Monday 18 November 2013

Behaviour on public transport dominates kindness dialogue

By Tan Qiuyi, Channel NewsAsia, 16 Nov 2013

Are Singaporeans "bo chup" (apathetic)? -- that was the question some 300 people tackled at a Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) dialogue on Saturday.

Behaviour on public transport dominated the more than three-hour event, like giving up seats for the pregnant and elderly, acknowledging the bus driver, and moving in to the back of the bus so others could board.

Participants also raised concerns about some Singaporeans' negative attitudes towards service staff and foreign workers.

Organisers said the turnout for a Saturday morning was positive, and showed there are those in Singapore who do care about kindness and graciousness in society.

Many of the participants have ground up movements of their own, while others are members of the public are attending for the first time.

SKM general secretary Dr William Wan said he hopes the event will inspire participants to start mini kindness movements on their own.

"Despite a general buy-in to kindness and graciousness among Singaporeans," he said, "there is somehow a notable gap between our talk and our walk."

"The biggest problem is apathy, indifference. The sense that it doesn't concern me, I mind my own business, I'm hurting nobody so why should I bother?

"This idea of, I don't want to be a big 'kaypoh', unfortunately that's not helpful. Because if we take that approach and that attitude, we will become very unaware of what's going on around us... We'll become a very cold and not very gracious society."

People at the dialogue talked about the many different reasons why Singaporeans are not as kind as they should be -- whether it was stress, the fast pace of life, or just plain fatigue.

However, kindness is not just about the big charitable actions. It is about the small things in life, like saying "thank you" to the bus driver.

It seems like the natural thing to do, but most people do not acknowledge the bus driver.

Joyce Lim, who works in the financial education sector, said: "They don't say 'thank you' because they're not used to it."

But there is desire to change the status quo.

Phionna Teo, a secondary 4 student, said: "Public transport is a place for all of us. So naturally we want it to be a kind place, a comfortable environment that all of us can get on and be happy."

Mr Wan said that it was a matter of whether people are willing to step up to the challenge.

"The question here is whether they have the courage to step up and show that they 'chup'. And sometimes courage comes from being with like-minded people, seeing other people doing it, so that we are encouraged to do the same," he added.

It may take time, but the Singapore Kindness Movement said that connecting like-minded people is one of the best ways to effect change.

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