Do discussions on religion and race really help?

By and large, Singaporeans have been brought up to be sensitive to race, language and religion issues, for fear of unknowingly offending others. This sensitivity is so ingrained in our society that perhaps we take for granted the tolerance and acceptance of those whose backgrounds are different from ours.

But now, with the greater emphasis on racial harmony, we seem to be going in the opposite direction.

It is as if the more we pursue racial harmony, the more it eludes us all.

Heightened wariness has made us weary and short-fused at the slightest mention of such sensitive subjects. Now, we seem to be walking on egg shells. No one is sure of what can or cannot be said.

Thus, to play it safe, perhaps it is best that we stay away from race, language and religion in our public discourse.

Of course, some vocal quarters may advocate discussing such issues, believing that it will make society more harmonious. But who controls the agenda of such discussions? Where will they lead us and when will they end?

It would appear that Mr Ron Ho is right (Racial unity - Are we regressing?, Aug 29). In some ways, we may indeed have regressed on racial harmony and we should not be too quick to attribute this to a lack of discussion.

As Mr Ho mentioned in his letter, in bygone eras, we were more tolerant and harmonious despite the lack of intense debates about the differences that erupted when people lived in close quarters.

Race figured little in social interactions despite the awareness of how we looked, worshipped and lived. Society was not as affluent as it is now, but we gelled as one. That, perhaps, is the irony.

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2019, with the headline 'Do discussions on religion and race really help?'. Print Edition | Subscribe