Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Are Singaporeans ungracious?

The Strait Times, Tuesday, August 28, 2012, Page A6, National Day Rally: Reactions
Source Website: http://kindness.sg/2012/08/are-singaporeans-ungracious/
By Andrea Ong, andreao@sph.com.sg
By Goh Chin Lian, chinlian@sph.com.sg
By SKM | Tuesday, 28 August 2012 | Articles, General, Press



quick to criticise foreigners’ bad behaviour but slow to notice good actions
PHOTO: Mr Lee highlighted a “rising trend of not so good behaviour”, like residents who do not want nursing homes in their backyard. He was also worried by the “one-eyed dragon” syndrome, in which some Singaporeans are quick to criticise foreigners’ bad behaviour but slow to notice good actions.
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-V7-VZhZ0h_M/UD5Am3Va96I/AAAAAAAAUAE/4mLpNavTuvM/s1600/ST280812.jpg
http://kindness.sg/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/ST280812.jpg
http://kindness.sg/2012/08/are-singaporeans-ungracious/



YES: Stress levels raised by sense of being squeezed

TEMPERS are getting shorter and actions becoming nastier in Singapore, said some community leaders and analysts yesterday.

They agreed with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who in the National Day Rally on Sunday had flagged “troubling signs” in Singaporeans’ behaviour towards each other and foreigners.

But in analysing the causes of the problem, some went a step further by noting that it may partly be of the state’s own making.

In his speech, Mr Lee highlighted a “rising trend of not so good behaviour”, like residents who do not want nursing homes in their backyard. He was also worried by the “one-eyed dragonsyndrome, in which some Singaporeans are quick to criticise foreigners’ bad behaviour but slow to notice good actions.

Mr Lee said the loss of the kampung spirit may be one reason “we seem to be getting less patient, less tolerant, less willing to compromise to get along”.

People now lead more private lives and interact less, leading to self-centred behaviour, he said.

Things get worse when you add the stresses of living in a dense city, said National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologist Paulin Straughan. “When you step out of the house, you can’t get to the MRT, when you’re on the MRT, people are in your face. It can change your whole outlook of life,” she said.

Unlike in other countries, Singaporeans do not have the option of moving to the suburbs when life gets too stressful or expensive in the city, added NUS political scientist Reuben Wong. “We’re living in a goldfish bowl which is too small.

The sense of being squeezed – especially in the past six years – has contributed to Singaporeans’ unhappiness with foreigners.

Singaporeans are not xenophobic (unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers),” noted former National Integration Council member Edward D’Silva, adding foreigners have always been present here.

He said Singaporeans now feel strongly against foreigners not so much out of double standards, but because of festering resentment that they have seemingly been passed over despite sacrificing for the country.

Others like sociologists Tan Ern Ser and Mathew Mathews pointed to the competitive environment which creates a self-serving attitude.

When people feel their interests threatened, they tend not to display a spirit of generosity,” said Prof Tan.

Self-interest is also the unintended side-effect of two cornerstones of Singaporean society: meritocracy and self-reliance.

On Sunday, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, also speaking at the Rally, said “extreme meritocracy and competition can lead to a winner-take-all society, with the winners thinking little of others”.

The Government’s emphasis on self-reliance, with “little outright social safety nets”, means people are conditioned to take care of themselves first, added Ms Corinna Lim, executive director of the Association of Women for Action and Research.

Most observers agreed social media has changed how people interact. Nominated MP Faizah Jamal said the angry online chatter could be because people did not have a channel for speaking up prior to the Internet.

But Singaporeans are in the process of learning how todisagree without being personal”, said Madam Faizah.
By Andrea Ong, andreao@sph.com.sg
First published in The Straits Times – August 28, 2012



quick to criticise foreigners’ bad behaviour but slow to notice  good actions
PHOTO: Some observers say only a minority of Singaporeans behave badly towards fellow citizens and foreigners, but their acts are often blown out of proportion.
ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-V7-VZhZ0h_M/UD5Am3Va96I/AAAAAAAAUAE/4mLpNavTuvM/s1600/ST280812.jpg
http://kindness.sg/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/ST280812.jpg
http://kindness.sg/2012/08/are-singaporeans-ungracious/



NO: It’s a minority made louder by social media

ONLY a minority of Singaporeans behave badly towards fellow citizens and foreigners, some observers say, but their acts are often blown out of proportion.

Besides, they add, ungracious behaviour has been around for many years; only, they are now being amplified by social media, giving the impression of increasingly ugly behaviour here.

The majority of us are gracious,” said Mr Chua Thian Poh, president of the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations. “It’s only the vocal minority that makes us look bad.

The dean of Nanyang Technological University’s College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Professor Alan Chan, noted that even Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had made it clear that the few incidents he cited should not be over-generalised.

Said Prof Chan: “There are also examples of ‘big-heartedness’ that would make us all proud.

Observers said most Singaporeans were peace-loving, polite and respectful of others.

Ms Wong Soon Fen, 49, would likely prove their case. The university lecturer invites foreign students to her home and takes them around Singapore.

It’s not that Singaporeans aren’t warm-hearted, but we are too busy sometimes,” she said. “If you ask us to help, we’ll help. But we don’t go out of our way to make people feel at home – or we don’t know how to.

Some blamed social media for exaggerating the situation.

“Singaporeans are sensible, but new media is very loud,” noted sociologist Paulin Straughan. “There’s no need for 1,000 voices to be heard. You just need one mischief maker at the keyboard to stir up unhappiness.

Nominated MP Janice Koh, too, said that Singaporeans behaving badly was nothing new – only it largely went unreported.

Even in PM Goh Chok Tong’s time, we were conscious of the need to develop a more gracious society, that certain ‘ugly’ Singaporean habits like littering and so on had to be addressed.

I’ve been driving in Singapore for more than 10 years. It’s always been stressful. Perhaps road manners have not necessarily gotten worse, but now we can tweet about it. We can install cameras in our cars to record that bad behaviour and put it on Facebook.

Still, observers stressed that the issue of bad behaviour should not be trivialised.

Whether or not it was a minority that lacked graciousness, the PM’s message was “a timely exhortation and reminder, if we aspire to be a first-world country in all senses of the word”, said sociologist Tan Ern Ser.

The chairman of the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle in Kolam Ayer, Mr K.J. Nair, warned that care should be taken so that the minority did not grow into a larger group. He said: “We must try to correct these people. Talk to them, ask them to participate in activities… to be part of society and community.

Singaporeans could also learn from ethical and religious traditions, suggested Prof Chan, the chairman of NTU’s Confucius Institute. After all, he noted, PM Lee had alluded (suggest or call attention to indirectly) to the golden rule: Treat others the same way you want others to treat you.

Agreeing, Ms Wong said she had experienced the warmth of people in Nepal where she taught English for a year as a volunteer: “They invited me to their homes and made sure I wasn’t left out.
By Goh Chin Lian, chinlian@sph.com.sg
First published in The Straits Times – August 28, 2012


Reference