Monday, May 19, 2008

Explaining the UGLY SINGAPOREAN!!!

Seah Chiang Nee wrote an article on The Ugly Singapore in his Malaysia Star column. This article is interesting but it lacks an explanation of the phenomena which I've inserted between the lines.
The ugly Singaporean
Have affluent, educated Singaporeans become too self-centred and insensitive to other people’s plights? Can Singapore be considered a First World city with such boorishness? A mature, developed country isn’t defined only by wealth and education; it is also about humanity and concern for others.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The best test of a civilized society is the way in which it treats its most vulnerable and weakest members". I believe it is the only test that matters because if the weakest are well taken care of, everyone else has to be alright.

JUSTIFIABLY or not, the disastrous Sichuan earthquake has sparked off a re-look here at a Singaporean characteristic that overshadows his economic achievement.

In a TV interview, a tourist who just returned unhurt complained angrily about his encounter with airport delay and telephone breakdown at a time when the Chinese were frantically rescuing people.

One viewer commented: “He kept complaining bitterly as if the whole world owed him an explanation about the airport delay.”

Another added: “the man was practically shouting at the camera. His behaviour was really shocking.”

In the face of the terrible suffering, the middle-aged Singaporean’s insensitive complaint about his personal inconvenience spread consternation and a sense of shame among viewers.

I wonder why MediaCorp did not cut that clip out. Many Singaporeans are so used to whining about everything around them, it is hard to stop even when they are overseas and 32,000 people have just died from an earthquake. This "complain training" starts when we are children. Parents teach their children to complain about cleanliness, delays, etc. Favorite complaints include people not being considerate towards them or civil servants not doing their jobs. Very often it becomes a vicious cycle. Because there are so many complaints no matter what they do, the civil service tends to do nothing until a complaint comes in. As everyone is complaining, you learn to complain louder to get yours heard and the service providers learn to respond to the loudest complaint first. That is why that middle age man was shouting - he feels that is the only way to get his answers but he forgot that he was not in Singapore - in China, they handle complaints by ignoring them. He was probably angry because he had been ignored for several hours.

It highlighted a trait often attributed to affluent, educated Singaporeans that they have become too self-centred and insensitive to other people’s plights.

Would you be able to get to work on time if you spend a minute with every homeless person you see at the interchange? We have been conditioned to "move on" and are able to walk past the poor homeless folks like they don't exist. Our govt tells us that giving these people welfare will result in a crutch mentality so we don't feel obliged to help them.

After years of social campaigns, tales still abound of people rushing for train seats or refusing to give one up to the elderly, ill treatment of maids, littering or inconsiderate driving.
Affluent but insensitive?: Commuters travelling on the MRT in this file picture. After years of social campaigns, tales still abound of people rushing for train seats or refusing to give one up to the elderly.

Many of the offenders are middle-class, young and educated who seem to have little interest in other people’s feelings.

The Singaporean tourist, instead of lending a helping hand, was fuming about his own safety – even after he was safely back home.

“Typical ugly Singaporean the sort that makes other people dislike us – totally self-centred,” said a blogger.

Others disagree, with one defending it as a normal reaction for a foreigner desperate to escape quickly. “He may have put it badly, but he was scared and obviously wanted to return to his family,” he said.

“Realistically speaking, not every one can be highly principled about helping in a disaster in a foreign country,” he added.

Most, however, condemned his insensitivity. “It reflects the overall selfishness and self-centredness of middle-class Singaporeans,” said ‘investor’.

“My general impression is that they are the second most selfish and self-centred people in Asia, next only to Hong Kongers.”

The debate raised the question whether Singapore could be considered a First World city with such boorishness.

A mature, developed country isn’t defined only by wealth and education; it is also about humanity and concern for others.

We all know what happens to people who speak up strongly for the poor, jobless and exploited in our society. They are labeled as trouble makers and there are laws to deal with troublemakers.

Several days earlier, a girl who refused to give up a seat (meant for the elderly and the handicapped) to a pregnant woman, called her a “bitch” because she had stared at her and shook her head.

