OUR nation has gone through a fair amount of soul-searching over the past few days.
While the riot in Little India rightly made us worry about the state of law and order in Singapore, it also proved to be a stern test for our nation. Not only was it a test for our leadership, more importantly, it was a test of our national character as well.
In the hours following the riot, Singaporeans on social media were expressing shock and outrage, and the vitriol against our migrant workers and foreign labour policies predictably intensified.
We have seen how vicious the mob mentality can be, and I was bracing myself for many to jump on the anti-foreigner bandwagon. What materialised was somewhat pleasantly surprising.
By the fourth or fifth hour after the riot, there appeared to be a “backlash” against the backlash. On blogs, Facebook and online forums, moderate voices were getting louder, calling for a calm and reasonable response.
For once, it seemed, people were angrier at the small-mindedness of others than at the rioters, whose conduct was clearly inexcusable.
For our society to progress, it is vital that people stand up and be counted. Standing up to the mob is a courageous thing to do. That is why the “hero in the plaid shirt”, who probably saved the life of the bus timekeeper by standing up to the mob, is highly commendable (“Man in plaid shirt saved my life, says bus helper”; yesterday).
In the virtual world, many are afraid to go against popular opinion for fear of being “flamed”. A virtual mob, like rioters, generally knows no reason, and anyone standing up against it stands the risk of being overwhelmed.
Not this time. So many stood up and courageously spoke their minds. “Enough is enough!” they said.
It is a big step for us to take as a nation, and I am thankful to all who posted on their social media space about not letting adversity bring out the worst in us, for to do so would be to descend to the same level as the rioters.
The true test of our national character is when we respect the rule of law even when others do not. It translates into not taking the law into our own hands, by letting the law take its course.
Dr William Wan
Singapore Kindness Movement
First published in The Straits Times – December 12, 2013