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              When "Beijing" is hip

北京
北京王府井大街的步行街新街景。

               By Chen Hwai Liang
(来源:英语麦当劳-英语快餐EnglishCN.com)

  
   The Straits Times recently carried a series of reports on major cities in China. It was notable that the reporters kept using the word “hip” to depict what they had seen and heard.

  The word “hip” means trendy and keeping up with the latest fashions. It is truly refreshing to read the English-language daily describe a country with an ancient civilisation as “hip”.

  This brings to mind a phenomenon here in buzzing Orchard Road. It is not uncommon now to spot young people wearing T-shirts with the word “Beijing” or “Shanghai” printed on them. While most of the time “New York” and “London” are still preferable, these young people seem to have noticed that the world is changing and a little oriental flavour has been added to their sense of what is fashionable.

  Popular culture may be shallow, but it often means a much more fundamental change in social trends.

  When young people start leaving home in T-shirts bearing the word “Beijing”, it is evident that Singaporeans have begun to view the waking dragon in a fresh, new perspective.

  In the past, when China was mentioned, whether by English-educated or Chinese-educated Singaporeans, it was usually with a heavy heart, though the reasons that caused the feeling were different.

  About 10 years ago, the government announced that Chinese-language signs would be put up at the airport and other public places to provide an oriental feel. Yet the decision that seemed innocuous enough sparked a heated debate.

  A Straits Times columnist argued against the move, saying that it would arouse suspicion in our neighbours and they might mistake Singapore as “Third China”. The article led to a debate between the English-educated and the Chinese-educated in the press, with each camp maintaining steadfastly its position.

  Similar wars of words concerning language and culture have taken place repeatedly in the last few decades, resulting in a divide between English-educated and Chinese-educated Singaporeans.

  Fortunately, there are signs that we are fast putting this era behind us.

  In a recent interview with Lianhe Zaobao, Trade and Industry Minister BG George Yeo said that the complex historical ties of almost a hundred years between Singapore and China had come to a close. He said that Singaporeans had developed a sense of national identity and could now celebrate the connection between the two countries in a more relaxed way.

  Feedback from some members in the cultural circles was that BG Yeo’s comments had far-reaching significance and indicated a breakthrough in overcoming a certain mental barrier.

  Many Chinese-educated Singaporeans had avoided talking about the tortuous history of the Chinese community that had seen many setbacks. One of the reasons is that the quarrel between English-educated and Chinese-educated Singaporeans has quieted down for some years - people do not want to rake up the past and rekindle the debate.

  However, a third-generation political leader has now taken the initiative to re-define this part of our history and make a more positive assessment of future development.

  While the minister’s remarks could not rid them of the sense of angst, they said they did feel a lightening of the load on their shoulders.

  Of course, it does not mean all is well now with the growth of Chinese culture. The nature of our society has not changed, we will always be walking on a tight rope to maintain a balance between ethnic culture and national identity. A careless move may well trigger an all new debate and conflict.

  For the Chinese-educated, what is more important is that the Chinese culture - much like a pool of stagnant water - will now be able to flow again and even get connected with its source. The future may not be a bed of roses, but neither will it be as hopeless as it used to be.

  (The writer is a Senior Correspondent of Lianhe Zaobao’s Political Desk. Translated by Yap Gee Poh.)
 (双语观点)

                       当人们穿着“北京”出门
                                            ● 陈怀亮

  《海峡时报》最近刊登了一系列介绍中国各大都市的报道,该报记者一再用“hip”这个英文字来形容所见所闻。所谓“hip”,是说赶得上潮流、赶得上时髦。英文报章这么形容这个文明古国,令人耳目一新。


北京王府井大街的步行街新街景。 

  这使我想到另一个现象。在热闹的乌节路上,我们现在不难看见年轻人穿着印有“北京”或“上海”字样的T恤在闲逛。他们很多时候还是把“纽约”和“伦敦”穿在身上,但是,他们似乎意识到世界在变,他们的流行世界也就有了一点东方的色彩。

  流行文化虽然肤浅,不过它往往预示一个更深刻的社会趋势。年轻人穿着“北京”出门,说明了新加坡人已经用了新的视角看待这个北方大国。

  在过去,无论是英校生,还是华校生,在谈到中国时,心情总是沉重的,而且他们感觉沉重的原因不一。约十年前,政府宣布将在机场和一些公共设施加添中文告示牌,以增添我们这个城市的东方色彩。这个决定看来平实无奇,但却在当时引发了一场激烈的论战。

  事缘《海峡时报》的一名专栏作者撰文反对这项举措,认为它将引起邻国的猜疑,使邻国人错认新加坡为“第三中国”。这篇文章导致一场华校生和英校生之争,在报纸上大打笔战,对自己的立场坚持不懈。

  有关语文和文化的类似论战,在过去数十年一再上演,华英两个源流的新加坡人为此大伤感情。

  所幸的是,种种迹象显示,这个时代已经渐行渐远。

  贸工部长杨荣文准将最近接受本报访问时说,新中两地近百年来错综复杂的历史联系,到了此时此刻,已经有了一个终结。他认为,新加坡人有了国家意识,因此能够以较轻松、较平和的心情看待两地的文化联系。一些文化界人士私下反映,杨部长的谈话意义深远,而且突破了某一种的心理障碍。

  在这之前,那段曲曲折折,充满悲情的华社历史,许多华校生一直在回避着,不愿多谈。其中一个原因是,华校生和英校生之间的论争,已平息了好几年,人们不想重提旧事,以免再掀争议。

  现在,一位第三代政治领袖主动的对这段历史作了全新的诠释,并给予未来的发展较为正面的肯定。反映者说,虽然这些谈话,未完全解开他们心里的千千结,但是,一时之间,他们觉得肩膀上的负担似乎减轻不少。

  华族文化的天空,不可能从此晴空万里,偶尔还是会乌云密布。社会的本质未变,我们要在本族文化和国家认同之间取得平衡,永远是困难重重。一不小心,还可能引发全新的争执和冲突。

  然而,对华校生来说,更重要的是,原本像是一潭死水的华族文化,现在开始疏通了,而且还可同源头活水接通。情况不算一片大好,但也不再那么绝望。

  (作者是《联合早报》政治组高级执行级记者)
 

 
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