The Online Citizen

A difference between empathy and forgiveness

January 24
17:47 2014

The following is a Facebook post by Cheryl Marie Tay in response to an article by the general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, William Wan, in the Straits Times on 24 January, with regards to the Anton Casey saga. [You can read Mr Wan's article here: "Where has all our empathy gone?"]

We publish Ms Tay’s note with her permission.

William Wan's article in the Straits Times

William Wan’s article in the Straits Times


Perhaps it’s my disdain for the standard of “journalism” ST is known for, or perhaps I’m just missing the empathy chip, but Mr. William Wan, please spare me your highfalutin calls for “empathy” for “the least deserving”, i.e. Anton Casey.

I didn’t say much on the issue because, well, he isn’t the first rich person to have such a condescending attitude towards those whose entire net worth is but a monthly salary for him. I’ve met locals and foreigners who think money alone makes them superior, so I wasn’t surprised. Also, I knew very well that an angry Internet mob would form in a matter of hours and rip him apart, and I was right.

But of course, trust ST to publish an article encouraging us to be “empathetic” towards him, and to take the opportunity to slip in pro-PAP lines such as “those who chastise the Government for groupthink also themselves fall prey to a groupthink mob mentality”.

When Amy Cheong made derogatory remarks about the Malay community, did anyone call for “empathy” for her? She was fired from her job, and fled to Australia to escape all the negative attention she was receiving. So what makes Anton Casey so special? His race? His nationality? His money? His so-called “status”? And let’s not forget Sun Xu, the infamous NUS “scholar” from China, who called Singaporeans “dogs”. Long before any disciplinary action was taken against him, Baey Yam Keng had the nerve to tell us to “reflect” upon ourselves.

To be absolutely clear, I don’t think such offences warrant a termination of employment, especially if the offender has done well at his job; I am merely highlighting the blatant double standards being practised.

I don’t condone mob mentality, and certainly find it unacceptable to drag someone’s personal life into the spotlight, or implicate his friends or family for HIS actions. However, that has nothing to do with empathy but everything to do with being a logical, sensible human being. Punish the perpetrator and his accomplices (if any), not his family or friends.

On a related note, people should be free to speak their minds, even if it means offending certain sections of society. And other people should be free to respond to them, so at least all cards are laid on the table, views are properly expressed, and we can all progress – collectively and as individuals. But in a country where issues such as class, race, nationality, immigration and the like are not talked about (enough) simply because they are “sensitive” issues, one can surely expect more incidents like this, where Singaporeans go all CSI and paparazzi on the offender and his family.

So instead of forming angry Internet mobs and burning down everything in your virtual path to revenge, or writing patronizing articles calling for “empathy” for the offender, how about trying to determine the underlying issues and root causes before passing judgment? Because if we can’t (be bothered to) understand the reasons behind a problem, how can we possibly deal with it or prevent / minimize the chances of its re-occurrence?

Also, I have nothing against rich people or their riches in general, but how can I, an average middle-class working Singaporean, possibly “empathize” with a rich expat who clearly thinks his material wealth places him above the rest of society? There is a difference between empathy and forgiveness, and I’m sure we will all put this behind us, sooner or later. But please, Mr. Wan – you should have looked up “empathy” in the dictionary before writing an article about it.

  • Ray

    Singapore has no fair minimum wage system, and policies that favors the rich. No proper anti-discrimination laws to punish employers and landlords who discriminates against people of race, sexual orientation or gender identity. The government has no empathy indeed.

    • nelsonmandala

      when a singapoorium published nonsence on the facebook against the rulin government out of anger and betrayer
      he will be SUED till bankruptcy last…
      when a foreigner did the same thinggie..
      he will be forgiven for he not know the law

    • Jack

      Singapore should forget about Fair Minimum wages,What about immoral wages system instead?

  • Andrew Leung

    Mr William Wan should have more empathy for the millions of poor and perfumed Public Transport Users in Singapore. He is incapable of identifying with the hurting and should be removed from his position at SKM. The people want Mr Anton and family to kindly move back to the UK and not pollute our nation with his human trash. We want CrossInvest to donate $1 million to the Poor Public Transport User Fund.

