Singaporean to the core

The general pursuit of a Singaporean core in the workforce, sporting arena or society at large should not overlook what it really means to be Singaporean to the core. When visual stereotypes rule, anyone who doesn't look sufficiently "Singaporean", like Asiad gold medallist Joseph Schooling, has to bear with jibes against foreigners, even though born here - as indeed was the swimming star, his father and granddad. When someone who has done the nation proud is treated thus by trigger-happy xenophobes, even having been bred and schooled here might not matter a jot.

Open-minded citizens, however, would not be hung up on birthplaces or antecedents, and find good cause to bond with others who have embraced the Singapore way of life, social values, local mores and, yes, a common love for street food. Shared experiences, memories and aspirations would then form the basis of social kinship. Such a construction of a Singaporean identity is inviting as it would accommodate the diverse identities that co-exist here.

However, when being Singaporean is bound with the politics of identity, an exclusive notion of citizenship can assert itself over other identities, despite the obvious ironies. For example, when many of Singapore's revered pioneers - including a number of the nation's founding fathers - started their lives here as foreigners, what does it really mean to be "a true son or daughter of Singapore"?

When the singular identity denoted by citizenship is at odds with the multiple identities in a hub city, it would be ruinous to see this as a bitter contest. Rather, the tension should be managed sensibly, as an inclusive project to foster mutual understanding, give and take, and better appreciation of what is needed for society to hold together. Setting the scene this way offers a better chance more will feel that being Singaporean is really about "being" - deciding this is the best for one to be and committing to it.