Home > Perspective > Building Around Language, Ideology and Power

Building Around Language, Ideology and Power

When did I start thinking about the nature of identity and the social world? The first answer that comes to mind is literature classes, which started in secondary school. These were things I didn’t have any difficulty seeing the importance of and the interest in, which I suppose I should count as fortune.

To have had the opportunity is something I also count as fortune. From what gets put about in the news etc., it would appear the trend is that fewer and fewer are allowed the same.

On my mind tonight were some of the things Singaporeans have made of which I’m fiercely proud, as well as a really quite good (if not exactly comforting; really the opposite) speech from K. Shanmugam. Perhaps some of his points about the really quite rare kind of society Singapore has become resonated a bit more against the background of the other things I was thinking about – but, actually, I’m generally quite appreciative of the marvels large and small that have been achieved here.

The meat of the discourse, however, was about the larger currents and more immediate management issues that exert considerable influence on the shape of that society. (Smallness again raises its head.) I was quite impressed with how he drew the link through discourse (‘how public discourse [was] conducted’), ideology, and the basic conditions constraining human agency (economic situation, social context, technology, etc.).

I’d definitely recommend reading it, say from about paragraph 10 to 42 (the before and after being the usual-serious-polite stuff). One of the things it made me think about was what I mentioned at the start of the post. What that course of thought suggested was that it would be a good thing for us – perhaps even a modestly marvellous thing – to make the genuine attempt to engage as many as possible in that reflection. I think literature is an exceptionally engaging, rich, and profitable medium for that project.

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