SINGAPORE – Gender and political ideology are among the identity markers, apart from race and religion, which guide identity politics in societies around the world today, said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on Tuesday 23 November .
The age-old conflict between national and tribal identities remains one of the most powerful driving forces of violence within and between nations, he added.
He said some believe that ethnically homogeneous countries are less susceptible to tribal conflicts, but “tribe” is not just about ethnicity.
âI’ve noticed that other aspects of identity have surfaced in our conversations – around gender, sex or various causes that people care about,â he said.
The minister was speaking at a panel discussion on New Tribalism and Identity Politics, and noted that he and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had spoken at length earlier this year on the subject of racial harmony in Singapore.
The conference is organized by the Institute of Policy Studies and the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, with M. Wong as the keynote speaker.
In his speech, he noted that tribalism runs deep in all human societies and has become more important today with an emphasis on the individual.
Mr. Wong acknowledged that in recent decades there has been more emphasis on self-cultivation, which has led to progress in many areas.
This development differs from the past, where societies everywhere were generally more cohesive and people were more connected and active in their respective communities.
âIn Singapore, we call it ‘the kampung spirit’,â Wong said.
However, when the sense of self is inflated at the expense of the community, the bonds between people are weakened, he said. “It leads to loneliness and isolation. And when people feel lonely and alienated, they fall back on defenses that are perhaps paramount in our species – they go back to the tribes.”
The internet has also made it easier to form and organize new tribes, but the echo chamber of social media often means that tribes end up selecting information on their own to support and reinforce their own views, he said. he adds.
Mr Wong said, “Tribalism may look like a community. But the two are not the same. Community is about inclusive connections and is based on mutual affection. Tribalism is inherently exclusive and based on mutual hatred:” us ‘against’ them ‘.’, ‘friend’ vs ‘foe’. “
Mr. Wong listed several examples of recent conflicts around the world resulting from identity politics.
These include the cultural wars in the West that transcend issues, from abortion rights and voting rights to awakened culture and vaccination or wearing masks.
Monoethnic societies have also experienced conflicts related to identity politics.
Poland, which is ethnically homogeneous with Poles representing over 95% of the population, has experienced a deadlock in recent years between supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights and conservatives who oppose them. . Parts of the country have declared themselves “LGBT-free zones” amid strong resistance from the liberals.
The United States, despite its long cherished crucible philosophy, experiences greater political polarization based on ideology and identity.
For example, a growing proportion of Republicans and Democrats view the opposing party in starkly negative terms. Even life-saving public health measures such as wearing masks and vaccinations have become markers of political identities, Wong noted.
He noted that when such a tribal identity takes root, it is difficult to come to a compromise without it looking like dishonor.
He said, âEvery grievance threatens self-esteem and every failure challenges the sense of self. So we get a downward spiral: individualism and self-interest provoke the formation of tribes, each tribe tightens its ranks on itself and politics becomes defined as all-out war between the tribes.