23 November 2006

Our disgraceful trinity: littering, inconsideration and bad service

We've been angsty about these for years, but nothing seems to change. Do we even try to find out the deep reasons why? Full essay.


Anonymous said...

i think it has something to do with the way you are brought up. You'll see some families treating their domestic help like a slave.
Its easy to spot. Look at the way the children treat the maid. I've seen children yelling at their maids,letting the maid pick up after them.
And then there are ppl like my sister who would punish her daughter for asking the maid to tie her shoelaces or bring her a cup of water - to "hurry up ok". I think having maids make ppl lazy. We have too many people picking up after us.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

People who grow up without maids behave just as badly, so pointing to maids isn't sufficient explanation.

sad man said...

It is in our genes. We have heard of Beijing / Shanghai - cities where people spit out of buses and you are lucky if you were not hit. Yes, our genes - recall that our forefathers were foreign talent that came from China. I am not sure if other races do this as well?

StealthEagle said...

Good Thinking, I really enjoyed this article.

Anyway, maybe the lack of emphasis on Civics & Moral Education in Primary and Secondary Schools could be the cause for our ignorance. Too much training on this IQ thing leads to unbalance of EQ.

People are obsessed with their success in life... or elitism has something to do with it?

Dr Oz bloke said...

I agree with most of your observations.

I suppose it is the amalgam of the various factors that has led to Singaporeans feeling and behaving as you had mentioned.

Your point about "Singaporeans feeling they have no ownership over the government and the country" particularly resonates with me.

If you look at Singapore as a whole, it is run using a "company/corporate business model". The people are merely employees of the company. And because the employees regularly vote the same board of directors in at each AGM, it is not different from any other corporate organization.

Do employees own the company? Well, many companies run campaigns to help employees think they do.

Have a good day!

Rowen said...

It is a matter of perception and reasoning and education.
In order for the child to be educated in moral values, their parents must first be good examples. If a child sees a parent littering, he would follow his parent's example.

Every piece of litter should go into bin. If my child throws the litter on the floor, i would ask her to pick it up and put it into the bin herself.
I have to educate her to say it is not socially responsible to litter because it is your responsiblity to keep the environment clean.

I have never littered in my life and keep my house clean and neat.

Hence it is important from a young age to educate them.

In addition, if everyone educates the young properly, the society would be better.

Just 2 cents of rant.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...


You're talking about the child learning bad habits from the adult, but the central question remains: why does the adult behave this way, after 40 years of campaigns? I'm not claiming to know the answer, I'm drawing attention to the fact that all of us are somehow avoiding this question.

Anonymous said...

The more they tell me not to spit and litter the more i will do it, without being caught of course. THey tell me to welcome and smile at foreigners, i show them my scowl and dish out bad service. It's my way of getting back at the PAP govt for depriving my civil rights, freedom and treating me like a third class citizen in my own country.

wingless said...

2 things i guess. Firstly, your speculative reasons #2 and #3 do relate to each other - If we only care about our private space (and we do, it seems), then of course we wouldn't have a sense of ownership of public space.
I do think, however, that this is a phenomenon that is ubiquitous rather than an isolated trend. All over the world people are facing the same problems, albeit to different extents. Could it be a product of free market capitalism, perhaps?
Still, I do agree with your concerns, that after 40 years of "courtesy campaings" and such, nothing much has changed. Then again, it's going to take a lot of change to make a difference... Our government is still run by the same person, after all.p

Anonymous said...

It doesnt matter how many years its been, if you werent trained properly as a child, you'll continue having that mentality. Of course, this isnt the only reason to why people litter and have no respect for their environment.
I think its a combination of many factors. Its true that we have people doing everything for us. IN western countries, you bring your tray to the bin in food courts. When will that ever happen here? Ha! Oh, wait, I know, fine ppl! Install cctv as well. That way we know for sure.
Everything here is done out of fear. Fined for almost everything. As a student, thats how I was taught. They dont teach us why its not good, how it affects others etc.. Just dont do it!

Rowen said...

Dear friends,

Yes after 40 years of campaigning we have not achieved the level of understanding that littering is wrong, providing good service is part of the job and having consideration for our fellow men is part of life.

As i stated it is the mentality of the entire society, if you grew up with your parents teaching you that it is okay to litter and you see your fellow men littering. Do you not think that it is the norm?
If you grew up with the typical thinking that service is poor is the norm and everywhere you get is the same level, would you complain and ask for better service. If you grew up seeing people not giving up their seats for the needy, thinking that the lesser fortunate should get out of your eilte uncaring face, would you be considerate to your fellow men?

It is true we have campaigns
we have posters, we have advertisements saying littering is bad. However, in general, the public view and the public action is not the same.
If one preaches something and acts contary to the preaching, would the preaching be properly conveyed to the student?

Therefore, we need to change. Change starts with the individual.
By teaching my kids, by setting an example myself, by doing what i can, i can only hope to influence others the correct way.

The longest journey starts with the first step and the step can only be taken by the individual.
If you cannot convince yourself, how would you be able to convince others.

Just 2 cents of my thoughts.

Thank you for letting me rant here.

YCK said...

I have also wondered why after years of campaigns and punishments Singaporeans are so incorrigiable.

I thought it could be due to the misplaced faith our government has on punishments as a deterrence for an undersirable behaviour.

I do not agree with this as it deprive people of a chance to form their own sense of morality to judge themselves. Thus, I would not be surprised when punishment seems escapable people lapse.

Well, this is just an idle thought. But I guess it would work better if our government is less parternalistic and allow people to act on their on volition.

I think I may not be too far off the mark if the great behavoirist B.F. Skinner had reservation for using punishments instead of positive reinforcemnets to social engineering. Though he may not be well-liked for his percieved dismissal of free-will in people, you should think that something is wrong when the determinist is hesistent to use such a ready tool at his disposal.

Here is what I found in LD Online for learning disabilities and ADHD:

Although punishment is an efficient way of changing behavior, it can become seductive and reinforcing for classroom teachers and can be overused. The greatest problem with punishment is that it does not provide an appropriate model of acceptable behavior.

It was further mentioned that the suppression may be short-lasting and may re-occur upon the removal of the punishment. Now isn't that the problem our technocrats have with the people. I think they should give the humanities more respect!

Anonymous said...

Campaigns are nothing!

Anonymous said...

I think we still have a long way to learn. The school system definitely plays a part to educate the people from young about gracious manners instead of emphasising only on academic results, streaming, etc. Generally we just have to look at how gracious & polite the Japanese behave in public and know that it has been part of their culture instilled by their parents & schools from a very early age. Our education system definitely have a thing to learn from the Japanese culture.

Chris said...

This topic has been done to death.

The problem is Singaporeans think inwardly. They think of themselves first, before thinking of other people. They've resigned to the fact that the Govt doesn't listen to them, so they don't listen to others.

This is why all the campaigns to improve social behaviour doesn't work. People find it hypocritical that the Govt is actually encouraging them have more social grace when they feel no one even bothered to listen to them in the first place.

Yeah my comment is abit dramatic, but you get the idea

YCk said...

Hi Chris,

If what you meant by thinking inwardly is being self-centred, I fully agree.

But I see it as a problem caused by too little thinking on the part of Singaporeans. Littering I suspect is done with little reflection, but as kind of a relex to get rid of unwanted dirty things in a person's possession.

Having scruples about it is a sign of a really thoughtful reflective person. In a society with rules and punishments, people are used not to think but just react to available stimuli. People just do not feel responsible for their own actions.