Public trashport

A typical day, with me straphanging in a bus, about one quarter the way in. We pull up at a bus stop, a few people get off and a few people board. The last group to come up the front steps consist of a mother, laden with shopping, and two sons, aged around 12 and 8. The bus driver tells her in mainland-accented Chinese that they shouldn’t board because the two boys each have an ice-cream cone in hand.

The mother starts to make a scene. “They are only children, you cannot be so strict with children,” she says, “and anyway I am in a hurry.”

She adds that they need to get home and can’t afford to wait for the next bus.

The driver then suggests they get rid of the ice-cream before coming on board, to which the mother says something I cannot quite make out but was obviously a refusal to comply. By now, I am more concerned about making my way further down the aisle. I don’t want the boys to be standing next to me should the bus driver relent and let them board. The slightest jerk of the vehicle might send a ball of ice-cream onto my trousers.

I needn’t have feared. The driver stood firm and refused to move until the family got off. A White guy straphanging close to the front door also chimed in, telling the woman: “Oh, come on, get off and don’t hold us back. Let us get a move on.”

The woman, now rather incensed, started to turn on the man, but the 12-year-old then turned around and got off the bus. “Mom, mom,” he said, appealing to her to alight too. Faced with rebellion in her own ranks, she finally backed down.

As if the scene was not appalling enough, I then heard a remark from a fellow passenger: “Wah lao, now you have foreigners ganging up on Singaporeans.”

Excuse me!

I don’t know if there ever was a time when people were embarrassed to be anti-social, or whether we’re seeing the past through rose-tinted lenses. But I would like to imagine we might once have been a society that had some social graces and recognised where standards were. Of course here and there people might have fallen short, but at least they would have known they were falling short and felt suitably ashamed?

Now it seems, not only do we have people eating and drinking on buses and trains, and not only do they leave their litter everywhere, as the accompanying photos I took over the last two or three months attest – have they no thought for the next person who might need the seat? – we’ve reached the stage where people, like that mother of two sons, think they have a right to be anti-social.

And then when the driver, who was only doing his job, wanted to enforce the rules, and when the fellow passenger, as a civic-minded person, came to the aid of the driver, we have others making it into an “us versus them” issue. It’s ridiculous. Especially when the woman was so clearly in the wrong.

What sort of society have we become?

* * * * *

I cringe each time I hear the boast about Singapore being such a “clean and green” city. Okay, the “green” part maybe, but that’s thanks to a massive effort by the public authorities.

The “clean” part is much less than meets the eye. Singaporeans litter with wild abandon. Old furniture is left at stairs landings, cigarette butts are everywhere underfoot, paper tissue stuffed in every conceivable crevice. The classic Singapore scene is that of someone clipping his toe nails while riding the bus. Maybe we should apply to UNESCO to make that a protected heritage cultural practice.

We’re only “clean” because we hire an army of cleaners to pick up after us. And then we complain that this city is flooded with foreign workers.

People should be embarrassed with their behaviour and attitudes, but too many are not. Instead, it is me who is sometimes embarrassed to be Singaporean.

72 Responses to “Public trashport”


  1. 1 Peter Mak 25 June 2012 at 12:25

    You don’t know for sure who left the litter behind, unless you’d witnessed the act. I have seen both locals and foreigners (discernible from speech) litter.

  2. 2 spursian 25 June 2012 at 12:32

    I fully agree. The amount of litter found around my estate is simply unbelievable. Owners not picking after their dogs, empty bottles/tetrapaks, even lunch boxes found everywhere, despite the presence of bins. I really wonder are these people just plain lazy or they are out to make a point. I hate eating at IKEA too. We are so lazy that we gesture to cleaners to clean the tables while we wait by the side. It’s not difficult to return your own empty plates etc. Maybe we think we are so affluent now that we have cleaners and maids to clean up after us, and we do not want to dirty our hands.