Why is the girl expected to make such a painful sacrifice? She got to the seat first and the seat is hers to enjoy why must she give it up? Singaporeans have to learn to stop demanding painful sacrifices from little girls and their leaders.

Some blame it on the environment, especially an elitist, each-man-for-himself mentality.

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch” is a theme that has been drilled into every child and adult. A whole generation has grown up believing that if Singaporeans get into trouble, they can expect no help from anyone.

In Singapore you learn to help yourself whenever you can. Our leaders show the way. They helped themselves to millions in ministers' salary once they were voted into parliament.

It may be a good teaching for a small city without resources, but it has also spawned an antithesis: If you can expect no help from others, you also do not need to care for others.

Did Seah Chiang Nee not listen to our SM? Helping the people with welfare and subsidies will make them unhappy. The PAP govt has the interest of the people in its heart - they give little or no help because they don't want to undermine the happiness of Singaporeans.

“Living in a society where only money talks makes all of us less human and less caring,” says ‘Anonymous’.

Another writer said he was a typically an apathetic, uncaring Singaporean until he went to live in the United States.

“Two years into my stay there and having been offered help by plenty of strangers on the street, I found myself doing the same,” he said.

“The typical Singaporean reaction when they are offered unsolicited help is a suspicious glare. Certainly not encouraging to would-be helpers,” he added.

You cannot blame Singaporeans for this. Why? Every time they get something they didn't ask for (progress package) from the govt like they did before the last general electons in 2006, there is a tendency for something else to happen to take it all back (GST hike, ...).

The person who has the single biggest influence on how Singaporeans think and behave is Lee Kuan Yew. Many of the current leaders and civil servants as well as older Singaporeans, emulate him.

The Minister Mentor has never been too concerned about his own – or Singapore’s – popularity as much as its interests. Giving charity to countries in need, for example, has rarely been its forte.

The political elite, followed by and large by the citizenry, takes after Lee’s generally no-welfare, harshly competitive and unsentimental leadership.

Who says the PAP is not generous?! Just go ask the foreign students with all expenses paid scholarships given out by the PAP govt. I'm sure many will say that our govt is the most generous they have ever seen.

Last year, the “survival of the fittest” type view, believed to prevail among the top elites, burst into a public furore following remarks made by the scholar-daughter of a government MP.

Condemning a young professional, Derek Wee, who wrote about the pressures faced by the common people, the student, Wee Shu Min lambasted the critic as wretched, an idiot and “leech”.

She appeared to be defending the class divide in Singapore or “a tyranny of the capable and the clever” saying that “the only other class is the complement.”

She ended by telling Derek: “Please, get out of my elite uncaring face.”

Her MP father criticised her intemperate language, but supported some of her sentiments expressed.

A nationwide condemnation ensued.

The issue would have ended there if it were just regarded as a teenager’s rants. It was more than that.

Because Shu Min was a scholar designed for a possible leadership role and daughter of a People’s Action Party MP (from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s constituency), it instantly became a political hot potato.

The critics said it reflected a government perception that a class divide was inevitable and may even be necessary to encourage people to strive harder in life.

The target of her invective, Derek Wee, was actually echoing a popular public sentiment when he said Singaporeans were suffering partly because the government failed to understand their plight.

Shu Min’s message was that failures were caused by laziness or lack of capabilities, which the persons themselves were responsible – with no words of support or care for those in need.

I think Shu Min is only partially right. Failures are caused by laziness or lack of capabilities if we are talking about the failures of ordinary Singaporeans. Our leaders don't fail, they can only make honest mistakes. Nobody failed when Mas Selamat escaped only the guards down the line deserve punishment. Nobody failed when billions are lost in investments such as Shin Corp or Citibank, they are for the long term. Only ordinary Singaporeans can fail and when they fail it is due to their own lack of ability. When they fail, they become a burden for our leaders to shoulder.


theBusiness Mind said...

our millionaire ministers lacks the capacity to develop inner wealth. because they are RICH, it begets generations with inner poverty.

but listening to the opposition talk, i don't see they are any better

Anonymous said...

You can only believe these people when they give up their wealth.
The last i heard, the wealthy leader said their kind should commit themselves to....0.05%( presumably of their annual income) to charities.

