Bridge polarity with calm, rational public discourse

I agree with Mr Ethan Tan Xin Kai's call to not let Singapore degenerate into a polarised nation ("Don't let S'pore degenerate into a polarised nation"; Nov 12).

However, Mr Tan's assertion that the nascence of social rights movements signals a move towards polarisation betrays a misapprehension of realities.

The polarisation has always been here, with the oppression and stigmatisation of certain groups; protests and movements simply give a voice to these people.

Mr Tan calls for "the empowerment of all Singaporeans, instead of promoting our interest groups".

But it is precisely because these groups lack the rights accorded to others that discourse even exists.

If homosexuals enjoyed the same rights as heterosexuals and faced no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, there would be no need for Pink Dot rallies in the first place.

Mr Tan urges an end to bigotry, but then contends that we should not conduct "overaggressive campaigning" against the prejudiced, but "give one another space".

How is bigotry to end, in that case?

Take, for example, the recent outcry against an advice column published in Teenage magazine which appeared to hold a rape victim responsible for the crime perpetrated against her.

The magazine has since apologised, but only after online outrage and swift condemnation ("Advice columnist apologises for reply to alleged rape victim"; Nov 13).

Prejudice can be vanquished only with rational thought and public discussion.

It might be tempting to sweep seemingly intractable issues under the carpet.

But we must not stifle public discourse - especially on issues such as the suppression of social rights - but encourage it to continue in a calm, rational manner.

Only then can polarities be bridged.

Lucas Chan Jin Peng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2016, with the headline 'Bridge polarity with calm, rational public discourse'. Print Edition | Subscribe