|Tuesday, March 1,1990
The Straits Times, Page 3
The main route by which society is inwardly enlarred, enriched and cultivated is that of coming to know itself in ever greater depth, range and subtlety. (And) the maln instrument of society's self-knowledge is in its culture: culture as a specific field of human activity, influencing the general state of mind... and at the same time continually subject to its influence.
In the 10 years, the section had grown, its growth very much a reflection of the dramatic changes that had taken place in Singapore.
A new educated generation had grown up, and society as a whole had become affluent (compare the 1988 median gross monthly income per person of $721 to 1979's $347).
In the last several years, demand for leisure activities and the arts has been building up to a clamour. At the same time, there has been a growing awareness among many that they need to seek an identity which they can call their own.
Both are going to be major concerns of Singaporeans in this new decade: how to live life more abundantly and more graciously, and how to go about seeking self-knowledge and forging a national identity.
And this is where the new Life ! comes in.
If Section Two had helped drummed up an excitement in the nation's fledgling cultural life, then Life! now must take it a step further, to keep pace with the increasing sophistication of the people. To help sell tickets and fill the auditoriums is no longer enough.
Life! will be actively seeking out new talents, at the same time that it assesses more critically the better established artists and their works. There will be regular commentary pieces, not so much to generate interest as to spark off constructive debates and inspire fresh insights. The arts front must be noisy, busy, vibrant.
On the social front, Life! will serve as a platform for the examination of the kind of values Singaporeans wish to develop, reinforce and share. The country already has in place much of its hardwareñthe skyscrapers, the expressways, the MRT, and so on.
This is the decade when it will have to rig up an intricate circuitry of values that will make up its integrated software system. Life! will help map this new circuitry; it will be the software report.
Life! will also be a window- for the various races to look into one another's rich ethnic heritage and traditions, and for Singaporeans as a people to look beyond, at the many other fascinating cultures in the region and the rest of the world.
The job of culture, after all, as American playwright Arthur Miller once said, "is not to further fortify people against contamination by other cultures, but to mediate between them from the heart's common ground".
But what is Life! if there is no provision for time to stand and stare at the built-up environment, and learn to see how the buildings, the parks and the public amenities relate to the daily lives of the people. And so that is another task which the section will gladly take oh.
And finally, Life! must necessarily be about having FUN (there is no justification for the exclamation mark otherwise), and just as there are the long grass areas in various corners of the meticulously manicured island, there will be space for the whimsical and the wacky in this section.
So, read us, challenge us, and make this an organ that helps circulate and convert the nutrients that are so vital to the organism that is our society.