Play Desdamona in big cities!

Oftentimes, the BBC’s “From Our Own Correspondents” program gets my goat. This is because more often than not, what the correspondents write and/or verbalise on air are nothing more than impressions, anecdotes and completely subjective.

Worse, more often than not, instead of taking these “personal impressions” with a pinch of salt, fans of the Beeb take what its correspondents including “stringers” — that is free-lancers wanting to earn a quick buck — write as gospel truth.

Worst is when the citizens of the country, born and bred, take what these Beeb flighty free-lancers say about their own homeland — or island as our case is — as the starting point for deep soul searching.

But lagi worse than worst (if there is a fourth degree of “bad”) is when our government ministers (Tan Chuan-Jin and Lawrence Wong) who should have more between their ears than most Singaporeans (I hope anyway) can actually come out and endorse what’s been said by no more qualified an observer than a Beeb freelancer 🙄

And by their endorsement adds to that very graphic Chinese proverb about using the bamboo pole to hit a boatload of innocent people.

I am of course referring to the account given by one Charlotte Ashton who appears to have lived in SG for all of 3 months and who because of one incident has written as though the other 1001 kindly acts she’s encountered don’t matter.

And trust our SPH Sunday Times to go to town with this woman’s complaint. And trust our sometimes sung-yang ministers to endorse or at least agree that one person’s bad experience means all of us could do better — on the courtesy and consideration front.

I am completely flummoxed that the ST or the ministers didn’t ask whether Ms Ashton had opened her mouth and said “help” in the best of clipped Brit accent? Or whether her pregnancy wasn’t that obvious at 10 weeks? Two points that this blogger raised with no sweat and which I heartily endorse.

Did Ms Ashton ask for a seat and was ignored? If that’s the case, why didn’t she state it in her article? Was she too sick to ask? If so, couldn’t she have used hand signals?

Someone should tell her that playing Desdamona in any big city, not only SG, will help her to avoid the same experience she complained of here, 90% of the time. Hasn’t she heard of the cliche that there is only the quick and the dead in New York?

Also, sometimes people are wary of attractive Caucasian women who suddenly curl up into a ball in a crowded public place. Who knows if it’s for real or for Candid Camera or Gotcha and the Good Samaritan is made a fool for cheap laughs and audience ratings!

Anyway, I find that whenever I ask, I always receive. In supermarkets, when I can’t reach the top shelves, I ask men and tall women fellow customers for help and haven’t been refused once. Some even ask politely if there’s anything else that I need on those elusive shelves. 😆

On the MRT and buses, I often get seats without asking. The offers come from both sexes in age that ranges from kids to uncles and aunties who can’t be that much younger than me.

And when I am carrying stuff, I ask right away when there are no empty seats and I have several stops to go. But I am sometimes pre-empted by offers as soon as I step into the bus or MRT carriage. Perhaps because I tend to wear a Desdamona-like look?

When I am driving and need to change lanes, which given the non-stop roadworks in SG nowadays, is often, I look into the back mirror and side mirrors to smile my request to drivers behind and beside me. In addition to signalling of course. I often also clasp my hands in supplication to underline my request.

Fellow drivers give way almost 100% of the time and the insignificant minority who don’t I decide probably need to be on their way urgently and not because they suffer from compassion deficit.

In Hongkong, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Bangkok, Bali, even in San Francisco and New York, I ask for directions, if I am uncertain rather than work it out myself. Ditto in my own country, because I don’t have a google map in my brain.

At the end of the day, if you need help, you must ask, unless you are comatose.

Finally, what does it say about the courtesy level of the guest who disses the host country so publicly and petulantly when by her own account it was all hunky dory till that incident.

Time people like Ms Ashton learn that into lives some rain must fall. So carry an umbrella or quit belly-aching!


2 thoughts on “Play Desdamona in big cities!

  1. I have thought about the question of why Singaporeans can be seen as miserable. The following is my answer.

    Charlotte Ashton was using her own personal experience to make sense of Singapore’s ranking on the global survey that found it to be the least positive country in the world. Many people did not realize this and assumed she was using her single experience to judge the whole of Singapore.

    Even though Charlotte Ashton’s article from the BBC is not a big survey of Singapore’s level of graciousness, her experience on a public train that eventually led to her feeling unhappy is a cause for consideration for all locals.

    I think that the ability to practice graciousness in public is based largely on one’s ability to be socially-responsive, empathetic and courageous(ability to adapt well in uncommon situations). These qualities would allow a person to react adequately to those in need.

    Although I do feel that many Singaporeans do possess empathy, I feel that the qualities of social-responsiveness and courage are under-developed in most, which has led to them being perceived as being indifferent and uncaring in public.

    Native Singaporeans are commonly brought up in very strict Asian households that instilled subservience from a young age. This, as well as Singapore’s rote-learning education system, do not provide much encouragement for us to think on our own. The added pressure to be intensely competitive in terms of studies and work has made us even less focused in such a crucial skill.

    The overall lack of social-responsiveness has many times in the past gotten the general youth in Singapore to be perceived as being politically apathetic.

    Professional medical staff in Singapore are well-trained to take charge of demanding medical-related situations so they stand ready to help those in need. I am quite certain if such medical staff were present during Ms Ashton’s plight on her train, they would have immediately assisted her without a thought.

    Regarding my thoughts on the train passengers who did not assist Ms Ashton, it is difficult to know if they were actually being indifferent and uncaring towards her plight. Their lack of social-responsiveness and lack of courage are also factors needed to be considered.

    The qualities of social-responsiveness, empathy and courage are much needed to overcome adversity to create liberation that can make one feel happy. The lack of such qualities could keep one stagnant in misery.

  2. I don’t agree with half or even everything you’ve written. But since you’ve taken the trouble to write such a long spiel, I’ve decided to let it stand.

    IMHO, Ms Ashton is making a mountain out of a mole hill and being vv ungracious herself in the process.

    It’s people like her which make me think twice about lending a helping hand!! 🙄

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