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Monday January 15th 2018

Our unkind and ungracious society – be the change you want to see

I was passing by Dolby Gaut MRT station last  Sunday enroute to church when I saw rows of placard of daffodils lining up the patch of grass.

On the placards are the words “World Kindness Day” – an event  to be held on 13 November.

Frankly speaking, I couldn’t really reconcile with those words as I have always felt that our society is rather unkind and ungracious.

In our society, meritocracy has enabled many of us to be capable hard working individuals but somehow our heart  remains very stoned CRUEL.

We ill-treated our domestic workers like slaves and F & B employers are known to make our foreign workers work for ten hours daily with only two rest days a month.

Though our GDP hits a record high each year, our kindness quotient has remained rock bottom.

Dr Richard Teo’s video

Incidentally, I have also seen the late Dr Richard Teo’s powerful video about pursuing after life’s vanities and his message struck me as I witnessed how many well-educated Singaporeans poured their time into working hard and accumulating after wealth.

Don’t take me wrong – there is nothing bad about working hard and doing well but if that’s all we do for our entire life then something is wrong with our living  philosophy.

Dr Richard  taught us about being compassionate and gracious in a very unkind society here and his video is a must-see.


Just the other day, I met up with a Malay friend who told me that he felt that Singaporeans are really lacking in compassion and grace.

He told me how people gave him the looks when he accidentally brushed against them in our over-crowded MRT train cabins and he was even apologetic about it.

I told him that this is common now as over-crowdness tends  to produce an inherent form of stress within the society.

The human race needs time and space to be by themselves but this is something that is sorely lacking here.

People here also tend to flare up easily and I don’t blame them as they have nowhere to go where there is peace and solitude for reflection and rest.

Overcrowdedness leading to selfishness?

I must confessed that I hate  taking the trains these days  and always look out for buses to take as an alternate form of transport.

When I see the crowd coming in through the Serangoon or Dolby Gaut MRT stations, my head spins and I could feel that my blood pressure shoots up.

People, almost ant-line,  will amble hastily along the walking escalator  to the other station platform for their connecting trains to their destination.

Perhaps, the stress of over crowdedness has  rendered us to be unkind and ungracious to one another as you just want to reach your destination quickly and get out of the maddening crowd.

Our unkindness is also unfortunately  found on a daily basis at our work places.

I have worked here for the past two over decades and must confessed in shame that we have exhibited  unkindness in a very brutal manner – at the work places.

Office politics – work place bullying

Many people have resigned because they could not stand the cruelty of office politics.

The saying: “Work don’t kill but people do” rings true for many here who are caught up with the truama of office politics.

Office politics occur because people are unkind and ungracious to one another and only think for themselves in a very competitive work environment here.

We forced unproductive co-workes to leave in the most unceremonial fashion and ganged up against workers who don’t think and behave like the rest.

I remembered been shouted at publicly by a female co-worker while working  in a self-help  group  and the manager wouldn’t even want to blink an eye.

To me, their motto of helping those who are unfortunate and under priviledged,  simply went down the drain with that shameful incident.

To make matters worse, now  we have many foreign workers working  among us and I heard that they have did the same thing to our minority local workers!

Foreign workers tend to group among themselves in the office and sometimes they can be intimidating if they decide to speak up as a group against anotehr smaller group of workers.

Unfair dismissal

Lately, I have received alot of emails from well-educated executives who complained that they were unfairly dismissed.

Though dismissal is always a double-edged thing, the volume of emails received on the same topic suggested that there may be some truth to the common complaint – that employers bullied out their executives unfairly.

As Singapore is very pro-employer in it’s stance, many displaced executives are easily terminated without benefits and they felt doubly worse if their  replacements are foreign.

Employers can sack you without providing any valid reason by giving you one month’s notice as stipulated in the employment contract.

Unfair dismissal is really a very ungracious act on the part of the employers as there  is an apparent lack of fairness on the whole matter and worse of all you have nowhere to turn to to seek redress.

MOM has an arbitration unit whereby you can turn to for some solace but only if your salary is $4500 and below.

If you earn above that salary limit, you have to seek legal advice.

I have also receive an email from a PMET who was terminated during his probation.

Though his employment contract showed that he could receive one month’s notice, the company only offered him three weeks’ of pay up to the end of the month.

He went to see the human resource department who only relented when he threatened to seek redress through MOM.

When I heard of  this case, my heart sunk as the company is a huge well-renowned MNC with a turnover of more than a billion dollars last year.

I am sure that  this thing won’t happen in the US as the unions there are strong and the interests of the staff are well represented.

In Singapore, our executives  are usually unrepresented and MOM arbitration unit can only do so much especially when they impose a salary cap of $4500 and below.

Unfair dismissal is a sad reflection of the lack of social grace which permeates our society right now.

Mental illness sufferers

Our unkind work ethics are cruelly extended to those who are suffering from mental illnesses.

Many people who suffer from mental illlness are well educated and could function normally if they are on proper medication.

Transitioning has seen a few cases of well-educated PMETs getting the boot when they could not perform at work due to their mental illness condition.

Many could not get jobs if they tick yes to having mental illness on the application form and a few have to lie in order to get jobs.

Those who have a milder condition could perform with effort at the work places whereas those who have a more serious condition usually get the boot when they could not handle our chronic work stress here.

People suffering from mental illness are often left to fend for themselves at home and so far there isn’t any established  company who dare to take in workers with mental illness.

