'If we have no differences, we would be in trouble'

'If we have no differences, we would be in trouble'

THE SUPPER CLUB DAVID CHAN

Whether it's ironing out LGBT issues or those of race and religion, it's all part of being an inclusive society, behavioural scientist David Chan, 49, tells Charissa Yong.

The Singapore Management University psychologist ought to know - he is the editor of a new book, 50 Years Of Social Issues In Singapore, containing essays on population issues, social divisions and the changing social landscape.

How far has Singapore come since 1965 in terms of inclusivity?

If you look at the Government's narrative, the phrase that really comes into the discourse at first is "inclusive growth", not "inclusive society".

We are doing quite well on inclusive growth. All along, we have been trying to ensure there is social mobility. Compared to many societies, people have opportunities because meritocracy is real.

But as for inclusive society, there are two different notions.

First, there's inclusivity in the sense of including a group that is disadvantaged.

Typically, they are disadvantaged economically or financially, but they could also be disadvantaged in terms of opportunities, like the elderly, or structurally because of their status, such as foreign domestic workers.

Most people will agree that, either out of compassion or social values, these are the people who deserve to be helped and there's very little societal disagreement on that.

But there's another inclusivity that is harder. One could argue that people with different values are not in your mainstream values and are therefore not included when policy or public actions are based on mainstream values. Such as on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) issues.

To be an inclusive society, we must accept there are differences, and approach disagreements constructively.

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