It is definitely more advantageous to be a diverse society than a homogenous one. Discuss.
One obvious advantage of a diverse society is quite simply that of an increased variety in cultural traits and traditions. With the presence of a complex multitude of differing cultural groups, each offering their own unique brand of cultural practices and identities, it is almost impossible for one to be able to resist the chance to experience the intoxicating, dynamic blend of these vastly different cultures. This is one phenomenon that governments of diverse societies have observed, which they have translated into every capitalist’s dream – the tourist dollar. By marketing their countries or states as a destination bursting with cultural variety and brimming with people from all walks of life and backgrounds, they are able to establish themselves at the forefront of cultural diversity, and lure the ever-willing tourists who are hungry for a taste of authentic cultural richness.
The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has definitely made the most out of the nation’s melting pot of different cultures and races, launching a campaign very aptly titled “Uniquely Singapore”. The campaigns banks heavily on the colourful cultural scene that Singapore enjoys, with posters depicting children of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian heritages sharing a bowl of ‘ice kachang’, a Singaporean ice treat, with huge smiles and satisfied faces. STB’s strategy to market Singapore as the Southeast Asian country with the distinctive edge of having a harmonious society has worked wonders. The Straits Times, a Singaporean newspaper, has recently reported that tourism rates in Singapore have increased, with a large percentage of tourists hailing from China and Japan, both of which are largely homogeneous societies without any significant cultural diversity. It is thus fair to conclude that the presence of cultural variety presents countries with the huge potential of amassing economic benefits when handled accurately.
It is also important not to neglect the social benefits that a diverse society is able to cultivate. While racial and cultural tensions are expected and almost a given in areas where distinctly different groups of people coexist, careful management of these situations can not only alleviate such notions of dissatisfaction between groups, but can also lead the people into becoming more tolerant and forgiving towards the habits and practices of an individual from another cultural background. With enough education and exposure, people gain a deeper understanding of belief systems and traditions other than their own and it is likely that people will also become more open towards differences. The result is a harmonious and friendly environment for all to live in.
Singapore has been fortunate enough to be able to maintain this peaceful and tolerant state following the devastating racial riots in 1964. Having experienced for themselves the sheer horror and bloodshed that racial animosity is able to inflict, Singaporeans have since adopted a much more open stance towards their fellow citizens of different backgrounds. The government has also done its part to stimulate healthy interaction between members of different cultural groups, for example allocating a designated quota of different racial groups that are allowed to occupy a block of Housing Development Board (HDB) flats, Singapore’s most common mode of housing. With constant interaction and deeper insights into the different cultures, Singapore has truly created a culturally acceptive atmosphere that will most certainly continue to permeate even the latest of generations.
These advantages are undoubtedly the results of the painstaking efforts of the government and other political parties that have ensured that culturalvariety does not degenerate into cultural revulsion. Indeed, the presence of cultural diversity and the resulting need to manage the associated benefits and problems are tricky issues that make the government stronger and more capable of tackling any future diversions that may head their way. As much as globalization brings about a homogenizing effect that blends the world into a landscape of uninspiring cultural similarity, minority groups will almost always be present, and it is of utmost importance that these groups are not marginalized and unrepresented in the political front. In fact, the presence of a strong, or fair political showing in the Parliament by members of the minorities are usually indications of a healthy political scene that takes into consideration the welfare of all different kinds of citizens, and is not merely concerned with meeting the needs of the majority.
The presidential campaign of the United States (US) candidate, Obama, is considered by many to be revolutionary, a change that may completely transform the face of the US, and even global politics. Being an African-American, he is their representative and spokesperson. Should he be elected as President of the United States, it is almost expected that this group will be given its fair share of the spotlight in political debates, and that its welfare will be treated with much more respect than before. Closer to home, the Singaporean political scene already has established members of different backgrounds and races, representing the four major groups in Singapore. It is a system that has helped Singapore achieve economic and social prosperity following its independence in 1965, and is a prime example of how governments can be strengthened by cultural diversity.
Despite the many advantages that a diverse society can bring to the table, some naysayers continue to believe that a homogeneous society is the answer to the elimination of social and cultural tension. Yet, in their naïve belief that creating a community of people with the same background and the same belief system is key to harmony and the solution to problems arising from diversity, they forget that what needs to take place first if the elimination of the minority: Hitler ‘cleansed’ the world of Jews in the WWII and Rwanda is entangled in the bitter civil war between two of the biggest tribes, each vowing to exterminate the other. The loss of human lives calls into question the perceived ‘benefits’ of homogenization, and the uninformed belief that a homogeneous society has more to offer than that of a diverse one. With careful planning and management, I believe that having a culturally diverse society will give countries a much-needed edge in the increasingly globalised future.