    • 3 BAJ 26 June 2012 at 01:23

      Was just thinking about the very same thing yesterday while I was at McDonalds. I was trying to find a seat and noticed there were a number of empty tables with rubbish on trays just sitting there. That was not the main problem until after I finished my meal and proceeded to throw my rubbish away in the bin.

      There were a number of other customers looking at me funny. Obviously they could be just looking at me for another reason but it lead to me thinking that what I was doing is not normal.

      I have had some colleagues ask me why I return trays or throw away my rubbish after I finish eating … why not?

      Although this not something we need to lose hair over it shows that we do it to ourselves. Maids and cleaners are one thing but parents need to ensure our children are taught young about manners and to be considerate of others.

  3. 4 yuen 25 June 2012 at 12:55

    so whose fault it is? education system is probably the first target that comes to the public’s mind, but does anyone seriously believe some lectures from teachers/school principals would increase civic awareness? maybe the government ought to do something? anyone seriously believes that another campaign with a nice civic awareness theme would do the trick? I guess the opposition parties believe “vote more opposition MPs into parliament then things would be better”, including the public becoming more civic minded – a proposition that is hard to either prove or disprove, though it need not anyone from hoping so

    the simple fact is people associate “civic mindedness” with “discipline” and “discipline” in Singapore has an association with PAP; right now this is very much out of fashion, and “freedom” is in, as one can see in sexual behaviour, discipline in in schools, driver manners, dress code, etc; knowing how to combine enjoyment of freedom and exercise of public spirit takes a higher level of culture than, apparently, currently exists in Singapore

    • 5 Poker Player 25 June 2012 at 13:30

      I guess the opposition parties believe “vote more opposition MPs into parliament then things would be better”, including the public becoming more civic minded

      There aren’t enough real points to discuss that you have to bring up imaginary ones?

      • 6 yuen 25 June 2012 at 13:52

        hardly imagined; “vote more opposition and things will be better” may not appear in party manifestos but comes through clearly in supporter attitudes; in any case, my expectation that people would blame the education system, the government, etc for littering problems is in the same category of likelihood; the only scientific way to prove or disprove these would be an opinion poll, but I doubt such topics would be given priority by the Institute of Policy Studies

      • 7 Poker Player 25 June 2012 at 15:44

        I quoted you exactly:

        I guess the opposition parties believe “vote more opposition MPs into parliament then things would be better”, including the public becoming more civic minded

        Notice the bold and italics portion.

        Then you responded to: “vote more opposition and things will be better”.

        What happened to the truncated portion (the one in bold and italics – there is a reason for that)?

        You are evading…

      • 8 Poker Player 25 June 2012 at 15:47

        First it’s “the opposition parties believe”. Then it becomes “people would blame”.

        So it is “opposition parties” or “the people”? And to be clear, this is in the context of

        I guess the opposition parties believe “vote more opposition MPs into parliament then things would be better”, including the public becoming more civic minded

      • 9 yawningbread 25 June 2012 at 18:25

        OK, your point is more than made. Please stop picking on people.

      • 10 SN 25 June 2012 at 20:12

        Thanks, PP. That filled my daily quota of laughs.

      • 11 Poker Player 26 June 2012 at 10:21

        “OK, your point is more than made. Please stop picking on people.”

        What happened to just moderating out comments? I’m sure I never complained about my unpublished comments. The comments and responses to them should stand on their own. If you think they are inappropriate – just moderate them out. There are cases where an anti-gay comment gets something like 10 critical comments – why is that not picking on someone?

      • 12 Poker Player 26 June 2012 at 10:40

        You can have this in your moderation repertoire – if a comment and the response to it had both been anonymous, would you have moderated differently? That’s what I mean by “comments and responses to them should stand on their own”.

      • 13 Poker Player 26 June 2012 at 11:53

        You also lost me there on the moderation of the SN comment – content-wise I mean.

    • 14 Anon mk32 25 June 2012 at 13:54

      Contrary to what you have said, I think the litter on public transport shows that the government’s use of the law to curb littering has been inadequate. Once it slacks off in enforcing the law, people start littering again. The PAP, in my mind, is most associated with imposing strict laws as a quick-fix to solve problems without trying to educate the people.

