The Importance Of National Identity

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Introduction 2015 will mark Singapore’s 50th year of independence, and Singaporeans will be gather to celebrate our sense of belonging and attachment to this nation. However, does that attachment to the country really exist? For the purpose of this paper, our group has defined ‘nationalism’ as the sense of attachment and loyalty to the country cultivated through a collective ‘national identity’, defined as the conception of a country as a distinct entity with collective symbols like its culture, memories, values or traditions. Singaporeans today are unable to articulate what being Singaporean means (Mahbubani, 2013). The absence of a widely held national identity hinders the development of nationalism. This lack of nationalism has been…show more content…
The goal was to develop a ‘rojak’ identity – ‘the preservation of different flavors in a new concoction’ (Devan, 2013), hoping that this would foster a society united by a common appreciation of our diversity. ‘Singlish’ has been cited as the secular state’s symbol; the English-based creole language, which adopts Malay, Hokkien, Cantonese and Tamil words into its vocabulary, is a ‘badge of identity for many Singaporeans’ (“Culture, Language and People”, 2013) as it reflects our multicultural background. Additionally, ‘respect for multi-racial and religious practices’ has been cited by citizens as the most distinctive indicator of a Singaporean identity (Institute of Policy Studies –, 2013). Therefore, ethnic diversity became a key element in our sense of national identity (Mahbubani, 2013). However, these relentless reminders of our ethnicity have ironically hardened our ethnic identity. Our overlapping Singaporean identity competes with our ethnic identity (Devan, 2013), and to a large extent, the latter prevails in an individual’s sense of self as opposed to their identity as Singaporean. From cradle to grave, ethnicity is the ‘single most important marker of our social existence’ (Taib, 2013). Individuals are required to declare their ethnicity on everything from job applications to lucky draw forms (Loi,…show more content…
Survival was the main priority and the government began nation-building in an economic, rather than a nationalistic, structure (D’costa, 2012). The government’s promotion of pragmatic values, like meritocracy, was guided by the need for economic growth, which bred a ‘driven and ambitious populace’ (Prakash, 2014). Meritocracy posits that advancement in society should be determined by an individual’s effort and merit (Low & Vadaketh, 2014), reflecting the self-reliant attitudes of a society that has shifted from mechanical to organic solidarity. Unfortunately, the belief in meritocracy providing equal opportunities for all to succeed on the basis of their hard work has led to the disregard of unequal starting points (Tan, 2008). Differences in one’s initial socio-economic background, mediates an individual’s life chances in education. Entrance into elite primary schools are influenced by one’s social capital, with children of alumni receiving preferential entry (Davie, 2013). They are also often concentrated in expensive neighborhoods, giving those who can afford to purchase property in these areas priority admission (Ng, 2011). Students of these elite schools then enjoy the ‘best resources in the form of good teachers and world-class facilities’ (Phneah,

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