Singaporeans ‘could be more gracious’

Source: extracted from todayonline  Jul 5, 2011

Singaporeans think themselves kinder and more gracious than their fellow citizens, according to the latest poll conducted by the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM).

The findings, in the words of SKM general manager William Wan, indicate “an unhealthy level of self-centredness and self-absorption” among Singaporeans.

The SKM was set up in 1997 to make the nation a kinder place and the findings of its third State of Graciousness survey, released yesterday, revealed that more than 40 per cent of the 1,404 respondents thought they were gracious, but only 15 per cent felt the same of others.

Almost nine in 10 felt they had performed a kind deed in the past six months. In contrast, half felt they had been the beneficiary of another’s kindness.

Describing the “big perception gap” as surprising, Dr Wan added that the poll also showed that Singaporeans are “not being aware of and not appreciating the efforts of others”.

Another surprise for the movement: Foreigners had a better impression of the Republic as a gracious society than Singaporeans did.

Singaporeans ranked Japan and Thailand as more gracious societies. In comparison, tourists ranked Singapore first among the three nations, while foreigners working here put Singapore second, behind Japan.

Respondents also felt that graciousness on public transport, in public spaces and at eating places needed the most improvement.

Still, Dr Wan noted that Singaporeans’ score on the Graciousness Index was stable: “Nothing to be too concerned about but it also tells us we still got a lot of work to do.”

The SKM might find it tough to change attitudes, considering how 62 per cent of the respondents felt it was impossible for Singapore to become more gracious because of the hectic and stressful lifestyle here.

Among those MediaCorp spoke to, Mr Richard Lee, 59, agreed and said: “We’re very engrossed with our own living. Everybody’s so busy making a survival.”

To Ms Theresa Tan, 43, some Singaporeans just do not want to “lose” out to others: “They think if they don’t strike first, then somebody’s going to take away their advantage. Everyday on the MRT, I hear pregnant women going, ‘How come nobody gives me a seat?’.”

While Dr Wan agreed that the hectic lifestyle Singaporeans lead is a factor, he stressed: “We mustn’t make that an excuse.”


Hectic pace trumps manners
Letter from Tan Jie Wei
Source: todayonline  Jul 06, 2011

I REFER to your report “Singaporeans ‘could be more gracious'” (July 5).

As much as we would like to see ourselves as a gracious lot, the truth is that the majority of Singaporeans are just too concerned with their own survival to take heed of something as trivial as letting an elderly or pregnant woman have a seat on the train.

Granted, certain civic-minded individuals still practise this dying act, and they are usually the younglings not yet exposed to the harsh cruelties of Singapore’s fast-paced way of life.

Singaporeans are faced with a plethora of problems each day, swamped with issues that occupy attention and processing power, leaving little to no room to be gracious. We may think we are compassionate but this delusion may well be just an offshoot of our “kiasu” culture: We must seem gracious because other people are, or else we will lose out.

It is also by and large a matter of subjective perspective: An apparently gracious act like allowing someone else to sit at your table during crowded lunch hour might come across as unnecessary and even excessive to some people.

It is quite sad to see working adults on the trains feigning sleep on a seat whenever a needier passenger looks in his/her direction. And on our congested roads, drivers weave in and out of lanes, with little regard for safety and the other road users.

Singaporean life is simply too hectic, so much so that we forget to slow down and treat other fellow human beings with the respect and dignity they deserve.

It does not make sense to introduce fines and penalties for flouting social graciousness. The effort must stem from within the individual Singaporean but, sadly, it seems this task is at once insurmountable and thankless.

Until the blazing pace of life takes a dip, graciousness will always take a back seat – if it is even allowed onto the vehicle of progress in the first place.