Sunday, October 21, 2007

CMIO promotes ignorance

Today is Dasera.


Dasera is a major Hindu festival, as it makes up one of the three-and-a-half auspicious days (sade teen muhurta) of the year. It is the name imparted to the tenth day (dashami) of the bright fortnight of the Hindu lunar month, Ashvin. Also known as Dasara, Dusshera. and Dusshera.

Bet you didn't know that. Serangoon Road was in full swing Sunday night. I first realised something was up when nearly every Indian-driven lorry/goods vehicle had a garland across the grill.

The thing I really hate about the CMIO is that it gives you the false idea that there's all there is to the various races in Singapore. Just four categories - memorise their official holidays and customs, and you're done. Who needs to know more?

It's especially ridiculous when you consider that the entire spectrum of Indian religious gets subsumed under one category. India, nicknamed the Empire of the Soul, gets one lousy slot. Cos, you know, Parsi=Gujerati=Sikh=Hindu=yeah right.

And it does have an effect on people - I can't count the number of times I've heard people say,"Eh? Got Indian Muslims?" or express bewilderment that Indians come in various shapes, sizes, costumes, and religious accessories. Sadly, it's usually the Chinese who have that reaction. However, the Chinese get shortchanged in their own way - there are Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien, and don't you dare confuse one for the other to some members of the older generation. My grandpappy hates Hakka, for reasons that I prefer not to think about.

Of course, dealing with all the variations is a bit.. messy. Much easier to have four boxes, to make the statistics easier. And the national holidays. And the costumes on national day, and racial harmony day. Much easier to act as though the variations don't exist.

Sometimes I think that the whole CMIO structure isn't about celebrating diversity, it's about making diversity uniform so that you don't have to think so hard.

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