I’ve lived in Singapore for more than a decade, and I can totally see how this country is very good at making sure everything is in order and its many rules are followed.
No littering. No smoking. No durians on the bus. No eating / drinking on the train.
There are ‘instructions’ nearly ‘everywhere’ you look too.
Queue Up. Give up your seat to those who need it more. Give Way. Only three taxis are allowed. Prams must be folded. Flush after use. Keep door closed at all times.
There’re even national campaigns to remind people to SMILE and BE COURTEOUS as well!
The thing is, I never quite realise how rules and regulations are introduced to the young generation at a very early stage until Anya started Primary One.
When I pick her up from school, we’d usually chat, and she’d share with me things like, how things go at school that day, how her friends are, and what her teachers did or said (if something in particular happened).
And from what she’s shared, I notice something.
There are apparently ‘school rules’ pasted on her classroom wall too.
Work quietly. Walk quietly.
Ask permission to leave your seat.
Think before you act.
Do not touch others during lesson.
If someone happens to NOT ‘follow the rule’, the kids (Anya included) would rebuke and point to the written rule on the wall and say, ‘Hey! You broke THE RULE!’ Or something like that.
Hmm. Interesting, I thought.
Anya shared with me how a particular friend ‘broke the rule’ when he shouted at his friends, and how another friend ‘broke the rule’ because he left class without asking for permission, etc.
There’s this one time when we’re about to get off a bus, two students happened to block the exit door. And as we (finally) managed to get off, Anya whispered to me how they were ‘supposed’ to give way and how they didn’t follow the rule.
Hmm. I can see how she’s really picked up this concept of obeying and following THE rules and regulations more strongly ever since she’s started Primary One.
[No wonder there's a local movie made on this called 'Just Follow Law'!]
And so I had a casual chat with her (as soon as we got off that bus). And these are some of the points I brought up and highlighted during our conversation:
- Rules and regulations are necessary to keep things in order. To remind people of what they need to do (or NOT do).
- Singapore especially displays and enforces its rules ‘everywhere’. On buses, trains, in taxis, at coffee shops, in shopping malls, at schools, etc.
- As a result, people have a natural tendency to follow the rules. The question is, how about those UNWRITTEN things that we should and should NOT do? Does our mind become so ‘boxed-up’ in rules that we don’t bother to look beyond and do what’s needed – though there are NO rules on them?
Personally, I feel the downside of this situation is, people are somewhat ‘trained’ to follow the rules, so much so that when there’re NO written rules on some things, many choose to NOT care nor act on them too.
eg. ‘I don’t need to give up MY seat since it’s not the allocated / marked one for the elderly’.
[I'm concerned that as a result of living in a society where 'rules' govern our day to day lives, we obey the rules, but we're losing our 'heart' and spontaneity to think of others]
I shared with Anya how while it’s good to observe the rules and regulations, we should also remember that we MUST act on what’s right, even when it’s NOT written anywhere that we should do it.
And, we should NOT do something that we know as wrong, even if there’s NO written rule against it.
I shared with her the values and importance of doing what’s right and necessary, and NOT doing things that we know as wrong, regardless of whether there are rules on them or not.
If someone needs our help, we should immediately offer or GET others to help too (instead of just ignoring the situation and waiting for SOMEONE ELSE to help that person)
If we see someone who needs our seat more, we should immediately get up and offer our seat.
We respect and greet others, because we need to, not because the rules tell us to do so.
Throughout my years of living in Singapore, unfortunately I’ve come across many, MANY people who simply don’t care about others (because there are no rules that tell them to, perhaps?)
Someone could be on the floor, in pain, and everyone just walked pass. A frail old lady might be staggering and slowly getting off the bus, and no one offered a hand to help her get down safely. A young mother could be carrying a little baby, a big baby bag and a heavy-looking pram, and the taxi driver could sit still in his car and not offer help to lift the pram into the trunk.
[And I wonder if this is the kind of society that metropolitan cities tend to 'produce' in general]
Thank goodness, through the years, I’ve also seen some who DO show their care for others. Who think about others more than the convenience of oneself. Who offer help though it doesn’t ‘benefit’ the person who helps.
And I sincerely hope my family, including our little ones, can be amongst those people who DO care about other people.
Yes, although there are NO written rules to tell us to do so.
Btw, I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this.