Saturday, 23 September 2023

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People cannot and should not be asked to refrain from making negative comments just because there are worse things out there

There’s been a lot of talk these past few days about Israeli blogger, Nusier Yassin’s video on Singapore posted on his Facebook page, Nas Daily. Nas is well-known on the platform for his 1000-day mission to film daily 1-minute videos in various countries around the world.

After posting his most recent video in which he describes Singapore as an ‘almost perfect’ country, Nas received heavy blowback for his ultra-cheery and extremely positive take on the country. The reaction that went viral was of course the post by The Alternative View where they asked him to take up citizenship in Singapore since “he is so effusive in his praise of the country and Lee Hsien Loong” and professes to be an authority on the country. They then proceed to list out various issues that the majority of Singaporean’s face that he would have to live with as well.

In a comment responding to TAV’s post, Nas did not hold back, calling Singaporean’s crybabies and claiming that too many Singaporeans live in a bubble and lack perspective. His response has received thousands more reactions than the original posts and replies of people praising his reply and apologising on behalf of Singapore for the initial cricistim.

Now, I agree that Nas shouldn’t be targeted for his positive review of Singapore. He should have a right to say what he wants. But I think the problem here is that people are just not really good at expressing their views. Ideally, a person would lay out the justifications for their arguments. But in reality, most just resort to calling that person a liar and hurling insults when that person’s statements don’t coincide with their own personal experiences.

This is especially true when dealing with someone of a higher social status i.e social media celebrities like Nas whose videos receive millions of views. It is also especially true in the space of social media where there’s an invisible cyber wall that gives people a sense of dumb bravery to say absolutely anything that pops into their minds without first editing themselves.

The content of Nas’ video on Singapore isn’t inaccurate. It just seems a little rose-tinted especially to the average Singapore citizen or resident who is more attuned to the difficulties of everyday life in Singapore. I think the problem here is really the TAV’s (and other critics) approach that was unnecessarily hostile and out of proportion.

Of course, when I saw Nas’ video, I couldn’t avoid rolling my eyes at his extremely positive and cheerful presentation about Singapore and cringe a little at his description of it being an ‘almost perfect’ country  (while also admitting to myself that Singapore certainly has come up with some ingenious solutions to certain problems that plague many urban nations).

However, I wasn’t going to go on a massive rant against Nas for his ultra-cheerful video nor would I have resorted to name calling or saying stuff like ‘if you love it so much, then just become a citizen lah’. I mean, what kind of kindergarten-level response is that? There are better was to voice your opposition to someone’s opinions.

Not to be one sided here, I think Nas’ response to criticism wasn’t exactly classy either. Granted that he was hit with a deluge of very strong negative comments, but his approach could have been more measured. Criticising Singaporeans for lacking perspective and being cry babies is just as bad.

In his comment, he said “Why doesn’t everyone here try to live in the Middle East for a little bit? Maybe live in Israel as an Arab Muslim like me and see how it’s like to be a second class citizen your entire life.” He talks about his own experiences of living in the Middle East, of sleeping with rockets falling nearby and living in a state of war.

Those comparisons are not relevant here. People cannot and should not be asked to refrain from making negative comments about products, services or issues which they aren’t happy about just because there are worse things out there. Pointing out the flaws in your own nation does not dismiss the struggles of other nations. You can acknowledge both. Often, it is public opinion that shows the true nature of a product or service.

The same principle should be applied to citizenry and what a country does for its people. If the Singaporean people are saying that there are still major issues in this ‘almost perfect’ country that needs urgent attention, then we have to take their word for it and they shouldn’t be insulted for simply pointing that out. Without these critical opinions, one would assume that there is nothing wrong with how the country is being protrayed to be. Just like a defective product with nothing but positive reviews.

It looks to me like the situation spiralled out of proportion way too quickly (as is the norm on social media) and both sides could have done better at putting their points across without insults.

Now, let’s just move on ok?

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