    • 15 Xu Si Han 25 June 2012 at 14:44

      LOL er, what’s this rant about freedom about now?

    • 16 Anon 456 25 June 2012 at 18:07

      The kids seem to understand they were in the wrong. They must have learnt something from school, since their mother obviously is not teaching them the right values.

  4. 17 recruit ong 25 June 2012 at 13:45

    I reckon the sense of ownership in the country is no longer there because the citizens see their lives encroached by foreigners. So it is every man, or woman, for themselves.

    It was also very clear general cleanliness on the island took a dive after the 90s. Singapore has regressed, hard truth.

    So what is the root cause of all this? The answer is as clear as the white puffy clouds in the sky.

    • 18 yuen 25 June 2012 at 15:21

      see? it is the fault of PAP government and foreigners; what exactly is this “clear answer” you have in mind? “vote out PAP and littering will decrease”? “get rid of foreigners and Singaporeans will become more public spirited”?

      (I am a foreigner BTW, but I do not litter, and dont believe I influenced Singaporeans that way)

      • 19 Poker Player 25 June 2012 at 15:52

        He also said

        “It was also very clear general cleanliness on the island took a dive after the 90s. Singapore has regressed, hard truth.”

        The PAP was ruling even before then – you are grasping at straws.

    • 20 Anon mk32 25 June 2012 at 16:16

      The litter problem existed before the influx of foreigners. Let’s not confuse the two issues. I think that general cleanliness has taken a nosedive because we have become too reliant on cleaners and can’t clean up after ourselves. An MRT toilet I went to yesterday had shit, urine and toilet paper all over the floor as the cleaner was not around. Last year, when the Albert Court Food Centre cleaners pulled out of work, the place became a horrendous mess. http://forums.hardwarezone.com.sg/eat-drink-man-woman-16/%5Bgpgt%5D-most-messy-hawker-centre-3057936.html

      That’s how jialat and dirty we are. It’s like we lost the ability to clear our own rubbish.

      If we want to change things or even to change the government, we should do our part and not simply wait for the PAP to do so or conveniently blame it on foreigners. It’s precisely this helpless and powerless mentality among Singaporeans that allows the present government to walk all over us.

      • 21 Sgcynic 25 June 2012 at 20:01

        It was also very clear the growth of Singapore seemed to be on the right path up till mid 90’s – growth was sustainable and people were happier – things took a dive after that.

        The PAP was ruling even before then.

    • 22 Webbie 25 June 2012 at 19:59

      My sentiments as well. I just gave up being a civic minded citizen when the foreigners around me treat this place like a rubbish dump without any consequences. Why try so hard when this country doesn’t feel like mine anymore and civic mindedness is no longer appreciated.

      • 23 anon 1606 25 June 2012 at 23:42

        two wrongs dont make a right mate

      • 24 anon.wk.235 26 June 2012 at 12:52

        right mate… I second that… c’mon… everything starts with oneself, I started picking up rubbish occasionally when I see one in the park so the next person enjoy the cleaniness & enjoy the park… don’t ask what Singapore can do for one… do what one can for Singapore being Singaporean! Everyone, whether guests or hosts, will eventually feel obligated to be one Singapore!

      • 25 Webbie 26 June 2012 at 09:55

        Littering and being a boor are no longer wrong if society is alright with it, which has become the case here.

  5. 26 Sgcynic 25 June 2012 at 13:48

    If kids are brought up with maids to clean up after them throughout their adolescent years and they grow up with the mindset that they can boss the maid around with full acquiescence of their parents, then the problem WILL become worse.

  6. 27 kermit 25 June 2012 at 14:26

    education not working because no enforcement

    • 28 yawningbread 25 June 2012 at 14:40

      Hold on . . . isn’t the purpose of education so that you don’t need enforcement? :)

      • 29 Anon 123 25 June 2012 at 18:09

        education works. the kids got it. it’s the mother who didn’t get it. she needs to be re-educated.

