A number of my friends had strong responses to Prof. Koh’s claim of Singapore being a “first-world country with third-world people”. It was also fairly interesting some responses online became one of blame, as opposed to constructive feedback. That has been a theme for a while in civic society, which supports Prof. Koh’s claim.
Many people have dissected Singaporean behaviour in their respective articles, so I shall not provide yet another treatise on the same thing. Instead, I would like to point towards a certain word, “value”. A measure of value towards something is important because it tells us how much we are willing to work for it. For instance, our valuation towards having a quality education is important, because it allows us, statistically, to open more doors for opportunities.
It is perhaps in asking how much we value our values that is important. For a start, values are supposed to be principles we hold dear to. Some of us could value righteousness very much, and hence defend our friends in times of trouble. Others may value intelligence very much, and would stop at nothing to advance their knowledge on any subject matter. We may need to revisit the kinds of values that we value and perhaps re-adjust some of these. Let me give a few examples.
The Kampung Spirit: Many Singaporeans liken the Singapore of old to having a strong “kampung spirit”. Some of us lament that this “kampung spirit” is slowly fading away for other forms of interaction. Some of these observations happen simply because of the changes to our lives. For instance, the food that we may have bought from a provision shop, coffeeshop owner or from a market may now be bought on an e-commerce or food delivery website. This means that what was supposedly a human interaction with a constant supplier has now changed to at best, a variable deliveryman. But not everything has changed like this. To restart the “kampung spirit”, we can look around us and identify the people who belong to our social fabric. We need not look that far to do that. These could be the bus drivers who drive the same bus routes, or the stalls that we often buy our dinner takeout from. Say hi to them, exchange greetings and understand one another. While these may not directly amount to much, the social bonds we form with people around us could prove to be a spark to recover the “kampung spirit” we cherish.
Consumerism and Convenience: We have become far more prosperous than ever before. We also have a society of convenience today. Food is never more than a few clicks away on a food delivery website. We can now shop so conveniently and many of us are affluent enough to buy a lot of what we want. However, when is our consumption considered too much? I think we overconsume, and partially due to the convenience to consume far more than what we really need. Sometimes, these arise from our own doing. We buy a piece of clothing that looks pretty at first glance, only to wear it once or twice throughout its life cycle. We go to restaurants and order the maximum amount of food (presumably to impress on people one’s affluence), only to realise that our appetites may not be that limitless. Rethinking about our consumption patterns is important if we value our planet. After all, insatiable consumer demand does encourage firms to continue production in a bit to satisfy consumer demand whilst pocketing profit. If we could all consume less, the world would perhaps see less demand for such manic consumption. Fewer resources would eventually be expended and our planet could be better-off. (I shall leave the discussions on environment and economic efficiency to separate musings should I have time.)
This is a short post, but not all is lost as what the dystopian view is. There are some individual habits we have that we can change to be less of a “third-world person” that appears to lack manner, graces or even human decency towards others. Such a short article would not do justice to the actual breadth of the topic, but I hope I have provided a small, individual perspective towards how we can inch towards a slightly better people.
Aiming towards a first world country and first world people!