Seriously, who is impress when the rich give?

If the giving does not bring them down to the people's level, it is not giving at all!

Anonymous said...

So how is it that the Singaporeans of today appear to be less gracious than what SM Goh promised after being elected? The Gracious Society envisaged is all smoke and mirrors, where behind it all, the Ugly and Selfish traits rears its head.

In Singapore, we do not care a whit about other's problems. Look at NKF and other charities, they reward themselves richly and worry about the poor and needy after their own needs have been served. In fact, look at Singapore's leaders, tell me are they also not rewarding themselves? They tell you they are coming forward to serve the nation, albeit reluctantly, but see how richly they are bring rewarded.


Anonymous said...

Singaporeans ugly. So it is true. But why are they so generous when it comes to helping victims in disasters such as during the past Tsunami, current Myammar cyclone and Sichuan earthquake disasters?

Singaporeans donated more than many other nations far larger than Singapore.

I shall try to explain this paradox.

I used to think that society is what people as individuals make it.

But then I began to observe that the people behave differently under different corporate environment and culture. When the leadership is right, workers become cooperative and work harmoniously. When leadership goes wrong, the same cooperativeness and harmony were lacking.

I am sure other readers have observed this same phenomenon.

Right leadership is a big word. However I noted that more important than the technical expertise of leadership is its demeanour - how leaders treat their subordinates, whether it is one based on trust, empathy, taking responsibility instead of always pushing blame on subordinates, composure and such ethical values.

The fact that Singaporeans are known as a ugly lot of people thus say a lot about the PAP style of leadership. If Singaporeans are notorious for being kiasu, ask why PAP is so super kiasu against political competition.

The stresses of living in Singapore also explain in part the ugliness among Singaporeans.

We cannot expect people at large to live other than instinctively in response to situations. Even the most thinking, most conscious of individuals is driven along by human instincts in response to situations. This is what society implies. If society loses its instinct - and I think this is hardly possible - it is not longer a part of nature.

However at the end of the day, we need to make a distinction between this survival-instinct that throws up the ugliness and the deeper character of our people.

I happen to think based on many evidences that Singaporeans are at heart a highly compassionate people.

In fact I think they are so compassionate that I feel they should exercised more caution when it comes to say donating to charities lacking sufficient transparency even though officially sanctioned by PAP. The old NKF and Ren Ci are 2 good examples.

So my conclusion is that the ugliness of Singaporeans constitutes a superficial survival-driven behaviour. it is also one influenced by the lousy example set by top PAP politicians.

In my view their ugliness by and large is NOT actually reflective of an ugly heart.

yamizi said...

Donating money in replace for the so call lack of time in contributing back to the society lor.

Last time I did volunteering in a certain project also have this issue mah. Money coming in but sometimes, we really need physical extra help.

But everyone else will tell you they got no time!

Anonymous said...

in other words, the political climate created by the leadership has brought out the ugly side of singaoreans.

this market driven instinct must be abolished at all cost!

therefore the obvious must be effected soonest. we shall start with de corporatization of sia, psa and our favorite superbasket...anti yew si


Anonymous said...

One of my China friend(Shanghai one) say don't bother donating money there.The donated money will end up in some government department who will spend it on big fish ,big meat.
Also some Chinese scholars student here try to raise money for their own pocket money so no need to donate lah if want volunteer to buy medical supply or donate directly to red cross but no money to the students they will keep for them self.Their mother low pay not that high leh.1000 sing dollar a month not enough to buy prada bag.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

News from UK:

British tourists on a panda-watching trip at the Wolong Nature Reserve, in Wenchuan county, when the earthquake struck have themselves been thanking the Chinese people.

Judy Ling Wong, 59, from Llanberis, north Wales, told the China Daily in Beijing: "We were in the middle of the panda centre, surrounded by sheer cliffs. Rocks fell all around. But here I am, completely fine - and that is only half the miracle. The other half is the Chinese people and the way they took care of us."

The 19 British tourists spent three nights on a bus, unable to contact the outside world, before being evacuated to Chengdu by Chinese military helicopter.

