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A question of basic respect

Ghui/

I refer to the article entitled 'Boy, 10 calls school bus worker, "a beggar, poor"'. While the article was brief and only presented one side of the story, it did highlight a disturbing social issue - that of a growing class divide and a deplorable mindset of snobbery that seems to be getting more prevalent.

Has our society traded community spirit in favour of affluence such that we judge the value of a person simply on the basis of one's profession or income? As a city grows in wealth and prosperity, it is inevitable that society will become more materialistic and elitist.

Unfortunately, this is a global scourge that is not restricted to Singapore. Be that as it may, it is still highly disturbing that a 10 year old who has not even taken his PSLE, much less ever worked has uttered such words! His declaration to the bus auntie who was only doing her job by trying to keep order on the bus that she was a beggar with no money emphasises his misplaced sense of entitlement.

In that sweeping statement, he has made a few misguided assumptions (both direct and implicit):

  1. That Madam Huang's job was something to be dismissed and looked down upon.
  2. That because her job was not a "high ranking" one, she did not deserve to be respected or listened to.
  3. That because of her "low end" job, she must be poor.
  4. That people who are "poor" are "beggars".

He has completely overlooked the values of respecting people for who they are as opposed to what they do. He has also clearly not been taught to respect elders or authority. These are all values that we Singaporeans used to pride ourselves for possessing!

It is worrying that such values are seemingly not being passed on to the next generation. A young boy of 10 does not develop these ill conceived prejudices on his own. He would have learnt these (whether directly or otherwise) from his parents. In fact, according to the article, he admitted as much!

Have we as a society grown to the point where we are not teaching our children basic respect? It is one thing not to be cowed by authority that is misused. It is however another thing to be rude and disrespectful to someone who appears to be only doing her job. While we should inculcate the former in our young, we should discipline them for displaying the latter.

This is not the only example of this deluded sense of entitlement either. The NS man whose long suffering maid was made to carry his bag pack while walking behind him is another prime example of this despicable "I am better than you" mentality.

As we celebrate Singapore's national day, we have to keep in mind that we are a cohesive people. Community spirit and mutual respect are values as important today as they were in yester year. Basic courtesy and civility must be inculcated.

As a society we must appreciate the contributions of all citizens no matter what job they do or what salary they earn. We cannot look down on people just because we feel that our jobs give us a so called higher status in society for that is simply an artificial and meaningless inflation of ego.

To build a better society for Singaporeans, we have to understand that the welfare of all citizens is of equal importance regardless of job or "status". As Ravi Philemon said in his article 'Everyone should have a place in Singapore', "for unless we turn back and let those that have slowed down catch up, the lines that divide are not going to be blurred; and unless these lines are blurred, the sense of belonging is going to get fudged".

As a start, we should re learn and practise the values of basic respect for our fellow citizens.