Singaporeans are growing more aware of the need to be kind and gracious, although they believe that more can be done to improve Singapore as a gracious society, according to an annual survey conducted by the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM).
SKM's annual Graciousness Index measures the percentage of Singaporeans who perceive and experienced acts of graciousness, and this percentage has moved up from 53% in 2013 to 55% in 2014, and currently to 61% in 2015, a significant increase given the survey's sample size of 1,850 residents, the majority of which were Singaporeans.
The results were announced at a media briefing today, 5 May, where SKM attributed this year’s increase to a growing sense of positive perceptions about kindness and graciousness in Singapore, with respondents rating both themselves and others higher when it comes to being considerate, courteous and showing appreciation.
SKM's general secretary Dr William Wan said that this increase is a promising sign. "The increase in positive perceptions and overall sense of improvement is encouraging. If we as a nation continue this positive trend, then kindness and graciousness can become part of our norms and national identity."
However, when asked who should make Singapore a gracious place to live in, 72% of respondents felt the government should be responsible, while only 60% saw themselves as sharing that responsibility.
Dr Wan acknowledged that "maybe we are over reliant on the government" although there is really no issue if the government wants to help with creating a more gracious society. SKM also works regularly with the Ministry of Education to spread the kindness message to the young.
Among the other influencers, the role of parents (50%) was seen to be marginally higher than that of schools (48%), indicating an understanding that education and inculcation of values is done both at home and in school.
Nevertheless, he said that there is room for improving this 60%, where Singaporeans can take greater ownership in the society they want to create.
The Graciousness Index is an annual study commissioned by the Singapore Kindness Movement to track experience and perceptions of kindness and graciousness in Singapore. It studies attitudes towards various pertinent community issues.
In addition to eight key Graciousness Index Components, this year's survey, conducted from December 2014 to February 2015 also included questions on neighbourliness, the role of parents, online behaviour, assimilation of foreigners, and sense of entitlement.
Questions on Amos Yee, STOMP, shaming and hari kiri
When asked about his position on the online and offline assault on Amos Yee, Dr Wan referred to an earlier statement issued by SKM on the issue. "There needs to be some general rules for conversations," he said, "and this should not be different whether they are online or offline."
16 year-old Yee was verbally abused online and publicly slapped outside the courts when he was attending hearings for charges laid against him for allegedly posting an inflammatory video against Christianity and the late former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
"The law will take its own course. I don't agree with the slapper - I can understand his emotions, but (such actions) should not be tolerated, or we will do something even more wrong."
Another editor present also asked Dr Wan about STOMP, and whether news media should be held more responsible for encouraging a more gracious society.
"There is a difference between shaming and guilt," he responded. "It is fine to have guilt, as it reflects on an act, compels us to do the right thing. Shame, however, goes to the person, and has been a part of Japanese society where (there is) hari kiri. Shaming is not the right thing to do, and STOMP is about shaming."
Nevertheless, Mr Ceasar Balota, associate general secretary of SKM, said that SKM had tried to do a "take-over" of STOMP in 2012 where the website carried SKM's messages on its landing page, which he felt resulted in a more positive outlook for the website.
As such, he believed that STOMP is not averse to doing the right thing, and he also noted that the website has been noticeably more muted in the past six months.
On the issue of public shaming, TOC asked Dr Wan, given that 72% of respondents deferred to the government to build a gracious society, if more recent remarks made by Ministers in Parliament against opposition members referred to the practice of hari kiri might actually encourage Singaporeans to have a wrong mindset.
"The government can say what it wants, but it does not mean that we have to agree," responded Dr Wan, although he noted that there could be instances where the government needs to take a hard stance if its feels that it cannot allow certain things. "There is always room for different opinions, and we need to learn that Singapore can survive despite these differences."
Nevertheless, he advocated for a need to engage the government, and for the government to do likewise, in order to build a better society.