Imagine walking into your favourite mall one day and you’re greeted by billboards and store fronts start calling out your name, telling you about your shopping history and suggesting new products for you.
Seems like that reality may not be too far off. Like the scene above from Minority Report, retailers and malls here are in talks with digital technology firms to install tracking systems to detect shopper movement, face and even gender to ‘better cater’ to our needs.
Is this convenience? Or does it warrant concern about privacy?
Do we sometimes go on a travel experience already with stereotypes of people and cultures in our minds, and we were just looking to visually confirm them? I could honestly say my visits to South Korea and Thailand in the past weren’t exactly postcard experiences of Gangnam Styles or Lady Boys.
Gary Andt from The Atlantic writes:
“The world is what it is, and you have to explore it on its terms, not yours. No matter what you expect to see when you visit a new place, the reality you will find will be different. You are traveling in the 21st century, not the 19th. Do not expect people to be caricatures or stereotypes of something you have in mind. View the people you meet as neither cultural superiors nor objects of pity. Moreover, whatever you think is authentic was developed without your having experienced it.”
Here are 7 reasons he observes why travelers, especially those visiting a less developed ‘ethnic’ destination, often have a misplaced sense of realities and cultural diversity.
The recent sea disaster involving the Sewol Ferry in South Korea sparked speculation surrounding the causes of the disaster, with some journalists attributing it to the nation’s “culture of obedience”.
Kai Ma from TIME bemoans this journalistic trend, and writes:
Should aspects of Korean society be scrutinized? Of course. Poor communication, disorganization, and complacency – compounded with fumbling bureaucracies and the lack of protocol and proper training – resulted in a botched rescue mission that has South Korea reeling. But to theorize that the high death toll is linked to a perceived cultural flaw or deficiency is a lazy journalistic shortcut. It fits a stereotype.
Maryam Mokhtar from The Straits Times also adds a local perspective to it:
Like South Korea, Singapore’s education system is often perceived as instilling a culture of obedience in the young, who are subjected to rote-learning.
I am a product of this system. But my peers and I have little problem expressing our views – politely – during discussions with our supervisors at work or our parents at home.
So what does this mean for the GP student? Yes, we can surely consider wider cultural factors and norms when speculating on why certain events occur or issues persist. But, we must caution against lazily doing so in the absence of more rigorous investigation. Perhaps blaming culture is mentally not as taboo as blaming race or gender, but it still feeds an unhealthy stereotype that does more to limit our view of the world, rather than help make sense of it.
I’ve heard educational institutes in Asia invite ‘native English speakers’ to their countries to teach English.
Well what is a native English speaker supposedly? People from England? Well the video below will certainly lead one to question the veracity of such a term.
No time to catch the daily Channel 5 news at 9.30pm? Fret not, just watch it online on Toggle at your own convenience. These half an hour digests with a good spread of local and international headline news may not be terribly in-depth but you would be more informed than most for a start.
Quite unsurprisingly, a recent IPS survey on race, religion and language suggested that nationality-based prejudice is on the rise while that between races and religion has remained largely unchanged. About 32.1 per cent of 4131 Singaporeans surveyed felt that prejudice based on nationality has become more widespread now compared to five years ago.
Survey also surfaced how Singaporeans were less relatively comfortable with New Singaporeans born overseas in private (like family) and public settings (like work). It is perhaps a pity the survey did not delve deeper into these perceptions to get at the reasons why such sentiments prevail.
Moving forward, what can be done to better integrate new citizens while maintaining a Singaporean identity? While most felt that the government is responsible for maintaining racial and religious harmony, less than half agreed they have done a good job integrating new immigrants. Is government enforcement the answer then?
What approach is then needed?
Several netizens have questioned Singapore Kindness Movement general secretary William Wan’s article calling upon Singaporeans to show ’empathy’ for Anton Casey – the unfortunate individual whose online comments on the ‘stench’ of public transport erupted in a social media furor and indignation.
Just trying to understand how Wan’s use of the word empathy here. I don’t think he is trying to say that we necessarily lacked empathy in our response, but that we needed to exercise more empathy BEFORE we considered endorsing efforts that attacked the person (his home, family) rather that the action i.e. If I WERE made such a stupid comment myself, I would gladly accept the consequences but not the attacks on my family. I think Wan is NOT asking us to empathize with his class or wealth , but merely to empathize with his very basic humanity.
What do you think?