culture

Binge On History

In the past week or so, I've been binge-ing (is that a word?) on documentaries about history in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. 

Some of the information challenged my 'traditional' views on the area, while other bits made me want to find out more.

Certainly, all documentaries have some bias in them, depending on the angle and intent of the producer. The point, then, is to take in information from different sources and piece them together in a way that makes sense to me. 

A trio of things that struck me:

1) Historical figures are often portrayed in a good light by their own people's history texts. Accounts from other groups of people may shed light on their actual behaviours and deeds.

2) There is little consensus on historical information and what they mean. Interpretations vary according to the historian's culture, personality and mindset.

3) Events that once occurred are often very similar to situations today. It's no stretch to say that 'history repeats itself'.

Racial Harmony

On Thursday, I assisted a fellow trainer friend at his talk on racial harmony in a local JC. The session consisted of a film made by a local director/producer and a discussion afterwards.

One of the statistics that my friend stated got me thinking. Only 20% of Chinese in Singapore have a close friend who is from another racial background. Granted that we make up the largest proportion of the local population, that number is still pretty low.

Racial harmony is, doubtlessly, an important thing to have and we have done a fairly good job of it so far. Racial riots no longer occur, though the same cannot be said of racial tensions.

My pondering over this was also spurred on by the gem and jewellery fair that occurred over the weekend. A number of the vendors are familiar faces, though there are also quite a few new ones. 

As I spoke to the different vendors, the cultural differences between us quickly became apparent. Simply the way they related to the locals here was obviously different from the way they related to their own countrypeople. I even had a chance to observe some interactions between vendors from different countries. It was, in a word, interesting.

Perhaps, deep down, we are all still very much more comfortable with people who are similar to us and race is a point of commonality for many. After all, who could argue that race and culture are related and that it is easier to make cultural references with someone who has the same understanding as we do?

That said, I enjoy meeting people from different countries, and hope to have many more opportunities to do so in the coming years.