Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Selfish, unhelpful and unapologetic about it - that's us

Selfish, unhelpful and unapologetic about it - that's us
Letter from Desmond Gui
I refer to the letters "Strictly no sitting, unless in need" (March 18) and "Seat woes an overblown issue" (March 21).

A trip to Taiwan a few years ago left a lasting impression on me. In their MRT, all the seats were occupied except for a few seats in a different colour, which were not occupied even after we had passed through many stations. I was told the seats were for the elderly or others in need.

I asked my Taiwanese friend: With so many reserved seats left empty, and no elderly folks standing around, why don't we just take a seat first and give it up later if required? The reply: The Taiwanese want to let the needy have a cool seat, instead of one that has been made warm.

Looking at our society, often our people don't give priority to those in need, or we pretend to fall asleep to avoid eye contact. The naysayers will say it is stupid to leave a seat vacant and not make full use of the space. It saddens me to read many comments on the online forum which hold the view that the needy should open their mouth to ask for the seat; or that paying commuters deserve seats.

In one of Taiwan's popular streets, I wanted to throw my empty bottle but no rubbish bin was in sight. I asked my friend: How do you dispose of rubbish when there are no bins around? My friend replied that they would hold onto it until they got home.

In Singapore, we have bins at some strategic corners that are full to overflowing. The common grouse is that the agency responsible or the cleaners are not doing their job; sometimes photos are posted online to shame the parties. But we never take those few extra steps to dispose of our rubbish at another, emptier bin.

Over the years, we have degenerated into a selfish, unhelpful and unapologetic behaviour society. We tend to think that just because we have paid for something, we have the right to do anything. We blame others but never look at our own behaviour, thinking only of the convenience to ourselves and not sparing a thought for others. Often, fingers are pointed at foreign workers but the actual fact is our own behaviour has been getting worse long before the influx of foreigners.

Those who have travelled to Taiwan and Japan will know what I mean, even as this the Japanese in this devastating time are giving us lessons by their example. Perhaps we should bring back some of the campaigns like 'Courtesy is our way of life'.

This letter is only available online.