POLITICS100 in the U.S.

My exchange in the U.S. is coming to an end! Figure that I should do a hasty write-up on the sociopolitical musings that have been looming in my mind for sometime now.

1. What is human rights again?
The concept of rights, contrary to the expectation of it being inherently natural, is fought for and might it be socially-constructed? Where the right to healthcare, education and basic necessities is acknowledged as a right by the state in Europe, it might not be for the rest of the world. For example, calls for lower taxes. Although taxes go to funding public infrastructure and/or welfare services to facilitate markets, one could argue for bare minimum tax to just solely fund public infrastructure and not the latter, such that the right to welfare impedes on another’s right to full wage. Then the other side might argue for taxing welfare services because the poor are poor to allow you to be rich in the capitalist system that is highly-unequal in nature so you have the responsibility to at least suffice their basic needs… so you can continue to be rich? Rather than a takeaway, this makes for a food for thought: are rights already intact and universal for all human beings, or are they created for different political motivations? Perhaps also because they’re always under negotiation, rights is what makes us different from animals, in terms of conflict management, by laying out terms that draw the line as to where our liberty crosses each other’s boundaries.

2. Learning about privilege in another multicultural environment
It might be helpful to gain a new perspective or two about the concept of race in another multicultural society, one with racial categories scrambled up in varying proportions, that is different from the one you have been living in for the last twenty years. You’re no longer a Singaporean Chinese in the CMIO model but listed as an Asian (which you might consider it as a category with so many denominations from within, so how it possible for them not to realize it?) in U.S. census. I feel that I have to reiterate this experience again. I didn’t used to understand what Chinese privilege is, since being (1) part of the Chinese majority and (2) in a meritocratic society where one’s troubles/setbacks are largely accounted for by individualistic tendencies. What I have learnt in the U.S. is that privilege is being in the “unmarked” category. Being “marked” means to be questioned/doubted, which it doesn’t have to be explicit,  from the mark (i.e. race) as to why you’re here in the first place. For instance, going to college when most members in your community do not end up in this path. Of course, being in the “unmarked” has its cons as well, like when you don’t end up fitting into the default mold and decides to stray, you get questioned as well.

3. Airing things out doesn’t necessarily result in conflict
I’ve been raised, inculcated with the idea that bringing up discussions that are along the lines of race, religion and politics; inequalities, on the table disrupts harmony among members of the society who are from diverse backgrounds. The situation that follows a dissent opinion in Singapore is that this opinion ends up headlining the news and everyone makes a hoohaa out of it. But when the norm of airing different opinions is inculcated in a society, these opinions hardly startle anyone. I don’t mean that people no longer pay attention to these opinions when you grant them the freedom privilege of exposure to all opinions without censorship. This is an issue to explore another time. I meant that, perhaps if we do away the public censorship to politically-incorrect opinions or behaviors, this might inculcate a norm of acceptance among members in a society, for opinions that are on the polarizing end, that they might not be used to seeing/hearing about them. Then, the likelihood of upsetting this “harmony” equilibrium might be less when they get used to opinions that are different from theirs or the mainstream.


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