  • Karmic-Retribution

    Our nationalistic “We Are Singapore” theme song sings of courage and empathy. Unfortunately, the three major societal players, The PAP, The Straits Times and Mediacorp did not hold true to their patriotic call and it started to slide a long time ago. When
    PM GCT took the reins, he had created a massive landslide but PM LHL very quickly
    turned it into an avalanche. But we are known for our humble nature and quiet integrity,
    we quickly forgave the PAP for their blunders by showing complete empathy
    towards them, warts and all and we bravely soldiered on for our Singapore…We unanimously pledged ourselves as one united people, but what did our leaders do? They sold us out to the foreigners; the richer the better and the tighter was their embrace. They wholly worshipped the foreigner’s wealth above all else…ignoring the
    impoverished Singaporean soul. They even called us dogs, but when we spoke out,
    ST journalists labeled us as xenophobes.

    The Anton Casey dilemma will be the “coup de grace” for this regime. Especially
    with ill-informed sarabat-street journalist like William Wan, idiots like him will
    surely speed up their definite demise. We are now literate and want to be involved
    in our political landscape for our children’s future. We have zero confidence or
    tolerance for the rulers that be. A new government is the only solution to
    quell the hatred from within.

    • Checkyourfacts

      Whoa that’s a wholly inaccurate and biased way of distorting the facts. Unfortunately, the internet has spawned many internet vigilantes like you, who are literate but foolish. The pap had legitimate reasons for allowing foreigners in and they did not ‘sell us out’. Such false accusations will render our country impossible to govern. If you just blindly criticize PAP without looking at the facts, PAP will never satiate people like you. Because whatever choice they make, people like you only criticize any bad outcomes from their choices and don’t think about the benefits. We cannot have the best of both worlds. Don’t blame the government for economic failure if you blame them for overcrowding. It’s a balance that won’t satisfy everyone, no matter what decision they choose to make, because some people just look at the negative impacts and ignore the positive impacts. Like you.
      We have an ageing population and our economy will fail if we continue to restrict foreigners from coming in. Our government has to adopt an open-door policy or we can reject everyone and become poor again. Please don’t fan the flames with false accusations and mischaracterisations.

      • nelsonmandala

        distortin facts?


        fyi pls read below:

        (courtesy of a british newspaper)

        SINGAPORE – Anton Casey, the British senior wealth manager who found himself at the centre of a social media storm after criticising Singaporeans online, was found to have also insulted a local taxi driver by calling him a ‘retard’.

        Casey, 39, had mocked the cabby for wearing arm warmers and having a towel on his lap while out on the roads in a message accompanying a photo of the taxi driver on Mar 10 last year,

        reported The Independent.


        so u believed our minister Shanmugam also ear hearsays only and made a mistake as well

        last but not least..
        hav u ever driven an aircon texi @ 12 hours/day if u are 50 & above..

  • BrownHorn

    What we write, what we speak, what we utter in sound or
    voice, and what we eat and drink [put in our mouths or come out of our mouths]
    will determine our well-being and happiness or unhappiness.

    Few of us ever learn and have to go through bitterness round
    after round.

    Many of us fail to consider all these carefully [three
    considerations or deliberations] before it is too late.

    It is like spitting at thunder, and once out from the mouth, it is gone, not retrievable. The
    damage is done.

    Humankind cannot alter this basic principle, which has
    existed since the beginning of time and has governed the lives of all humans.

  • zw

    my sentiments exactly when i see the word “empathy”. i really do not know what i am supposed to empathise.

  • Kyleced

    Mr. Wan, it is not that Singaporean has no empathy and they are still very intact. It is a matter of showing empathy to the right person or people. In this case about Anton Casey, do you show empathy to Anton Casey or to those so-called poor people he belittled ? Do not let your emotion (empathy) cloud your mind as to what is right and what is wrong.