See how other ppl reacting by appreciation instead of cursing..

Learn, sg ppl.. First world mentality is not just flushing toilets in public toilets or not litter..

yamizi said...

anon @ 6:28am,

But there are still unflushed toilet and litter around!


Capt_Canuck said...

Don't worry, Singaporeans, you are not as bad as Canadians. Well, the dual passport Lebonese-Canadian citizens.

I remember when the Canadian gov't went to Lebanon in 2006 to help Canadian passport citizens escape the waring nation. Some people got off the ships and complained about the conditions on the board. There were 4 of them in a sleeping compartment (4 person sleeping compartment) and not all of them were related and they had only sandwiches, water, coffee and tea to eat for 2 days.

Mind you, they were being evacuated from a war nation AND most of them were actually dual citizenship holders and had been living there for years. Best part was that most of them returned when things settled down.

So, arrogance and egocentrism is a worldwide thing, but look on the bright side. Lebonese-Canadians went BACK, at least this Singaporean probably had the common sense to go "hmmm, earth quake ridden country, yeah, will stay in Singapore where there hasnt never been a natural disaster"

Anonymous said...

as the storms gather, shall we find gold in the middle?


Anonymous said...

can't really blame Singaporeans. we have been really good and obedient students and have imbibed too well the mindset and attitudes of our great leaders. we are but a mirror of them.

Anonymous said...

'Shangliang bu chen, xialiang wai'(Hanyu pinyin), literally translated means if the top is crooked, the bottom will not be straight(honest/righteous). The top here refers particularly to leadership and the bottom, the ruled.

A materialistic society invariably ends up with all sorts of social ills. This state of developments have repeated itself over and over in cycles throughout history. As it seems programmed by Nature, the only thing we can do is to lament.

Mankind does not seem to learn any lesson, though wise men in the past have warned repeatedly(in tandem with the vicious cycle) that materialism corrupts the mind. Maybe man is the most vicious species because Nature makes him so. So, the blame should go to Nature.


mint said...

i beg to differ. Singaporeans are not ugly. It's inevitable there are some black sheep but this is not unique to our society only. If you are ready with a smile, and ask if u need help, I think you'll find that there's a warmth in a typical singaporean on the street, who's forthcoming with their help. Just speaking from my personal encounters. Though i faced not-so-good experience sometimes, i appreciate the fact that we still have really nice people around. And i think it's not fair for the not-so-great and not-so-gracious people to comment singaporeans are ugly.

knowetruth said...

I really think Singaporeans need to be more observant and not presume everyone you met on the street, MRT or buses or anywhere is Singaporean.

UNlike most countries, half of the people living here are NOT EVEN SINGAPOREANS or ORIGINALLY FROM SINGAPORE. How do you know the ugly or ungracious behavior youve encountered are committed by Singaporeans? Not everyone you met on the street are Singaporeans anymore.

Our govt is to be blamed for relaxing the rule for opening up to more china ppl(special privilege for china- 10% more are allowed from china), and they are now taking up MAJORITY no. of foreigners living here. There were quite a few times I have mistaken them as Singaporeans, and then realised I was wrong after listening to their accents. You can't really tell a difference between a Singaporean and china ppl anymore NOT UNLESS they have opened up their mouth and talk!

So how do you know whether e person you saw who refused to give up the seat is Singaporean or not? You can't tell! They certainly do not have a sign written on their forehead and say "I am Singaporean!". For eg, there were quite a few times I witnessed some ppl rushing in to the MRT to take up the seat, and I was going like, "another auntie" again, turned out that 2 aunties were from China when they started talking in China accent! Can you imagine if there is only one china person doing that rude gesture and you never get to hear their accent, and you would PRESUME SHE MUST BE A SINGAPOREAN!

Since we listen to the govt and allowed people from the 3rd world country like CHINA to erode our country, then don't complain!

