By Ingrid Petersson
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Additional info for Four Theories of Responsibility
These kinds of attempts to denote ‘multiracialism’ as unity and harmony in diversity, though unavoidably crude, have become the dominant mental template for thinking about ethnicity in Singapore. As a model of Singapore’s multiethnic society, CMIO is simplistic and rigid. The very real differences between Chinese Singaporeans who are ‘Chinese-educated’ and those who are ‘English-educated’ are a case in point. The differences among Indians who are Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, and Christian are another. However, CMIO has been so entrenched in ethnicity-related legislation, policies, institutions, national discourse, and national celebrations that thinking about each of the four ethnic groups as monoliths to which religion, class, and other significant sources of identity have been conflated has become common sense, powerfully shaping questions of identity and difference, community, values, and nationhood.
In this way also, the grassroots sector serves as a mechanism of surveillance to keep a watchful eye on oppositional tendencies and forces in mass society (K. P. Tan 2003a). Public housing itself has been a major component of the totally administered society in Singapore, making a direct impact on the lives and aspirations of the 82 per cent of Singaporeans who live in these estates carved out into constituencies that are each served by networks of grassroots organizations with the PAP government at the center.
As a result, opposition parties tend to court the middle ground by offering political options that are not fundamentally dissimilar to those in the PAP’s manifesto. Of politics in 1950s America, Marcuse observed how “the programs of the big parties become ever more indistinguishable, even in the degree of hypocrisy and in the odor of the clichés” (Marcuse 1964/2002, 22). But even on this middle ground, opposition parties in Singapore have found it virtually impossible to defeat the PAP government, whose record of successful governance seems to trounce any arguments for political alternatives, theoretical or concrete.
Four Theories of Responsibility by Ingrid Petersson