It is timely that our government and the mental health providers look into ways to better integrate our mental health sufferers into theysociety  or else they will simply rot at home.

How our society treats its most unfortunate will be a good gauge how kind-hearted our society has being all along.

World Kindness Day – what you can do

A kind word about a sick loved one or a gentle pat on the back will do wonders to the psyche of someone going through a rough patch in life.

Why not take this week prior to World Kindness Day to do something kind to your co-workers?

Buy coffee for them this week unrequested or simply write them a thank-you card complimenting them for their work ethics.

I always thanked my co-workers at Mindef many years back who rallied round me whenever I went through rough patches of  my young adult life.

After I left them, I could not find back the same cordial work environment in the private sector and have always cherished the 11 years working with them.

We worked more like a family unit and helped one another to finish up our work schedules.

How I wish all work places will function like this!

As Singapore celebrates World Kindness Day on 13 November, my fear is that we will have a long way to go before we can say that we are gracious and kind towards one another.

Right now, its a corporate jungle out there and the fittest will survive as we strive to outperform one another in the bid to climb up the ladder.

Written by: Gilbert Goh 

Number of View: 9352

Reader Feedback

10 Responses to “Our unkind and ungracious society – be the change you want to see”

  1. oute says:

    Right, what is the “Root Cause” of this problems. Do you dare to point at the right directions.

    • J Y says:

      The “root cause” is the over-emphasis that money = success and happiness. The problem is that the poor is much more unhappy than the rich.

      There is no work-life balance in Singapore which worsen the ungracious behaviour here.

      The govt should reduce work stress and working hours as their main direction for the future.

  2. chillax says:

    Indeed a well written article again but i have to say the fundamental environment is too deep rooted for us to shift our norms

  3. Reto says:

    Clueless writer

  4. bullied and humiliated says:

    Gilbert’s latest message resonates with me.

    A common theme amongst those who wrote in, there is strong undercurrents of covert actions taken by dark ones within their respective organizations and against targeted individuals.

    What we experience in an office environment is a good gauge and microcosm of what society is right now and given that wage earners spent a majority of their human existence to earn a living. Is it any surprise that what we are seeing now in our societies at large as manifested by stark ugliness and negativities? I dread to think how we will all come together should a major disaster hits humanity.

    It appears that harden and spiteful hearts or souls deserve life riches and rewards at the expense of others. Whether this comes from within the leadership rank or co-workers, the outcome is all to familiar.

    Dark ones celebrate success by how they manipulate, deceived and harm others for their own gains.

    However, I choose to believe that enlighten hearts can make a difference. By bringing up the injustices out in the open, it brings this to the collective consciousness. Though, I cannot lighten the despairs of those who are suffering at this moment, for me, I found some solace by listening to a particular video clip on YouTube.

    The song entitled “I choose love” by Shawn Gallaway, transcends ethnicity and religion. It is about one humanity and consciousness and making the right choices. It resonates with one’s heart to do the right thing even for the harden ones, if they choose to listen.

  5. Sal says:

    Singapore is a city of 5Cs….time is money. The fittest survive in Spore and the weak/poor will be left behind. Its a sad place to live if you,re not rich?

  6. Dico says:

    The best article that Gilbert had written, straight to the point.

    Yes, bullying and exploitation is getting from bad to worst every day here in Singapore. Bosses bullied and exploited their employees, while superiors bullied and exploited their subordinates. However, when the employee is exploited by his/her boss, they do it to their own domestic worker. They all did it without the slightest guilt.

    This country is turning people into beasts, survival of the fittest and the weak shall be devoured.

    No wonder the younger generation are getting more and more self-centred.

    People are losing morality, Teachers are having affairs with their students and scholars posting their sex acts on facebook while the government runs the country like corporate crooks.

  7. Jennifer Wee says:

    The Root Cause of our society is “Kiasu” and “Self-Center” always me, myself ..
    The other day I hop into the MRT and I saw a young lady gave up her seat to a older lady that was gracious of her. But the older lady never say a word f thanks. Later opposite her someone going down so I went over, as a senior lady, but this older lady yell at her granddaughter of 12years old to faster go and take the seat I was about to sit. I look at the girl and I asked her do you mind if I sit down together with you, probably side by side, you know what???? That older lady scream at her granddaughter to sit!!
    Omg! Graciousness must start from the old not just the young. That young girl look at me so confused, I bet her school must have taught her to give up seat to elderly but her old granny ask her to ignore!
    I just smile at the old lady and continued to stand, seat or no seat we still survive, no worry.

  8. sg-overseas says:

    I have driven in NZ, AUST, UK, USA and They use common sense and courtesy to give away.
    In Sg, I have to use defensive driving to avoid accidents. Defensive driving is eg, give way even though you are In the right of way; if you anticipate the other driver is going to unjustly get into your way.
    No wonder, I heard my British passenger speaking on his mobile saying, “I will be back in London, back to CIVILIZATION”. I was thinking, heh, I lived in London 30 years ago, was it so civilized? Maybe , yes, maybe, even though is a city full people from all over the world.
    Now I am back in UK for already one year, I have to try and remind in Europe.
    Singapore is a lost cause, ESP Sg citizens who cannot even find employment, having said that, is a lesson for my arrogant Sg peers.
    If you are hoping for Election 2016, don’t bother, Asian Economic Community will happen in 2015.

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