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Ideology and identity can be limiting — knock those walls down, too

This article originally appeared on on September 29, 2017 as part of a larger series with 6 Degrees Citizen Space 2017 speakers entitled Walls that need to go: Ideas for a more inclusive world. See full post here.

Humans build walls between us. To defend, to protect, to preserve our sense of self. Otherwise, foreign ideas will poison our minds and render them strangers in a foreign body. No way!

The walls that exist between us: ethnicity, faith, political ideals, gender, and many others. The divides that separates us are built high and steady, but they can be breached.

The internet has facilitated the steady flow of information and people are growing more aware of information they may not have learnt in their schools. There is a growing sense that people have rights, people have power and people understand that their destinies can be changed. But old antipathies still remain — powerful as they may seem, the walls will come down when people work together.

First, the wall of ethnicity. Many people still define themselves by their skin colour or government racial categorization. In Singapore, citizens are classified according to their “race” — Chinese, Malay, Indian or other. Discrimination, or preferential treatment, is meted out based on those characteristics. Walls will only come down, and a common sense of solidarity emerge, when people define themselves, not by shade or label, but by the content of their character.

Second, the wall of open-minded thought. People walled themselves up because they do not wish to expose themselves to other ideas that may change their manner of thinking. Does God exist? Is capitalism or socialism the best form of governance in a new world where automation and the internet are pushing most jobs out of existence? Should we legalize drugs….or just marijuana? Very pertinent questions. Prepare to take a beating when society engages in mass discussions on these sensitive topics; they may change the face of our world forever.

Lastly, the wall of self. The ability to introspect is a prized one, one that allows humans to interact with their inner mind and inner heart. There is no bigger obstacle than the niggling doubt in your own mind telling you, “That’s not suitable for you…this is dangerous, so don’t hear it…it’s stupid…” Confront your inner demon, your ego, your niggling doubt. Enlightenment is yours when you cultivate the senses that see through the fog of misinformation and antipathy.

Grab your hammers, folks. Let’s start KNOCKING!

Bernard Lim is a 6 Degrees Junior Fellow. He is also a two-time recipient of the Young Community Leader Award, awarded by Singapore’s former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong to youth leaders. Bernard has been active in Singaporean civil society since 2010. He has represented Singapore in conferences, including the United Nations ICPD Global Youth Forum 2012, and was awarded the Women Deliver Young Leaders Fellowship in 2016 for working on water generation and health in the Mekong Region with the Young South East Asian Leaders’ Initiative of the US State Department.