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Re: Must Singaporeans ‘behave like pigs’?

14/10/06

Sometimes I wonder if the ST has a quota on how many “Singaporeans are rude” letters it has to publish annually as part of some dodgy courtesy campaign conspiracy spearheaded by that cute but rather evil courtesy lion, Singa (how much did we pay the guy to come up with that name?). Seriously though, these letters are getting old and they keep saying the same thing.

Singaporeans are rude.

Singaporeans are socially graceless.

Singaporeans are blah blah blah blah.

We get it already!

But like people who nag too much, these letters eventually become white noise. In one ear and out the other while passing that empty vacuum in between.

One of those letters complaining about Singaporeans’ complete disregard for courtesy and basic social grace and emphasizing how soulless and callous we all are, appeared in the ST forums today.

The full text, unedited and unabridged, is reproduced here:

RECENTLY, my friend from Australia commented that Singaporeans behaved like pigs. I disagreed, saying that at most it’s a small minority who behaved that way.

He challenged me to a test. I accepted his challenge, determined to prove him wrong. I was bitterly disappointed.

Here is an account of what happened.

My friend, my wife, our one-year-old son in a pram and I (wearing a neck brace and with my arm in a sling from injuries sustained in a car accident) went for an MRT ride. My wife and son couldn’t get into the station for some time because other commuters kept using the gate meant for the disabled, ignoring her and the pram.

When the train arrived, people rushed in while alighting passengers rushed out. No one gave way to my wife and the pram. She had to compete with the horde to get onto the train. To make things worse, those standing at the doorway refused to move in, making it even more difficult for her.

Once on board, no one bothered to give up his seat to my wife, who was carrying our son. Those seated were young, able-bodied and educated (executive-type) adults. Finally, it was two Thai workers who gave up their seats to us.

Later, an old woman boarded the train. Again, no one gave up his seat until a man in a neck brace and an arm sling did so.

When we reached our destination, we tried to take the lift from the platform to the ticket concourse. The lift was packed with able-bodied people. My friend asked that my wife and the pram be allowed in but one man turned around and remarked rudely, ‘Why can’t you take the next lift?’. I was shocked beyond words.

We went to a packed food court for lunch. No tables were available. We waited and finally noticed a couple leaving. We inched our way towards their table but, with just 5m to go, a group of office girls ran ahead of us and took the table.

When we finally got a table, it was unbelievably messy. There were chicken bones, spilt sauces and prawn shells all over the table.

I turned red in the face when my friend, who was helping to clear the table, asked, ‘So, do you still think that it’s only a minority of Singaporeans that behave this way? If so, take a look around you. Look real hard at the tables when they leave… You guys eat like pigs.’

Martin Goh Lye Thiam

C’mon, was Mr Goh covering his ears and going “Nanananananana!” everytime our wonderful gahmen stresses that Singapore is a meritocracy? For those who don’t know what meritocracy means, here’s the definition from www.dictionary.com:

mer·i·toc·ra·cy (mr-tkr-s)
n. pl. mer·i·toc·ra·cies

  1. A system in which advancement is based on individual ability or achievement.
    1. A group of leaders or officeholders selected on the basis of individual ability or achievement.
    2. Leadership by such a group.

“A system in which advancement is based on individual ability or achievement.”

That’s what we are. We are a meritocracy, where everybody’s place in society is determined by their ability and achievement. If you want anything, then you’re going to have to be willing to work for it and prove how capable you are.

There are no free rides in a meritocracy and you ought to expect none. Singapore is not a welfare state. We do not give free handouts based on disability or injury. We are fair, sometimes to the point of harshness.

