Thursday 11 April 2013

Graciousness in Singapore hits five-year low: Graciousness Index 2013

By Priscilla Goy And Cheng Jingjie, The Straits Times, 10 Apr 2013

PEOPLE in Singapore are less gracious than they have ever been in the last five years.

Blame that on "angst" after a "challenging" past year, said Dr William Wan, general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM).

The latest Graciousness Index released yesterday gave Singapore a score of 53, the worst in the five years of the index.

It also meant an eight-point fall from last year's 61.

The higher the index, the more gracious the society is.

Dr Wan admitted the size of the drop was "disappointing".

But Singaporeans whom The Straits Times spoke to said they were not surprised.

"I see that people are always in a hurry. When people are frustrated, they lose the caring spirit," said chauffeur Eddy Koh, 50.

Student Hidhir Nasir agreed.

"I feel that our society doesn't have much room for kindness, because we are always rushing," said the 18-year-old.

Some begged to differ, questioning the accuracy of the index.

Mr Adrian Phoon, a 25-year- old student who is behind a movement in which joggers greet the strangers they meet, said: "It's hard to measure kindness. It means different things to different people. We may also not be counting simple kind acts."

Since 2009, the SKM has been trying to measure graciousness with the index, which surveyed 1,201 Singaporeans, permanent residents and foreigners in its latest instalment.

The survey found that more than anything else, fewer people were experiencing acts of graciousness, whether it was being at the receiving end of them, or simply witnessing a kind act.

For instance, 41 per cent said they had been a "recipient of a random act of graciousness", down from 65 per cent in last year's study.

Dr Wan believes this could be due to how people are "preoccupied with rising costs of living", in particular housing and car prices. "When they are more preoccupied, they are less sensitive to acts of graciousness. They may have actually received an act of graciousness but said they did not," he said.

Fewer also thought that Singapore was getting more gracious.

When asked if they saw an improvement in the past year, 22 per cent said "yes" this time, down from 27 per cent.

At least, a few things have changed for the better.

Behaviour on public transport was among those areas that improved the most.

The index gave a score of 6.0, up 0.4 points, when it came to people giving up their seats to those who need them more.

Teacher Wincy Tsang, 33, who has a two-year-old child, said: "Most Singaporeans are kind, I usually get a seat in the morning on the bus."

Those surveyed also rated Singapore 5.6 out of 10, a rise of 0.5 points, for making space for passengers by moving to the rear.

Singaporeans divided on need for gracious behaviour online
By Priscilla Goy, The Straits Times, 10 Apr 2013

SINGAPOREANS are generally more willing to speak out on social media. But they are split when it comes to whether gracious behaviour should be extended to cyberspace.

The findings, which were released yesterday, came after a new social media component was added to the Singapore Kindness Movement's annual Graciousness Index study.

Singapore Kindness Movement general secretary William Wan said the inclusion was because "social media is here to stay". It also comes in the wake of anti-foreigner and racist postings online.

The study asked 1,201 people to rate from 0 to 10 how far they agreed with given statements, with 0 listed as "strongly disagree".

They agreed the "Internet allows people to talk about things they normally would not talk about", giving an average rating of 6.7. But when asked if "gracious behaviours are not applicable in a digital world (the Internet)", respondents gave an average rating of 4.4.

This is close to middle ground, Dr Wan noted, and shows Singaporeans are divided on whether graciousness is important online.

He hopes to get more people savvy with social media to encourage others to be gracious online. "For face-to-face interaction, people think they have to be nice. But with anonymity, they think they can be ungracious to each other. We think that's not correct."

Create ripple effect for kindness

IN ADDRESSING the perceived spate of abusive behaviour of Singaporeans in recent times, Dr George Wong Seow Choon made a pertinent point in saying that cultivating pro-social behaviour begins with the individual ("Time for the Ugly S'porean to grow up"; Tuesday).

His point that "Singaporeans must learn to be self-disciplined and civic-minded, and respect other people, regardless of their social standing", is well-taken.

We also agree that graciousness is not something any government or authority can take care of for us. Indeed, it has to begin with us as concerned individuals who have a stake in the kind of society we want to live in. In fact, it should begin with our shared vision, which should ultimately contribute to our collective identity as Singaporeans.

In thinking about our core identity, shouldn't we also think in terms of being identified as gracious people with our own unique kampung spirit of inclusive friendliness and neighbourliness?

Our recent survey resulting in the Graciousness Index, despite its significant dip ("Graciousness in Singapore hits five-year low: Survey"; Wednesday), also tells us that Singaporeans see themselves as kind people and yearn for a kinder society.

Also, the index reveals that we are courteous, considerate, appreciative and reciprocal people. It also confirms that we are generous in our donations to charity and quick to volunteer our time for good causes.

These positive findings bode well for us as a people. It affirms my belief that we are innately kind people.

However, some respondents to the survey may have personally faced more ungracious situations and that may have affected their experience of kindness. This results in a dissonance between what we say we want, and what we are actually doing to achieve what we want.

This is where personal discipline is so important.

My question is: What is there to stop us from unlocking our innate kindness by making a decision to be pro-social, to act kindly to all we come in contact with, whatever our circumstances? It begins with me, and it will create a ripple effect. Inevitably, more of us will experience more kindness, and in time we can be the gracious society we say we want. That is the multiplier effect of the power of one.

And yes, it does take some personal discipline to achieve that.

William Wan (Dr)
General Secretary
Singapore Kindness Movement
ST Forum, 12 Apr 2013

Pay more attention to values, vision and dreams
By Ng Ya Ken, Published TODAY, 12 Apr 2013

In the effort to reinforce our Singaporean identity, we should pay more attention to the more important elements.

The components of our identity come in different echelons. We tend to focus too much on our languages, food and ways of doing things in daily life. But tastes, likes and dislikes change over time; some of today’s hawker food may disappear by 2030 or 2040.

Less popular food may become popular, like eating yusheng during the Lunar New Year has become, or how getai has displaced traditional operas during the Seventh Month. Our Singlish may also change, with words added and others dropped.

Above these behaviours are our values and ethos, such as our belief in equality and our resolve against racial discrimination. We value honesty, hard work, religious freedom and cultural diversity. These serve to guide our conduct and our judgment.

These elements make our Singapore passport valuable in the world; we should defend and improve them with more effort.

The task is not easy. We face some difficulties in passing values to younger Singaporeans. Values of marriage and family life are slowly eroding.

The influx of foreigners makes the task more challenging. Surely, though, we can learn values and deeds from them, too. Let us be open-minded. Most importantly, Singaporeans must set a good example in the behaviours to which we subscribe.

For example, bowing is such an embedded decorum of the Japanese that even tourists would imitate it after a few interactions with the locals. Over time, we should cultivate our own unique type of courtesy or kindness that even foreigners would imitate.

The next echelon of our Singaporean identity comprises our shared experiences, wisdoms, perspectives and dreams as a people. Are we a far-thinking people, for example?

As a young nation, we are disadvantaged in this respect. We must broaden our visions and learn more from others’ experiences, especially in how to forge more social and national good amid competing views and interests, and in an increasingly globalised world.


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