Conversations vital in tackling society’s tough issues

May 2019    
Panellists taking questions from the audience

Dealing head-on with complex issues through discourse and discussions has been a hallmark of the ETHOS Conversations series of events. Organised by the ETHOS Institute for Public Christianity, one such Conversation was held on 20 Mar at the Bible House that saw its auditorium filled with attendees eager to hear about “Nurturing the Future Generation”.

During the event, it was noted that despite society’s rapidly changing family norms that are perhaps brought about by the conflict between furthering one’s career versus settling down, the value of the family unit still occupies an important place in the hearts of young Singaporeans born between 1995 and 2012 who were categorised as Gen Z.

That Gen Z’ers are facing increasingly polarising issues of the day was also touched on. These issues, if not handled civilly and sensitively, could lead to tribalism, insularism and extremism. They range from the call to expand the definition of the family unit to matters pertaining to race, religion and politics. These are exacerbated by the growing porosity of borders and the growth of technologies that allow the seamless exchange of various ideas and ideologies.

Therefore, the important role that open dialogue plays in an increasingly polarising world, especially one in the midst of contested norms was illustrated. A speaker argued that contestable issues lend themselves well to the opportunity to bring the broad middle together even if one chooses to agree to disagree on fundamental issues… [as this can] turn shadows and caricatures to flesh and blood.

Another speaker followed up by pointing out that work can be and has to be done to “future-proof” our youth, who were born into a society he described as having a “high expectation of happiness and a low tolerance for unhappiness”.

He related his observations gleaned through the course of his work that many in Singapore are struggling with having enough time for their families. At one end, there are households so mired in poverty that the parents have to work multiple jobs and consequently become absent in their children’s lives. At the other end, parent absenteeism is also rising as parents immerse themselves in the pursuit of career excellence. All these lead to higher frequency of breakdowns in marriages, the increase in at-risk youths and the rise of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

The speaker lamented that with the advance in various technologies globally, people are losing touch with one another, preferring to rely on non-personal forms of communication. This is amidst the ever-increasing modes of influence, positive or otherwise, through platforms like social media that can shape hearts and minds.

He concluded that in order to safeguard our future generations, efforts have to be made to reach out not only to parents but also to the youths in ways that will make them see that “someone loved me, someone believed in me, someone invested in me and someone changed me”.

Methodist Message is not able to reveal the names of the speakers due to Chatham House Rules.

Jason Woo is Methodist Message’s Editorial Executive. When not working on the latest articles, he enjoys long jogs and cuddling up with his cats along with a good book.

A speaker illustrating the unpredictable societal landscape the future generations will face

Photos courtesy of ETHOS Institute for Public Christianity


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