As can be clearly seen in his letter, Mr Goh and his wife were unwilling to work for anything. Instead, he preferred hand-outs from other people due to the fact that his arm was in a cast and his wife was pushing a pram. As he repeatedly admitted in his letter,

  • He did not work to get into a position where he can use the gate meant for the disabled. He waited and hung around until either an opening came or someone allowed him to pass. No initiative was shown at all by him or any member of his family to get through the gate.
  • Again, while waiting to board the train, he waited for someone else to give way for him and his wife. There was no evidence in his letter to indicate that he, at any moment, fought for a position where he can board the train. He also expected those at the doorway to move in for him and his wife.
  • In the train, he did not rush for available seats. Instead, he waited for people to give up their seats for him because his arm was in a cast.
  • Mr Goh did not work to get into the lift, allowing people to pass through him. From experience, I have discovered that in situations outlined here and above, a plaster cast can be a formidable weapon if wielded properly and would have been advantageous for Mr Goh to employ at this instant. However, it is unclear why Mr Goh did not choose to do this. Instead, he allowed it to happen and complain about it in the papers.
  • The man in the lift had a point too. Why couldn’t he wait for the next lift? Was Mr Goh going to die of embarassment in front of his Aussie friend at that point? Did he require medical attention? If he did, he should have called for the ambulance himself. In a meritocracy, you can’t expect the ambulance to come for you if you didn’t call it first, even if you are blushing to death.
  • He was slow in approaching the table at the food court. Those office girls, honed by the intricacies of office politics, showed determination in getting to their seats while he and his wife were lagging behind. Early bird catches the worm, they say.

While Mr Goh sees a graceless, discourteous and even “piggy” society, I see meritocracy in action. His letter only indicates that Mr Goh lacks initiative, drive and determination. All of which are important qualities if you wish to advance in a meritocratic society.

Do we really want people like Mr Goh among us? His laidback and indifferent attitude in trying to achieve his goals smacks of rebelliousness, mixed with a hint of dissension, against the Singapore Way.

While Mr Goh might want to live in a welfare state where he can get freebies and handouts based on his injury, I’m sure the rest of us would not want that. A welfare state would mean higher taxes to support the many social programs for people who are too lazy to work for themselves. However, we are not opposed to giving Mr Goh nasty looks, whispered curses and even, the almighty finger.

Also, there’s a touch of that colonial mentality in his letter. Just because his Aussie friend called us pigs, we’re all supposed to cower, shake, shiver, beg for forgiveness and change our ways? Is his Aussie friend supposed to approve of us before we are alright in Mr Goh’s eyes? Do we always have to seek external validation?

I like Aussies and all. The ones that I met when I was doing my undergrad there were really good people. But, to put it simply, why should we give a flying crap what they think of us? We certainly didn’t listen to them when we hanged Nguyen, why should we start now?

And lastly, being called a pig is not a bad thing. If someone insults you with a word, you take that word, mock it until you own it. Just like the way blacks have owned the term “nigger”.

The pig is a great animal. It’s omnivorous, it will eat anything, even shit. It’s a highly efficient food processing platform as well as being extremely low maintenance. Leave a pig alone and it will fend for itself. It isn’t clingy or needy.

This is exactly the kind of image that Singaporeans want to project to the world. We are efficient and low maintenance. We get things done fast, without hiccups, while retaining the ability to work independently and for comparatively low wages. We’re also willing to take shit from people. As a Singaporean, I’m proud to behave like a pig.

We should adopt the pig as the national animal. The lion is sooooo 1965.

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32 comments

  1. Pigs are haram, so that’d disrupt religious harmony 😉


  2. ha ha ha ha ….
    you forgot your /sarcasm tags…


  3. u cold heartless human being…..
    Majulah Singapura!!!!


  4. You clearly do not have an understanding of what a gracious society is. Which is clearly a reflection of the standard of your upbringing.


  5. And you Mr Switchblade, sir, should never ever watch The Colbert Report. You might actually think Stephen Colbert is being serious, make comments about his upbringing and start an international incident. Or at the very least, be the first Singaporean to be mocked on Comedy Central.