    I have a car but take MRT occasionally, however I did not feel personally insulted when he called MRT passengers poor people and implying taking MRT gets stench; those things were merely untrue and stupid; I am happy to forgive him, but he should correct his publicly made mistake, publicly, say by putting ads around MRT stations saying “MRT passengers are not
    all poor” and “MRT carriages smell OK”. (There is no need to go
    overboard and say “MRT passengers are rich” and “MRT carriages smell

  • Myles Holt

    As an expat who appreciates the opportunities Singapore and it’s citizens have extended to myself and my family in such an open manner, the comments of Anton Casey were extremely offensive to me and the backlash was understandable and warranted. However, it would be a shame if Singaporeans fell into the trap of labelling ALL western expats the same. There will always be undeserving and unappreciative people in the world – western and singaporean alike

  • Vivian Goh

    I’m tired of articles that extol empathy regardless of the circumstances. I think it’s perfectly justified for Singaporeans to be enraged by Mr Casey’s remarks and empathy need not be dispensed so easily. It is tiring to be repeatedly told to have empathy for someone when we know that the person does not deserve it. Dispensing empathy freely may make one seem like a ‘bigger person’, but I believe that empathy, when dispensed overly freely, loses its real meaning. Furthermore, I do not think that the actions of Singaporeans constitute group-think. I believe that Singaporeans are truly ticked off by the insensitive comments and their responses on social media platforms merely express what they feel and do not stem from a mob mentality. It’s true that we could cut back on vitriolic remarks but demanding for empathy in all situations simply does not cut it.

  • nelsonmandala

    Mr William Wan…

    juz 1 simple Question…

    do u give empathy to the nipponese invaders on 15 February 1942

    and maybe 1 week later the invader fled(if only the colonial british did their intelligence networks)..
    if u were to ask any olden china people the same Question..
    they will still mubbled the word:

  • Karmic-Retribution

    This is in reply to Checkyourfacts:

    Perhaps you are a wire short with your cybernetic reply. However, having forgiven the autistic white noise noticing that you are inadequately primed to fathom a simple statement
    made by me “They have sold us out to the foreigners For starters, you have accused me twice of making false accusations. I find this highly offensive. You have similarly used “Like you” four times which is indicative that you are fanning maliciousness as you expose yourself as being ridiculously obsessed to blind faith rather than to the context of my thread. I was merely discussing a guest called Anton Casey to my city state who was invited by the present ruling poopers.

    Moreover, most Singaporeans do not need to be satiated by some motley of non-performers who pretentiously govern Singapore on pretext of being scholarly; they are
    nothing but a bunch of chauvinistic birds of prey. (I was tempted to use vultures but refrained myself). They are openly inviting more billionaire type carrion onto our shores. Quote: In fact, if I can get another 10 billionaires to move to Singapore Unquote… LHL is not fit to govern the new breed found on alternative sites. We need to find brave visionaries to repair the damage caused to our nation…….

    In addition, your bland wisecracks will not alter my facts that the PAP government has bilked billions of CPF funds on unnecessary expenditure for no good valid reasons. (It has never been transparent to date) They have avoided making prudent decisions like hospitals and more housing to stop the inflationary rise on property. This govt has no regard for the struggling everyday Singaporean. They will most often time feed the elitist for their own deluded reasons. For Singapore to create wealth and happiness, it does not necessitate opening the floodgates that you have so inclined. Quote: “We will return to being poor
    again” Unquote. What type of comics are you reading?

    I will reiterate for the lesser inclined or literate, Singapore has been given away, lock stock and barrel to the highest bidder and we must deal with this problem immediately and directly through our vote.

    FYI I do not speak blindly to the multitude of errors I have witnessed. I am a 66-year-old
    internet vigilante, I have personally contributed with blistered hands most of my youth up to adulthood to building this nation that I will defend to my last breath. The PAP must be defeated at all costs to save Singapore from further peril…..period.

    I will allow you to worship your blind faith, as all entities are strictly personal choice.

  • Joe

    I don’t know what I should be more afraid of. The posts by Anton on his facebook, or the long vicious responses from articulate Singaporeans who cannot tolerate the views of other Singaporeans giving their views on this issue. Seems like if you want to voice an opinion, be prepared for your own fellow man to attack you back. One the one hand, we are protective of our own when a non-Singaporean says something unpleasant, but we’re all too ready to take down a fellow man for considering another viewpoint, eg, to show empathy, or to forgive. What virtue is there to talk down another person’s view ? Let this issue not bring out the ugly ways we can shoot back at another Singaporean just because we don’t agree with them.

  • Tim

    you have a choice to not be affected by what Anton Casey said. just spend less time reading all these stuff online and it’s not hard to be unaffected by what he said, right? after all aren’t you following the mob mentality if you go around complaining and raging about this guy.