Globalization is defined as a network of connections between different organizations and people across nations, geographic and cultural borders and boundaries. These global networks are creating a shrinking world where local differences and national boundaries are being consumed into global identities. Over the past few decades, inter-connection between countries has been increasing. Nations in addition to opening their doors towards trade and economic growth are also becoming acquainted to other beliefs and cultures around the world. On the flip side, from a negative view, our recent global recession, what started as an in house problem within the United States housing market, became a world problem affecting nations and regions all over, proving that the world has become a smaller place with problems in one region affecting others as well, due to the close interconnected world that we live in. The number of natural calamities and terrorist attacks are increasing in today’s world, causing different nations coming together in times of need to help the affected, which is also a good example of how the world is coming together to form a unison.
“Globalization has changed us into a company that searches the world, not just to sell or to source, but to find intellectual capital – the world’s best talents and greatest ideas.” (Jack Welch, 1935)
The Origin of Globalization stems from the Industrial Revolution, which was the biggest turning point in the history of mankind. Inventions in terms of manufacturing, technology, transport and other fields took place. The sudden changes led to the “Revolution”, affecting the lifestyle of people and changing it in many ways. It helped to bring about the modern world we live in today along with improvements in technology as we move on. During the industrial revolution there were large drops in prices of commodities, making products more affordable to the middle and lower classes as well. With newer inventions, the quality of life improved. This in turn led to more opportunities and the search for newer sources of raw materials and commodities for manufacturing. Hence people moved to different nations in this search and it led to the world partition between World War 1 and World War 2.
A massive number of independent states and countries emerged and in-order to grow economically a lot of these independent nations kept contacts with the ex-colonizers. New markets and raw materials were established by these colonizers for manufacturing which led to the concept of Westernization/ Internationalization.
Globalization helped people migrate to developing countries where labour was cheap and raw materials were in abundance. This explained the rapid growth of certain economies which made them super powers and which continue to grow exponentially. With this growth came the birth of big cities and as they grew, more people were lured to these cities thus increasing their growth. This movement to big cities created Urbanization.
With Globalization and Urbanization the question to be asked is, “Is the effect of Globalization in Singapore aiding in the growth of an International Hub or diminishing the cultural heritage of the Island?”
Singapore is a good example when spoken about globalization. After separating from Malaysia and going through the Cold War, Singapore today comes under the 3rd world group of countries and First world in South East Asia with very good economic growth. Singapore reconstructed itself and rose politically and economically. Also being a very small nation with no natural resources of its own they have looked to grow in different ways than most other nations. Due to its small size, Globalization has had a greater impact in Singapore than other nations. Being an export and import market and with its burgeoning sea port and airport, it has created a hub in the South-East region. In order to differentiate itself from its neighboring countries and taking full advantage of Globalization, it welcomes a lot of foreign investors and Multi National Companies (MNCs) to invest in their country in order to compete and survive in the world. As a result, Singapore has had to inherit a multi-cultural and cosmopolitan society. The immigrants from the period of Urbanization has given the place a mix of cultures with predominantly the Chinese, Malay, and Indians, with some European influences, all inter-mingling with one another. Different races predominantly lived in different areas and are living proof with the likes of the streets of Chinatown, the Muslim Characteristics in Arab Street and the different ambience in Little India along Serangoon Road.
“We are part of a long civilization and we should be proud of it. We should not be assimilated by the West and become a pseudo-western society. We should be a nation that is uniquely multiracial and Asian, with each community proud of its traditional culture and heritage.” (Mr Goh Tong ,1988)
The few British colonized Neo-Classical buildings, along with the inter-mingling cultures make Singapore a strong heritage location with a multi-racial and diverse cultural society. And in this day and age, Singapore gets a huge economical help from the Tourism sector every year. It attracts millions of tourist a year, especially from all over Asia offering not only a modernized city with its abundance of shopping, but also lush greenery with beautiful nature all over the city. Its nature walks, botanical gardens, bird parks, zoo and man-made beach brings one closer to nature. Singapore has always focused in increasing their tourism sector by having Food Festivals, Singapore Shopping festivals, and Art Festivals which are required as a great number of tourists visit Malaysia, followed by Thailand and their last stop being Singapore. A few Art festivals that are held are the famous Chingay Parade which is a Traditional Chinese New Year procession which evolved to become a street parade, showing off an array of dancers and street floats, inviting performers from different countries. Another big scale festival is the Singapore Biennale which displays art works of various artists from various parts of the world.