  6. cannot stand ang mo wannabes. all the talk about graciousness. seems normal to me. you got pram take mrt must be |automatic| lah, fold your pram lah, think your grandfather owns the mrt izit? simi give way for your pram? you siao eh? no place to stand already still push in your pram, who is not gracious?
    take lift of course must queue lah…you VIP meh?people must let you go first? abled body means cannot take lift izit? neber pay tax meh?


    • what is common sense?


  7. hahaha nice one! i totally agree with you! move ahead or be left behind. real simple. what’s there not to understand about that?


  8. A video response would actually do better.


  9. excellent.


  10. yeh actually make sense. *nods*


  11. Actually, the parody has become the truth.


  12. who is talkin abt welfare state? consider a level state instead?


  13. […] Porco nearly fell over laughing when he read this – it really appealed to his porcine nature. Perhaps we could get rid of the stupid Merlion once and for all. […]


  14. Point taken…meritocracy at work. But wtf…are you serious about expecting a disabled to fight for seats?? What i’m trying to address here is deeming a mentality that, as you put it, shoves aside moral judgement and senses to accomodate for the “betterment” of society is ok? Would you do that to your mom or dad? Shouldn’t it be ‘love thy neighbour’?? Then again, it could be debated that the definition of morality is not for one man to judge… However, i believe that one should not do unto others what you do not wish to be done unto yourself. So if you actually like to push and shove each other to get to where you wanna be…i guess that’s why xiaxue’s blog is so popular. If you don’t get what i mean, don’t worry about it…just the ramblings of a “deviant”.


  15. CW, after reading through all the other comments, the references to Stephen Colbert and claiming that we should adopt the pig as a national animal, do you think I was being serious? 😉


  16. SG being the most successful asian society based on the capitalist model of development will yield the most unhappy people in asia… esp when it doesn’t have an adequate history of cultural develpment to keep the capitalist poison in check… and when i refer to Sg, i do not refer to the govt… i refer to the entire country’s people…. which inevitably include the govt cos they are also SGreans… and they are responsible for molding its citizens into this kind of humans


  17. An insightful argument of this issue. All it takes is a rotten apple to spoil a buyer’s impression of the entire basket of apples. Many people often perceive negative issues in a blown-up manner just because they’ve been indicated of it from a normal circumstances. With regards to being a capitalist model, I believe that with each progression made, there will always be something lost. It is likewise whether S’poreans slog hard for wealth and material, giving famiy dinners a miss. The children would become wayward, lacking a sense of responsibility and compassion. Thus, to strike a balance between success and virtues is indeed a well-deserved goal to strive for. ^_^


  18. I totally agree with Mr Goh. I do agree that the system of Meritocracy is the core reason for the cause of graceless society in Singapore.

    People are self-centered and inconsiderate. However, by pushing the blame to Mr Goh not having to take initiative is certainly wrong.

    That’s it! Many Singaporeans are always thinking this way and thus leading to a graceless society. OF COURSE, by saying so that shows that the author is no different from typical singaporean. Agree?

    The author may sound like he’s so right but how wrong can he be… you’re merely twisting the words and facts. Loser! I’m utterly disappointed in you… A total disgrace to the miniority who think and act otherwise. And to people who agree with him… do think about what i’ve said… i’m twisting back the distorted truth.


  19. If meritocracy is a ‘system based on individual ability and achievement’, then I think you’ll find that many societies are meritocracies and not just Singapore.

    Do you really think being rude to others is a display of ‘ability and achievement’? Rather, it betrays a lack of higher learning and social skills. People who have really achieved something worthwhile are not usual so insecure that they need to stamp on others to feel better about themselves.

    Remember too that emotional intelligence is just as important as other forms of intelligence if you want to GET ALONG and SUCCEED in SOCIETY.

    The brutal social Darwinian attitudes that the author of the response seems so proud of lead to a very narrow type of progress, defined in financial terms.

    Greater and broader progress is achieved through cooperation,and cooperation means respect and consideration for others, especially those less fortunate than ourselves. After all, you will be old one day, that’s if someone doesn’t wipe you out first for being such a jerk or you don’t wipe yourself out in your headlong rush to make a buck. You will also be sick or injured one day, and I’m sure you would like people to be considerate of you.