We should be called CHINA CITY, and not GLOBAL CITY, since we are only interested to attract more china people in than other nations to our country!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I like to say something to Mint. I have to say Singapore is okay... I give it as 6/10. Yes, I spend all my childhood in Australia before I come back to Singapore... realizing the world is so big I'm in dismayal to see Singaporean didn't live up to standard. Somehow I was in disbelief to witness a shocking scene at MRT, which is Singaporeans in seat didn't really care to give to pregnant woman who standing nearby. the article prove the point Singaporean are Singaporean.

When habits run deep into a culture of Singapore, we can't deny ugliness is shown everywhere. Yes, life is unfair, world is unfair, it makes us human. I already accept the fate of Singapore who has this habit for long time. In my case I find it unfair like you say it's unfair, this is a reflection. I also find it unfair no one giving seats to pregnant woman today.

I need help, you want help, Singapore need help, world need help and we can't deny this part that pride isn't matter anymore as it depends how we save ourselves, and help each other...

Anonymous said...

u guys are nuts!don't make judgement when u don't even know things.

Anonymous said...

I also had this impression from the singaporean girl i was sort of dating. As it looked to me, after one month of common living, she went back home and as far as shes concerned, I could just die and she wounldnt give a damn, she was way too busy getting off with her previous boyfriend... unless she actually had something to gain from me...
I cant get into the head of a singaporean, but if they feel offended, its just not their problem whether the offense is justified or not... whether the person who was angry at them was just going through a bad time... It just doesnt matter what the other person is going through. If its not right for them or for public well being, than its simply bad.
It must be something with chinese mentality and chinese education.
Once I saw a chinese dad actually beat up his little 5 year old girl who was crying (in public) because she hurt her leg on the escalator.
I just watched in disbilief. These people are different.
Im sure it has a good side to it, but sometimes the ugly side shows up, and when they are non-chinese involved, then it wont click well i guess.

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Susy Q said...

Classic example of an ugly Singaporean. I witnessed this just 2 days ago. 2 guys missed the turn in a 3km fun run event and ended up running 5km instead. They came back really upset (to say the least) and insisted they would have been the race leaders. The organisers apologised nicely but there was not much that could be done since this was a charity event and the route marshalls were all volunteers. The 2 guys were still not appeased and the organisers offered to refund their registration fees (which were being donated to charity, by the way) and also offered to give them the prizes anyway as if they had won. STILL, they were not appeased and complained they did not get to take their pictures with the rest of the winners on stage and were worried about the wrong timing being displayed on the website. GEEEEEZ!!!!! What am embarrassment to mankind!

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Anonymous said...

I have lived in Singapore for 3 years working as a professional. In the past three years, I had suffered from the selfishness of some Singaporeans while comforted by some as well.

My general observation is that many many Singaporeans are trying to take advantages of foreigners. I have four landlords so far and none of them cares about US foreigners. Their eyes are made of $$$ signs and once they are always looking for opportunities to add my deposit to make their eyes bigger ($$$$).

This is not to say that all are like that. Some Singaporeans are truly good friends, but a lot are not. This is a typical pattern that can be found in other cases.

Comparing with people from other countries, such as Europe, US and Japan, Taiwan, Singaporeans are in general less caring and selfish. Again, this is a pattern and not a comment on All Singaporeans.

Some may say "why don't you just leave if you don't like this country". For those who do ask this question, they are among the most selfish Singaporeans. We come here to work and contribute to the country. What we are looking for is just a fair treatment instead of a special one. When we are not treated fairly, they ask us to leave. That is such a SELFISH action. What they should say, if they are truly graceful, is that "we should do something about this".

Anyway, for those who wish to transform Singapore as a better country, you should listen. For those who are selfish, just curse, and be as selfish as those who already are. said...

A discussion question about Singaporean 'Cultural Baggage' in N.Z.