However with the tremendous benefits of Globalization there are issues which arise as well. As Singapore continues to grow annually at great lengths, with it come certain cultural issues. To sustain this growth the nation must open its doors to the world and invite and encourage foreigners from various regions to the land. This creates greater competition amongst locals and foreigners all competing for the limited slots in this relatively small nation. Through this competition everyone needs to work harder and increases stress levels among the people which in turn create the falling fertility ratios seen today even though the government is doing its best to encourage its citizens to have more babies and increase the population of the locals. This problem will slowly but surely lead to the eradication of the local indigenous people of Singapore and will only increase its cosmopolitan and multi-racial society. Locals will no longer feel a sense of belonging to the land in which they were born and brought up and this will lead to resentment and frustrations.
“The complexity and range of the challenges facing Singapore has increased, with greater global economic and socio- political tension as a result of conflict and competition. There are numerous issues globally – including climate change, bioethics, ideological trends – that will have a major impact on the future of Singapore. As our nation progresses, our unique Singaporean identity, shared values and heritage will be our greatest resource to ensure that Singapore remains Home, regardless of where we are.” ( Lui Tuck Yew, 2008)
The main issues that need to be addressed are the awareness of people’s very own culture and heritage, not only to the locals but also to the tourist and immigrants as well. Looking at the rapid transformation in Singapore, heritage and culture serve as a stable connection for the citizens to their heart and soul. The only evident culture that is seen in Singapore on a daily basis is the food culture that they have maintained from the very beginning. For example, Hawker Centres provide food that is extremely affordable and also provides the ambience of eating in a large communal sense. But that is as far as a cultural experience one will get. Hence steps should be taken to infuse the true cultural heritage of Singapore not only within the tourism sector but also among the present and future generations.
Even the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is taking steps to rejuvenate and restore Haw Par Villa. Before Haw Par Villa was turned into a theme park in 1990, it was an iconic place, like the Merlion in Marina South, which many Singaporeans and visitors felt they should visit. Countless statues and dioramas on Chinese legends and folklore were displayed there. Unfortunately when it was turned into a theme park with commercial interests in mind, many of its attractions were removed or relocated, much to the disappointment of many people who revisited the place after it was renovated. It was to be a place where one could learn and appreciate Chinese culture and Confucian values. But now the place is a Ghost town with few if not any visitors. (Dr Lee Woon Kwang, 2011)
In the whole development of the social and economic growth the need for museums was forgotten. Museums are a good place to promote your culture and heritage awareness, to grow a culture of galleries, displaying information to people to visit and learn the history. They are the windows to the world and play a special role in introducing audiences to the diverse culture and societies around the world. The government is taking measures towards the development of more museums as it draws more and more people and tourists. Singapore in terms of art & design is a growing nation. A few competitions are held in trying to get all the design schools to participate and getting the younger generations to take interest in art and culture. A Museum is a globalised platform of spreading design around the globe. Over the decades people have opened their minds to the idea of visiting galleries and museums. With the era of globalization, came the opportunity of collaborating and connecting the rest of the world to different ideas on design from various artists.
“Not every Singaporean will have a chance to visit the Louvre Museum in Paris to view these exhibits in their lifetime. Bringing the exhibits here will enable Singaporeans, both young and old, as well as the underprivileged to enjoy and come face to face with Greek culture and history…”
(Ms Yap Su-Yin)
Also with this rapid increase of Globalization, we see a very new and different skyline. Competition among the best cities of the world instigates the rapid building of newer structures. Although certain heritage sites are being preserved, most of the older buildings are torn down to make way for new and trendy buildings. All this creates a loss of the history and heritage of the country. No doubt one must change to improve and grow but at what cost? A very careful balance must be attained between merging the past and present, or else with Globalization on the rise the sense of belonging will be lost forever. It is very important to save and protect your cultural heritage at the right time before it is too late and is lost. Singapore being a hub and a growing nation, the need for museums and galleries is very important to connect and see the rest of the world through their perspective, not only in the form of historic buildings and architecture but traditions and identity – unified in authentic yet inspiring ways to capture the essence of the community’s values and mixed cultures. With the measures taken by the government Singapore will target its aim of being the biggest Exhibition and Conventional Centre in Asia by 2015.
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