Thursday, July 09, 2009


Looking at how many letters have been sent (and printed) to the local newspapers and internet media, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the "giving up seats (in public transport) to the needy" issue is a grave national issue which warrants in-depth discussion and perhaps even parlimentary debate.

I mean, com'on! It's not the first time that we are talking about our nation's basic courtesy level, and the way it looks to me, Singaporeans respond best to what they can touch and feel - cold hard cash. Just look at our society: high-pressured, no failures tolerated, efficiency and speed is number 1, only accept Gold not Silver, everything-also-must-rank, etc... you get the idea. From young, all these "tunes" have sung and preached by our government and leaders to all citizens, so that we can BE THE BEST, BEAT THE REST and get ahead in life. And behind all that is the message - if you want a good life, you have to earn it to by working hard, fast and dilligently. And obviously, the good life cannot be achieved without earning good MONEY.

If anyone wants to argue against the fact that the Singapore leaders (and hence the society at large) equates MONEY = SUCCESS & GREATNESS, just look at how our government peg the salaries of the ministers to the top CEOs of private firms. I'm not sure if any other country does the same. But that's not the point.
The point preached to all Singaporeans is this - if you are an important person, a successful individual and want to have high regard in this particular country, you have to have a pay that speaks for itself.

This sad (but true) reality has molded a current crop of younger Singaporeans into a bunch of folks who are supremely: practical and efficient; pragmatic and analytic; determined and unrelenting; assertive and unabashed; eager and competitive, etc... the list goes on.
Taken in isolation, and in particular with relation to building a nation of winners (and not whiners), this highly competitive and eager spiritedness in the young Singaporeans' pschye is clearly desirable.

Yet, you can hardly expect such conditioning to be without its side effects. Thus, the ultimate KIASU culture is born. Nobody here wants to lose - in every sense of the word. Some examples are:

Loss of money: Hence the only way to hit at Singaporeans' (and to change mindset) is to hit their wallets. That works every time!

Loss of face: Why else would parents here seem so keen to compare their kids' exam results, school ranking, number of CCA, etc.. And vice versa, the kids would compare the car their dad drives, the house they live in, the handphone they use, etc..

Loss of opportunities: Just look at those bond-breakers. Give back to society? What "give back"? Enuff said.

Loss of time: Singaporean drivers make the F1 drivers look timid. Who got time to wait, right????

Anyway, so back to the issue on graciousness and giving up seats in the bus or MRT. I think we can forget about forming this culture, if we only appeal to the people out of the goodness in their hearts. I think Singaporeans (esp. the younger ones, who are more indoctrinated with this Must-Win mentality) are too stressed up and preoccuppied with "winning" that they'd see getting into bus/train and "earning" a seat as a daily competition in itself. In other words, winners get a seat and can enjoy the journey (and even catch a wink on the bus/train), while losers simply waste time/energy/face/etc. having to wait for the next tranport to come along.

That said, there are enough good-natured people in our midst who'd buck this trend and do what they deem is the right thing. Kudos to them, I say.

Myself? Well, I can honestly say I do try to be like this group of people most of the time. But on some days, when the hassle and stress of the day gets to me, I'd think: If only I earn more money (like the leaders of this country), then I wouldn't have to take the packed public transport, YET can preach to others how wonderful the public transport is. On those days, pardon me if I'm not as gracious as some people would've liked.


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