Tribalism

Class divide is the biggest fault line here

I refer to Finance Minister Lawrence Wong's speech at a conference organised by the Institute of Policy Studies and S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (Managing the tensions of tribal politics: Lawrence Wong, Nov 24).

Issues of gender, race, religion and ideologies have always shaped identities, relationships and politics. Increasingly, these identity markers are rancorously dividing and polarising society.

Sifting through the identity markers which have been bandied about in the current debate, I cannot help but notice the elephant in the room of tribalism, which is class division pitting elites against non-elites, encompassing aspects of social status and wealth. This was mentioned just once in passing by the minister as "status".

In Social Capital In Singapore: The Power Of Network Diversity, published last year, authors Vincent Chua, Gillian Koh, Tan Ern Ser and Drew Shih demonstrate that it is tribalistic class segregation, more than any identity marker, even race and religion, which is the most prominent fault line in Singapore society.

Therefore, unless Singapore acknowledges and confronts this class divide even while dealing with other divisive issues, it may go down the same road as many nations - towards ill will and social unrest.

Colin Lim

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2021, with the headline Class divide is the biggest fault line here. Subscribe