IN ADDRESSING the perceived spate of abusive behaviour of Singaporeans in recent times, Dr George Wong Seow Choon made a pertinent point in saying that cultivating pro-social behaviour begins with the individual (“Time for the Ugly S’porean to grow up”; Tuesday).
His point that “Singaporeans must learn to be self-disciplined and civic-minded, and respect other people, regardless of their social standing”, is well-taken.
We also agree that graciousness is not something any government or authority can take care of for us. Indeed, it has to begin with us as concerned individuals who have a stake in the kind of society we want to live in. In fact, it should begin with our shared vision, which should ultimately contribute to our collective identity as Singaporeans.
In thinking about our core identity, shouldn’t we also think in terms of being identified as gracious people with our own unique kampung spirit of inclusive friendliness and neighbourliness?
Our recent survey resulting in the Graciousness Index, despite its significant dip (“Graciousness in Singapore hits five-year low: Survey”; Wednesday), also tells us that Singaporeans see themselves as kind people and yearn for a kinder society.
Also, the index reveals that we are courteous, considerate, appreciative and reciprocal people. It also confirms that we are generous in our donations to charity and quick to volunteer our time for good causes.
These positive findings bode well for us as a people. It affirms my belief that we are innately kind people.
However, some respondents to the survey may have personally faced more ungracious situations and that may have affected their experience of kindness. This results in a dissonance between what we say we want, and what we are actually doing to achieve what we want.
This is where personal discipline is so important.
My question is: What is there to stop us from unlocking our innate kindness by making a decision to be pro-social, to act kindly to all we come in contact with, whatever our circumstances? It begins with me, and it will create a ripple effect. Inevitably, more of us will experience more kindness, and in time we can be the gracious society we say we want. That is the multiplier effect of the power of one.
And yes, it does take some personal discipline to achieve that.
Dr William Wan
Singapore Kindness Movement
First published in The Straits Times – April 12, 2013