. The message, alone, should be taken on board. Yet, still, in Singapore the question appears to be, for some: "Who is saying that?"
As I have observed this phenomenon, I have, at times, thought that perhaps I should not write my thoughts on Singapore anymore. I have wondered whether it is worth making the effort to communicate my understanding of what I see, when some will reject it simply because I am a white foreigner, rather than evaluating the thoughts on their own merits. Yet, still I have continued to write. I feel that I should continue for those who are open, and not be silenced by those who are not.
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