Recently, many individuals have brought up significant issues such as littering and the absence of graciousness amongst Singaporeans. I would like to attribute the reasons for these occurrences to a greater problem at hand, shared by both the young and old: social apathy.
Picture this: you are walking behind a person who “accidentally” drops a sweet wrapper. Do you pick up the sweet wrapper and run up to the person to tell him about it or throw it into the nearest bin? Or do you simply feign ignorance and leave the wrapper on the floor? I believe most Singaporeans will choose the latter, giving excuses such as “let the cleaners sweep it up” or “I do not want to dirty my hands”. This is hardly surprising, since pronounced social apathy – indifference to our social environment – is subconsciously at work.
It is my belief that every Singaporean should take the blame for pervading this deplorable culture of social apathy in our society, with the exception of a few quiet individuals who are constantly caring for our social environment behind the scenes. However, I have faith that Singaporeans are not inherently selfish; instead, most of us are probably uncomfortable with doing something confrontational and out of the ordinary, such as approaching someone to give up his or her seat for a pregnant lady. This is especially difficult when everyone else is feigning indifference.
How then, collectively as a society, can we stamp out social apathy? It is not enough to teach Singaporeans through advertisements or posters – we need people to perform these tasks in real life. Individuals can start out by doing simple things such as picking up someone else’s litter and throwing it in a bin. From there, we should encourage our friends and family to follow suit by telling them that “if I can do it, so can you”. With some experience, we can then proceed to help others, for example assisting an elderly person across the road, or asking someone standing on the right-hand side of the escalator to move to the left. This is also a good opportunity for parents to act as good social role models for their children.
I believe that if such scenes become more commonplace in our society, other Singaporeans will gain more confidence to do the same. Let us work together to stamp out social apathy from our society.
This article was written by Gabriel Tan Jun Xian (Mr.). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.