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.
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