Return to home, thoughts about identity

by woceht

Working in academia has been idyllic; I have a paycheck, access to the university library, some physics and engineering to wrap my (not very physically and practically oriented) brain around and sufficient biology to keep it happy while it writhes around a physical problem courtesy of my boss.  Just have to ignore the bureaucracy and remember to cite my boss’ name if I need to get the smallest thing done (something I find a very frustrating bottleneck in a system purported to value efficiency).

Family is as demanding and emotionally unavailable as ever, and I’m getting better at saying no while being sucked back in.

Discovered a couple good restaurants around town, but am still searching for like-minded company in my social life.

Outside of work, what has been occupying my thoughts is identity–revisiting/reclaiming what is Asian/Singaporean about my identity and questioning its interaction with this the society of my birth and childhood and one which in many ways I abhor.  To wit, what place a western educated liberal feminist queer Singaporean has in Singapore, and for the foreseeable future.  What makes this Singaporean a Singaporean and what about me clashes with what a Singaporean ought to be?  Why do I feel so weird so misunderstood so lonely so uncomfortable and out of place in a place that should fit as comfortably as a glove?  It’s been hard trying to fit back into a society that on one hand has changed as much as I have, and on the other in perhaps the most important way stayed despairing static.  The returning me also seeks new people to interact with, new aspects of the city with which I was not familiar before I left 7 years ago.  As many friends have asked me–why am I back?  Am I back for good?  I think I myself seek these answers.

I think the disquiet stems from the fact that a lot of what I think of as “Asian/Singaporean” I find abhorrent–the denigration of self, Confucianism, authoritarianism, patriarchy, conservatism, magical thinking, the blind acceptance of authority (e.g. the state newspaper), unquestioned middle-class privilege, xenophobia/ignorance–classism, racism, homophobia.  I find it hard to resolve my own identity with these unwavering obnoxious qualities of my society.  Of course it isn’t all bad.  It is quite reassuring to at least have a family that is unquestioningly physically if not emotionally there when I need it.  I credit my post-colonial Asian middle-class background for instilling in me the sense of responsibility, organisation and drive that have seen me through as I have gone through various aspects of my life.  Yet in many ways I think this society has judged and spat me out as a lost cause–I’m that idiot forthright feminist environmentalist maverick cousin/daughter/friend that shall be gently tiptoed around.  I see no way of academic advancement for me here, certainly not in science in such a pragmatic and economically driven academic climate which favours only purpose-driven science like engineering, something I have neither interest nor aptitude in and find antithetical to the concept of academia.  Strangely the feeling that all is lost has, amidst despair and depression, awakened the resolve to be me as hard as I can, which is what I think my role in this society should be.  I believe that Singapore is stagnating under this current authoritarian model that worked well in times of Singapore’s economic dominance in the region but is not the best solution for competition with up and coming Asia.  It is not the most effective use of our human resources to stifle the masses when there are already so few of us compared to almost any other country.  No matter how ruthlessly you stifle the masses in the name of efficiency and economic growth, our current growth model can only take us so far. I truly think we need to build a more open and inclusive Singapore from the ground up, to create a different, thinking population, one that utilizes every citizen to their best strength.  I think any initial loss of efficiency and growing pains will be worth it in the long run.  My short months being stifled under the top-down ass-covering bureaucracy where every minor decision has to pass through the bottleneck that is my boss’ sorely vied for attention span have shown me that, if nothing else.  Creativity and innovation, self-respect and self-ownership are the only ways to move forward against the competition, not mass importation of “foreign talent” and more of the same from the powers that be that tries to disguise itself as one that is open to discourse without actually doing any discoursing through its myriad new government sanctioned portals.

On my reading list is stuff by <a href=””>Yew Kong Leong</a> and <a href=””>Catherine Lim</a>.  I need to find more stuff by and about radicals in Asia.