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I am Singaporean XII – Shame or Education? January 8, 2007

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. I.

Being always interested in what’s (not) going on in Singapore, i have been making use of my free (yes free!) online States…erm…Straits Times subscription to find out what’s been going on.

No political content lately, but this has come to my attention lately…it seems that in relation to people complaining about ungracious behaviour on MRT trains, there have been 2 letters to the States Times, with the following contents:

  1. Take pictures of ungracious behaviour and send them to STOMP so that they can correct such errant behaviour through public shame and pressure.
  2. Take pictures of such behaviour but blur bzw. pixellate things which lead to identification, like number plates, faces, etc. What must be clear is that what this person is doing is just wrong. This should serve to educate the public.

And so the exchange goes on. I think shaming has, to a large extent, been used so far. For example, shame is always used by the ruling party (or should i say THE ONLY party) during elections in a bid to discredit the opposition. Shaming is, however, very much of a power problem in Singapore.

Especially if the people who perceive that they have been shamed (and given that their egos/sense of humour are terribly fragile, or their censors tend to be over-sensitive) tend to be powerful politicians. Then you will face Something Really Bad known as a defamation lawsuit. Can go bankrupt one! Also cannot run for elections. Just ask Mr. SDP, the Gahmen’s mole.

Anyway, before i get carried away, Shame or Education?

I think the Shame campaign would be wildly successful, considering how mian zi is of utmost importance in an Asian society. After all, having your name plastered on STOMP with the ‘Ungracious’ stamp on it is bound to make you change your ways especially when you start getting weird looks from people.

But if you don’t read the States Times…(i only read World, Prime News and the Forum because the Local part is…well unprofessional in a sense) then you can carry on! Give those people the ‘what-the-fuck-are-you-looking-at-before-i-gouge-out-your-eyes’ look! Soon you will be a celebrity and maybe a TV show will send a hot chaiful mom (diana ser – man. my definition of MILF.) to interview you.

Let’s face it. Shame will be successful at stopping the phenomenon, but will it build the foundations of gracious education? It’s just another fear tactic…one of many which are used and abused in Singapore. For example…

  1. You can’t blog racist stuff on your blog because you fear prosecution under the Sedition Act. That’s useful for maintaining racial harmony, but some view it as abuse because it goes against what the Internet is about, namely, freedom of expression.
  2. You can’t shoot your mouth off about politicians for fear of injuring their oh-so-fragile egos. Even if what they’re doing may not be very correct. This is also applicable to accusations saying that the judiciary is influenced by politicians (seeing the political-related lawsuits, one comes to a causal link very quickly) because you can get sued for defamation and lose all your money. Thus, people keep their suspicions and thoughts to themselves. Use or abuse?

I believe the Shame campaign to be well…expanding this environment of fear from the microcosm of politics to the macrocosm of everyday life. Now you got to watch yourself and all because you’re afraid of your face getting on STOMP. Is this the way to cultivate gracious behaviour? No one believes in gracious behavious anymore because it’s just imposed by fear.

Therefore, i believe EDUCATION to be the way. Look, through education (and seeing how the State has a monopoly on it), if the State really saw the need to be gracious, they would have put it into the syllabus loong loong ago. Heh. Education for such behaviour should be prescriptive, id est, something which educates people on what they should and should not do. Start at school la! You don’t even have to set aside moral education classes (which personally i had a good hoot at in school hawhaw) but it can and should be inculcated into everyday school life.

And education about such behaviour goes beyond that! It must happen at home as well. Kids don’t see their parents saying please and thank you, they don’t see their parents smiling at neighbours, so why should they say please and thank you, and why should they act in consideration to others? (In this respect, Europeans are much better.) At least they know what is gracious and what is everyday. But if you smile at someone on the bus in Singapore, he/she will think you a queer. If you say please and thank you at say, NTUC, the cashier probably will not know how to respond.

Let’s face it. We’re not so gracious as we think ourselves to be. Maybe 60% gracious lah.

So why has nothing been done about it? Why does ‘gracious living’ appear in National Day Speeches as pure words? Politicians also can NATO one. Before i get branded as someone who goes running to the government on every little thing, let me say this: The government made us so. The government has educated us to be sheep, not daring to take big steps where society is concerned. I don’t think the government wants us to dare to also.

After all, the government has condemned fully Western-style ideals and culture because it will lead to true democracy which will cause Singapore to sink into the South China Sea. And well, the idea of graciousness is the Western ideal of it…so…we are stuck in this LPPL situation. Oh, well.

Maybe it’s simply because graciousness is something we won’t die without. No graciousness won’t die what! No money then will die. Especially if politicians got no money. That one confirm guarantee chop & 3 months warranty will die.



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