…to build a democratic society

Conversations about ‘multiculturalism’ here in Australia often fall short of my lived experience of what it means to embody multiple identities, politics, and values, all at once; of what it means to blend into, and rub against with someone else’s identity, politics, and values at the same time; and still sit at the same table and share a meal.

As I sit in the discomfort of the outcome of this Federal Elections, it is timely that Singapore releases its annual rah-rah-heart-tugging-anthem in the lead up to her National (independence) Day.

I question Singapore’s democracy just as much as I do Australia. But as ‘young’ countries constantly (almost obsessively) trying to articulate its national identity, what I really want to know is – what are the stories we actually want to tell? And are we telling them?

In both countries, we are told – the people aren’t ready for an Indian, or Female gay Asian Prime Minister. Our gender and sexuality is still policed. Migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers continue to be denied basic human rights. The poorest amongst us continue to oppressed under the weight of inaccessible bureaucratic systems. All in the midst of a rising conservative religiosity.

But let me remind you, Jesus was one of the best social justice warriors in his time. Kindness, mercy and grace; love is the tenet of the faith. The ‘faith’ now used in political commentary because the ‘faithful’ continue to vote in fear. No one is here to take your Jesus away – but a society that blinds itself from the human dignity of each person – is not one in which Jesus lives within.

Our countries are not young at all. Our countries have rich, layered histories that intertwine – in stories and language that tell of multiplicitous ways of being in this world; Culture that seeps deeper and farther into the nuances of our blended identity.

The human condition is vast and complex, and can often be contradictory unto itself.

And if there is one thing these yearly rah-rah-heart-tugging-anthems teach me – is to find the aspirational – even when we fall short, especially when we fall short.

The last two lines of the Singapore pledge reads:

“…to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality. So as to achieve happiness, prosperity, and progress for our nation.”

Perhaps the heart-tugging is really a grief – for a home I am challenged by but cannot disentangle from despite my efforts, and yet a home I love so dearly; that it stirs a warm pride for a familiar world, but also a sadness that we fall short of the narrative we have been striving to tell.

That we all fall short.

But for the next little while, I will play this on repeat with tears in my eyes as I long for ‘home’. And for the friends in Australia joining me, here’s a great visual for the kind of ‘multiculturalism’ we so sorely lack.

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