Keith Darroch Sociology 6/9/13

In 1977, I did a brief O.E. working as a nurse in a mission managed hospital in Zambia. There the non-Zambian staff were missionaries from U.S.A. Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We all became aware of the 'cultural baggage' each had brought from their country of origin.
Please be clear, this is not an attack on Singapore Christians. Here in Christchurch my preferred Chinese Pastor and his wife are both reicent graduates of Singapore Bible College. Singapore Bible College must be a fine institution.
Singapore has a unique culture. It was supposed to be a democratic Commonwealth country with respect for the rule of law, however, many people have had their lives needlessly ruined by official persecution after they came into conflict with the ruling People's Action Party. Since most young men do compulsory military training they are socialized to conform and know how act as enforcers to those they see as disloyal.
This is the sinful world in which Singapore Christians live. However, this is not the model for Jesus's Kingdom. The culture from which people come, does affect their perception of the church in their culture. There are two mistakes that have come from this cultural background. These are the enforcer's role and falsely assuming that an authoritarian structure is the normal structure of the church.
These mistakes can result in the Singaporean men who are enculturated in this way, bringing the behavour they learnt in their military training into the church. They may mistakenly think that Christianity is to blindly follow the Church Pastor and act as enforcers to bully other Church Members they perceive as disloyal or disobedient to his leadership.
On the contrary; a Christian's primary loyalty should be to the essential truth of the Gospel (the Pastor could be in error) and to respect the Spirit of Christ who lives within each individual Christian. On the contrary too; the enforcers role is not part of New Testament Christianity. On the night when Jesus was arrested, Peter was told to put away his sword and Jesus told Pilate that his Kingdom was not of this world or something his followers could fight for.
The questions I put to you are:
Are you aware of this anti-Christian Singaporean 'cultural baggage' in the Church?
How does this affect the way your mission goes about its work in other cultures?

Anonymous said...

Really...!! Singaporeans love to complain a lot. I am sure they are Singaporeans. Why like that? Why ya? Why...and why... makes me headache.

I also dunno why... and they are too proud of their own country. I admit that Singapore is a good country, good infrastructure, public transportations and so on but the people... walllaoooo.... please smile often lah... dont be too proud. Most of my Singaporean friends like to underestimate people from China. Oh please... not all like that lah... maybe the non-educated people are often make they get angry, but the educated people also a lot ma... they are ok what...hahaa... so no need to underestimate...ah from China ah...

Btw i am Indonesian Chinese and yes they also look like to know everything but i am sure they know nothing about Indonesia. Always want to make me laugh everytime they comment about Indonesia. Hello... what do you know?? But yah i met some good, a few really good Singaporeans. Please dont keep complaining and like know everything...aiyooo... #headache

Anonymous said...

After staying overseas for several years and returning in 2010, I got a culture shock. I was then wondering why Singaporeans have little respect for their own people. This is in contrast to what I observed overseas (even as a foreigner, people treated me with respect and humility and that applies to everyone regardless of social status). In Singapore, it is different, the people here give me the feeling they are not interested in other people's business to the extent that they will not even extend a helping hand to those in distress. Yes, they just do not want to have anything to do with you. If you happen to stand in their way in a crowded train, they will push and shove without uttering an 'excuse me'. Insensitive, inconsiderate, kiasu, unfriendly, selfish, etc. After returning here for a few years, I am already planning for my (permanent) exit from this insane nation. May I end this by saying that the fate of a country depends very much on the 'quality' of its people. By 'quality' I am not referring to the educational level, social status or wealth possession. I am referring to the character of the people. If the people are kind and compassionate, the nation will thrive. On the other hand, I can't imagine what will happen to Singapore in the coming years.

Anonymous said...

Worse. The leaders here seem to be obsessed with all sorts of international ranking league tables like the notorious QS University World Rankings - even though intellectuals all over the world know this is a farce. But Singaporean leaders do not think so - as long as they are ranked favourably, the will wholehearted embrace any rankings (even the dubious ones) and publicize them using the state-controlled media. There are also many surveys which rank Singapore at the bottom of the rung but these are not publicized. This creates the falsehood Singapore is doing very well in many areas - its universities are among the top 10 in the world, it is the happiest nation in Asia, best country to work in, most transparent government in Asia, new-water technology is the best in the world (we drink our own urine), etc. Yes, indeed, I see a lot of puffer fishes here - so many that I want to puke everyday. WARNING: If you stay with the puffer fishes for a long time, you will eventually become another puffer fish yourself. This is a contagious disease!

Rachel W said...

If you are interested, you can look at a comparison of Singapore with other world cities: Singapore vs World Cities