This came to my mind after reading the SDP’s emotionally charged article about the termination of SMRT bus drivers.
This is a matter of Compassion vs Facts.
Do I feel sorry for the drivers? Indeed I do. Putting aside matters such as pay, benefits and equality, they have called an action against perceived inequality. And they have gotten fired for it. The compassionate part of me felt that perhaps SMRT and the MoM could have listened to them, do a little give and take… and maybe even let them off with a smack on the wrist.
But. Although it is Christmas time and we’re all feeling generous… generosity cannot extend to an action like this. It does not matter if the strikes were legal or not, by acquiescing to their demands (and “demanding” is the right word to use here), we’re sending a signal that:
– It is all right to call strikes even if you’re not a member of a union
– You can call strikes whenever you perceive there is inequality
– You can attack your boss even after you’ve agreed to a contract and then changed your mind about it’s terms shortly after
– You can do whatever you want as long as you rally up a bunch of people behind you
The SDP’s letter belittled the ordinary Singaporean’s desire for the rule of law. There is a system in place, there are rules to respect. Society has collectively decided that these are the rules we want governing this country. If you import destructive drugs, you will be executed. If you rob, you will be thrown in prison. If you rape, you will be thrown behind bars and flogged. The law is strict and discouragingly harsh, but then if it was not… why bother with it in the first place? The naysayers attack our rule of law and say that it has made babies out of us – but without discipline and rigidity, would we have experienced peace, order and stability like how we have enjoyed for a short few decades?
We shall not pretend that there is nothing wrong in society. Some call it xenophobia. I disagree. I’ve experienced racism overseas and I dare say that in Singapore it is not as bad. Perhaps the older generation have had a bitter aftertaste of racial disharmony, but us the younger generation were brought up in a Singapore where we play at the void deck with one another, regardless of race. Some of us even go out of our way to learn the tongues of our fellow citizens. We embrace each others cultures, costumes and history. We have defended the curry. Many of my friends have even come to stop calling ourselves Malay, Chinese, Indian…but rather, Singaporeans.
So what is this trouble in the air that I am talking about? It is called nationalism. Does it mean that just because we’re born here and we pay taxes we can be holier than thou to other nationalities. No. No. No. No. This is wrong. And guess which parties (pardon the pun) fanned the anti-foreigner flame? If you supported the foreigner’s termination just because they’re foreign, annoying and rude – then shame on you.
I have great faith in my fellow Singaporeans. Our identity is beyond birth and taxes. We’re Singaporean because our friends are here, our family is here, and we trust our forefather’s good vision that Singapore would be a good place to call home. We contribute to our community, be it economically, spiritually or socially. Each dollar we spend at a local business is a dollar that goes towards making a better home for all of us. Each letter that we fire at each other is a small contribution towards making the other aware of social issues. And all work is done in good faith, regardless if you’re Ong Ye Kung, Tan Chuan Jin, Vincent Wijeysingha or Desmond Kuek. And regardless if this work is seen publicly or not.
Let us stop attacking, belittling and throwing childish jokes at each other, because the only people that will suffer in the end will be Singaporeans.
So when an illegal strike has been performed, then let our nanny state defend our Singaporean’s desire for rule of law and let them be punished harshly.
Because once again, the individual is never above society.