Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Singaporeans are stressed.

Its writer, Radha Basu, highlights how, despite the country’s technological prowess and generally high living standards, Singapore still falls short when it comes to basic human kindness such as donating time and money and caring for one another. (How I wish life can be as simple as the past generation when there were a-go-go that generation.)

Another telling statistic was how a study revealed that Singaporeans spend 55 times as much time on leisure activities than they do on volunteering compared to 14 times for Americans.

I would like to further extend the discussion by asking the fundamental question of why are Singaporeans too stressed to care?

Could it be that the answer lies that Singaporeans are simply too caught up in their own frenetic lives to bother about others? Could it be that, with people being the only resource in this tiny country of ours, we are being maximised, body, mind and soul, to the fullest to meet and fulfil the economic needs of this country? (We are seriously maximised! We are exhausted. Therefore I seriously hate it when she asked me to go extra mile and do things I don't like. I feel stress for that!)

For example, to save cost, why hire more when one person can be retrained to up productivity and do the work of three? Why waste the potential of the elderly when we can increase the retirement age or have no retirement age at all? (This kind of cost how can be save? Are you trying to drive human crazy?)

My own personal view is that in pursuit of economic success, Singapore has, sadly, forgotten how to care for its neglected and disadvantaged. For better or worse, the government’s policies have, directly or indirectly, succeeded in churning out self-centred individuals who prioritize monetary wealth and status above all else. (That's it, you are money-minded selfish brat!)

The mindset that has been ingrained in our minds since primary and secondary school — with streaming, school and class rankings, ECAs, tuition and enrichment classes — is that to live in Singapore, getting ahead and staying ahead of the competition is key. Money, success and the 5 ‘C’ s will then follow. (I am very upset about this fact.)

And because time equates money, it will be a waste of time to help others who might have tripped down the stairs, or to stop and help a fellow commuter through an MRT train door. With barely enough time for one’s tired self, how to volunteer time for others on weekends?

From my own personal experience as a student, I confess that the pressure to excel in my studies caused me to block out all else. The only thing that mattered for me was getting good grades so I could land a job and forge a career that would pay well. Volunteerism? Bah, no time.

What about the mandatory CIP (Community Involvement Programme) at secondary and junior college level? I contend that it’s merely an avenue for the majority of students to get into the school’s good books for future admission to top schools and tertiary institutions.

Still, is being less caring and generous a symptom of Singapore’s time-starved society or does it apply to the wider Asian context too?

A friend from Brunei, Fatin Arrifin, 26, said, “We Bruneians are caring and helpful owing to our laid-back and easy-going lifestyles. We are known by tourists to be very hospitable. I think it also has much to do with our strong family ties.” (How I wish laid-back and easy-going take places in Singapore. STOP BUGGING ME ABOUT THAT STICK! BIG DEAL!!!)

“Through all my travels, I notice that we Bruneians are not as calculative about money as compared to our other ASEAN friends,” he said.

A fellow colleague of mine, Karen Vera, who’s in her 30s and comes from the Philippines, said, “Filipinos avoid being rude at all costs because being rude reflects that you had a poor family upbringing and that you come from a family with bad manners.” (OMG, I guess this is true and it directly applies to her. Mmmm~ I can imagine that.)

Having lived in Singapore for the past two years, she noticed Singaporeans “tend to rely on the government too much for direction and initiative” even when it comes to basic human courtesies like saying “please” and “thank you”. (Even a basic Good Morning or simple greeting is so hard for SOMEONE and so many ones!!! Yet to even say a simple and easy smile.)

The government is realising, perhaps belatedly, that to have tall, shiny new buildings dotting the city skyline amounts to nothing if its people don’t have the generosity and kindness to match. (Kick them out then or sent to jail.)

At the end of the day, what kind of Singapore do we want for ourselves?

A society that continues to place more emphasis on productivity and competition so as to fuel the country’s ever-higher growth targets — which, I might add, inadvertently leads to lower fertility rates and less caring but more tired citizens?

Or, a cultured society that places importance on softer skills like human grace and compassion and the ability to balance both work and family? (This is not so stress and good for personal development.)

At the end of the day, I believe Singapore cannot have both.

How I wish most people to more human relation-friendly.
We work to live AND NOT live to work!
I seriously hate rude and insensitive people and I have seen too much of them!
Stop taking my good-temper for granted, I am serious about my work and my life. I give my best shot so don't you dare critisize about simple things that I do. Tell me but don't tell me off.
Stop taking my kindness for granted. When I helped you once, I expect it to be returned. I expect respect level for each other to be high.
Stop taking my effort for granted. Since when I will do things casually and since when I will show off my work. How many times I apologise and remained humble to avoid critisize. WHY MUST YOU DO THAT TO ME, BITCH!

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