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Westernisation: Boon or bane?

June 20, 2018






A snapshot of the general Singapore populace


The effects of globalisation have been increasingly prominent, one being the development of western-infused cultures within our Asian society.


In the recent National Ideological meeting, many of our ministers have expressed their concerns over this issue.


Such concerns are not unfounded.


One of the impacts of westernisation is the idea of individualism. In our pragmatic society, this western value is extremely fresh and appealing to many Singaporeans.


This is due to the fact that it contradicts with the traditional Asian principles adopted by our government , which greatly emphasises on placing society above self. If people become too idealistic, they fail to recognise the need to care for the society.


Individualism may also be a silver lining in a dark cloud


However, some ministers feel that individualism can be useful to our society if we leverage on this value in certain ways. They feel that individualism can bring about self-reliance allowing people


to pursue their passions, spur creativity, growth which in turn allows Singaporeans to be able to contribute to the society.


Dr Arthur Tan Geat Leng, a representative from Singapore’s Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) Council says: “Ideas generated in the individual sense can be garnered towards feedback and discussion, hence benefiting  a country.”


Dr Arthur Tan speaking to the committee members


He also mentioned: “One striking example the stagnation of China’s development in the past. When everyone hold the same ideas, it would be impossible for the society to progress.”


Another effect of westernisation is modernisation. Modernisation is crucial for the development of the society.


“What we need is modernisation, not westernisation,” says Mr Ridzwan Dzafir, president of Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura.


Rabbi Isaac Ben Zakin, Jewish Council Member of the Inter-Religious Organisation, stated: “With a combination of both eastern and western values, benefits for the society will be brought about.”


Most of the council members felt that it would be ideal to be able to combine them together effectively to strike a proper balance between eastern and western values.


They argue that a few western aspects like individualism is something that can dilute our national identity, but our eastern values such as “Placing society above self” can counter this problem. This highlights the importance of combining the aspects of both values into one Singaporean principle.


However, some ministers such as Ahmad Mattar, Minister for Environment and Water Resources and Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs and a member of the Singaporean Cabinet disagrees with this point of view, stating that proliferation of western ideals is harmful to our society in the long run.


“There is no guarantee that our eastern values will be retained,” he said.


This resulted in a heated debate in which the committee came to a general consensus that minimal aspects of western ideals should be incorporated into our values.


Combine, not replace


The council had decided that one feasible method to combat westernisation of Singaporean culture is to do so via education. By teaching the younger Singaporean populace the importance of eastern values, it ensures that these values will not be diluted in the presence of the western values.


Another method is to advocate for the  integration of a few beneficial aspects of westernisation into our current values, without replacing our current values with them.


Though this goal is ideal, it is difficult to determine the degree of each person’s susceptibility to being influenced by western values. Moreover, how do we ensure that everyone agrees with and incorporates these values into society?


These questions can only be answered when the government comes to a consensus and comes up with concrete implementations on the issue of combating westernisation.



"Singapore among the Top Spenders in Asia Pacific for Dining: Survey." TODAYonline. May 06, 2014. Accessed June 20, 2018. https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/singapore-among-top-spenders-asia-pacific-dining-survey.

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