Common experience needed to forge bonds

A Singapore identity is important because it binds us as a people and sustains us as a nation (Is Singapore's identity less clear today?; July 23).

We averted being a failed state with foresight, fortitude and a good dose of luck. People stood behind our founding fathers to face a common destiny despite the odds.

Economically, we were more homogeneous then.

Basic existential needs were the common overriding concerns of the populace, and many longed for three square meals a day.

But our needs have become more diverse as we prospered.

While the drive to meet our basic necessities and the pursuit of material wealth have delivered a better standard of living overall, they cannot be relied on to build our identity as a nation.

A common ideology, vision, or even an adversary is what is needed.

The emphasis here is a commonality of experiences among the people.

In this respect, wealth may serve as a divider more than something that unifies us.

I suspect that many of us may find it difficult to define what constitutes the Singapore identity.

We are caught up in the struggle to make a living or pursue material wealth.

Our identity is something we must build on our own, it is something others cannot help us with - it cannot be outsourced.

With today's technology and communication, the views Singaporeans hold may diverge, and that is all right but we should close ranks in the face of external threats - ranging from security to criticism by foreigners. We must be vigilant.

We must strengthen our national education, so that everyone realises that Singapore is not just a place for us to build our material wealth.

In the end, it will be us, Singaporeans, regardless of economic status, who have to defend what is worthy.

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2017, with the headline 'Common experience needed to forge bonds'. Print Edition | Subscribe