Or else the lightning god…

Temasek Review
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The letter below was submitted by Fernandez Lee, 39

In secondary school, we used this book by Catherine Lim for literature. I absolutely loved the book as it was a compilation of several local stories that gave much room for reflection and thought. Can’t remember most of that now, but the eponymous story was based on something I remember well.

When I was a little boy, my mother would use this “Or else the lightning god” to scare me into not doing something. “Mom, can I climb up that tree?” “You better not climb, or else the lightning god will punish you.” “Mom, I can’t eat anymore.” “You better finish the rice, or else the lightning god”.

I don’t know if this is what today’s parents use to coerce their children into obeying them, but I do see this practice embedded into our culture somewhat. I work in customer service and the type of calls I hate to take, are from those who say, “Do you know who I am? I am so and so and I play golf with your CEO or eat with your CEO’s mother or carry your CEO’s son’s marbles” or something else. Usually, if I am feeling mischievious, I might sneak in a retort that frustrates them, something to the effect of, “Well, if you have to ask, then you probably aren’t anyone important..”

But most times, to keep my job, I bite my tongue. But what one thing I hold firm – threats. In the past before there was social media as we know it today, there would be someone who threatened to write to the Forum pages if I didn’t give him what he wanted. Although I never did verify which Forum pages they meant, I reckon they thought these pages would be easy to write to for publication, even if they had a case as strong as cotton wool. For such callers, I’d always say, “My name is ABC, and this is my DID number and email address. If you need more information, please feel free to ask.”

I hate it when people use threats to get their way. If you have a case, raise it and we’ll solve it. Threatening is the caveman’s approach that no longer has a place in society today. But no, it has become even more endemic now. Today, I just saw an email that said, “If you do not give me what I want, I’ll use social media to expose you!” It wasn’t directed to me, but if it was, you’d be certain how I would handle it.

We are no longer children, and using empty threats to bulldoze your way through is just plain childish. If there was a lightning god, I wish he would hit a strobe of lightning on the next person who says “or else I will…”

We’re all just working to feed our families. Go loosen out, show some respect to other working class folks and stop behaving like a 3 year old.





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