    The writer seems to have uncritically internalised the ideology of the ruling party. Keep lapping it up! But when you’re ready to expand your vocabulary beyond PAP Newspeak, check the meaning of the word EMPATHY and think about how it benefits a society! Study some history too. It provides a lot of lessons about what happens to unsustainable societies.

    S.J.


  20. I like how the response to Mr. Goh’s comments twists the point Mr. Goh was trying to make. If it feels good to you to be impolite to others and be less than courteous, in order to make yourself feel important, then I guess you need to continue to do that. But don’t try that in my home country. People will say something to you if you do.


  21. The majority of Singaporeans still has to learn a lot! Being polite and gracious is a sign of good upbringing and education. Treat others the way you want to be treated! Unfortunatly, most Singaporeans do not know what that means.


  22. I am not so surprised that much when I read about the response to Mr.Goh’s comment.This is the biggest problem that Singaporeans don’t have the awareness of the courtesy and they even don’t want to try nor think seriously whether they should change their mind and their concepts.
    They don’t feel shame nor awkward to fight to get into the trains, to get a seat or even not to make a little move standing and blocking the entrance as the rests cannot squeeze into the train and watch them leaving outside while the train doors are closing.
    One day they will get older and they will know and feel the pain.I wish the next generation will not continue the same mistake and have kind hearted and more humane.


  23. Well, at least my letter and the many others brought about a Graciousness Campaign that you presently see all over the country.

    I didn’t expect to be treated with privileges. It just disgust me on how selfish you can be to even try to justify your selfishness, greed and disregard for humanity with your ambitions and drive for excellence.

    Your article speaks a lot about you. I truly feel sorry for you.

    I will have you in my prayers when you become too weak to fight for what you need. And if I see you then, I will still offer my seat to you.

    May God bless you with good health that you may never need charity.


  24. @ Switchblade> you’re absolutely right.

    @ Blokeman-on ur reply to Switchblade> if this is your idea of a comedy, you just reinforced Switchblade’s point. Stop using twisted citations to defend your stand.

    @ Y2> Great points. I agree absolutely.

    @ Steve (S.J.)> excellent reply.

    @ Humane> Exactly my sentiments.

    @ Mr Goh (the man himself)> you finally said something to defend your views after 3 years. but it was well said (esp the retribution).

    Last but not least, my two cents worth:
    You reap what you sow. I love to see how your children shove you around when you get old and useless just like the way you proudly and firmly profess.


  25. u’re such a scumbag… u should be castrated… we dun need ppl like u here…


  26. You are such a loser!!!!! Wake up!!!!! What you believe in is so twisted and you justify your selfishness with lame reasons by distorting common sense.

    Shame on you!

    And this is a fellow Singaporean saying this to you!

    Reflect and look back at what you are trying to say to the world!!


  27. Buddy, don’t go down this path.You’re bitting more than you can chew.Trust me,


  28. The fact that so many people didn’t get this “non-blog” post intention is just so amazing.

    The fact that so much bigotry and racism surfaces in the angry comments – is even more amazing.

    by the way- I am not a Singaporean and I found Mr. Goh’s article melodramatic, nagging and childish. Drama, drama, drama.


  29. Well Laila, you can’t blame them. “non-blog” is trying to emulate something that is foreign to them and he did so in a manner that diggs into the neves of people that cannot draw a corelation to his emulation. His diggs were insensitive and it is to no surprise that it draws such response.

    You are entitled to your opinions just as much everybody here. But by calling others “childish” when you yourself indulge in such “nagging” and ramblings here, how different are you from them then?


  30. Insightful parody. Provides much food for thought.


  31. Sheerest attractive paper! Influential jon admins! I understand its petrified but you are on the claim acquiesce! Like you cobweb! Thanks Click http://s.intmainreturn0.com/oopf09160



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