“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness”. – Dalai Lama
The buzzword on the street is SG50. As we inch towards celebrating Singapore’s Golden Jubilee come 9th August, it’s inevitable that laundry lists of achievements will be plastered all over the newspapers and and other media outlets to celebrate how far we have come as a nation.
I am under no illusions that such accomplishments were achieved on the cheap. I understand that blood, sweat and tears were spilled to cement our position in the world today. Without a shadow of a doubt, this success can only be described as nothing short of a miracle. A feat we Singaporeans are really proud of.
But, something’s got to give. As we ride the wave of economic success, we seemed to have regressed socially as a nation. Somewhere along the way, we have derailed from the path of social competence. Heck, we were even labelled as being the “unhappiest nation“.
There are many reasons that could have contributed to the degeneration of our social behaviour. We succumb to the availability bias. We blame it on everything from the influx of foreigners to a seemingly unrelated event such as the atrocious weather.
However, if we were to sieve through the cloud of problems, it will be apparent that the solution to our negative behaviour can be found within us.
Lose and Be Obliterated
It is partly true that the environment shapes and moulds the behaviour of its people. However, it is the mindset which we adopt that ultimately portrays our human behaviour.
The word “kiasu” needs no introduction. It is a term that is synonymous with Singaporeans. But, “kiasuism” did not originate from our sunny shores, it is prevalent everywhere. It is a trait passed down since antiquity. It is a survival instinct ingrained into our DNA – foraging for the juiciest, freshest fruit, hunting the fattest animal, giving the best to those we care for most. So why is this trait frowned upon when we have such a deep, innate association with it?
“Kiasuism”, when taken a touch too far, especially at the expense of others is detrimental. We have the tendency to become self-absorbed and self-righteous. To put it simply, if one was to lose out, in every sense of the word, one will be obliterated in one way or another. This is where “kiasuism” rears its ugly head. It erodes the thin veneer of equilibrium and unleashes the beast. It opens the can of worms that leads to unhappiness.
To say that we have lost our ability to feel for those in need is a gross understatement. This is glaringly conspicuous especially on public transports. A pregnant lady’s sore legs and strained back or an elderly’s quivering stance as she tries her best to balance do not seem to beg a response from us, as we stay seated, satisfying our primal comfort. This is just the tip of the ice-berg but I will spare you the agony of listing the other 49.
The Moral Compass: Belief and Effort
Singa, our courtesy mascot had the been the shining beacon and his conduct, exemplary. His outstretched arms seemed to reflect an embrace, distilled with warmth that hummed with infantile comfort. But his retirement in May 2013 resonated a poignant note in us.
However, the fact that being courteous needs constant reminding is preposterous. Kindness begets kindness while resentment just festers the hate within us. The key to building a civic minded nation does not depend on a mascot to prod us in the right direction. It comes from within, it comes from us. We know the right from wrong (acceptable behaviours), we have the necessary tools (to communicate) but we just do not put in the required effort to make our society a better place, which is a shame.
Having the right mindset and believing that our society will eventually reach the acme of courtesy through consistent effort is equally important. Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali were not blessed with the ideal body proportions to succeed in their respective sport but through assiduous effort, they stuck to their tasks. Eventually, one became the greatest basketballer of all time while the other, let’s just say he floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee.
What I am trying to convey is this. With dedication, we will emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s self-centredness to welcome the glittering daybreak of love and respect. Spread the word.
*Not all need a kick up their butt. We are generally nice people.