      • 30 kermit 25 June 2012 at 22:26

        if they enforced a fine of $10,000 instead of $500, litterbugs would learn very fast. the educated are not bothered by any fine since they don’t litter anyway

      • 31 kermit 25 June 2012 at 22:33

        that litterbug mother may have gone to university, but still not educated unlike her kids who bin it

  7. 32 missbossy (@missbossy) 25 June 2012 at 15:13

    There is no sense of ownership of the commons.

    Even the small bits of green space which dot the landscape between estates are not valued as being something to be taken care of by all. It’s sad not only for how it ruins the experience of a place for others, but for how it demonstrates the disassociation of people from their environments.

  8. 33 Teo soh lung 25 June 2012 at 15:23

    Yep if we don’t have an army of cleaners who are paid pittance, we will have the ugliest image in the first world.

  9. 34 George Lam 25 June 2012 at 15:24

    Let’s face it our forefathers were mostly coolies, artisans and labourer. I

    wonder if any recall those days when we took pride and laud the fact that

    even towkays eat at road side stalls.

    When kids grew up without the benefit of a mum at home to guide, teach

    and discipline, it is too much to expect the maid or the schools to pick up

    the slack. Anyway littering is a common tendency among Asians. Isn’t

    spitting also a form of littering, and we all know who is famous for this -in

    the city of one emerging regional/global giant,I was very reliably told by a

    withess, even provide bottomless spittoons on wide public roads.

    Other areas of littering we unwittingly encourage is the stuffing of leaflets

    and flyers on car windscreen. This is virtually a daily occurrence in many

    HDB car parks. Many of such adverts would eventually land on the

    ground. Whose fault is it?

    • 35 Stef 25 June 2012 at 17:59

      Which we have no one else but to blame but ourselves.

      And I think we need to stop blaming the government and anybody else because if we persist in our attitude to get our hands dirty and not be active citizens, then we deserve to live in a dirty environment.

  10. 36 anon wec 25 June 2012 at 15:43

    perhaps the higher population density is to be blamed? We have 60% more people sharing the same land area, as compared to 2 decades go.

  11. 37 Keanne 25 June 2012 at 16:02

    “so whose fault it is? education system is probably the first target that comes to the public’s mind” ????

    Civic-mindedness start from home, no?

    That’s a bit to simplistic (convenient) to push what should have been the
    parent’s role to the educator ….

  12. 38 Anon 170 25 June 2012 at 16:54

    For the longest time now I too have been having these sentiments about self-policing ourselves. In my younger days that self-policing was evident as the people were connected to the government and there was a shared destiny. As such the elders would do the self-policing by admonishing anti-social behaviour with the rest of the society standing behind this unwritten pact between the peoplekvk and the government. But today due to the great disconnect between the people and the government, nobody really cares about anti-social behaviour. Does DELGROW really care if I tell people eating in the bus not to eat? On the contrary they will continue to increase ticket prices for shareholder benefits. I think this is how many a true blue Singaporean think of their beloved country. They have lost that loving feeling of national pride through communal interaction. The rot started when a great man compared the results of one person with another e.g. distinctions vs. credits. When the leaders can’t see things from the bottom up then the rot is complete and we would need an evolution rather than a revolution.

  13. 39 Kirsten Han (@kixes) 25 June 2012 at 17:08

    Sometimes it feels as if Singaporeans are just getting more and more entitled. The more people frame it as an “Us vs Them” issue between locals and foreigners, the more people treat various things as something that we are ENTITLED to in the first place, as if everything we do is right because THIS IS OUR LAND, and everything foreigners do is wrong because THEY’RE JUST ENCROACHING ON OUR SPACE.

    It’s embarrassing.

  14. 40 Hazeymoxy 25 June 2012 at 17:37

    I find the us vs them part of this post much more disturbing than the littering part.

    Civic mindedness is not something I associate with S’poreans, in general. Never has been, isn’t at the moment, don’t know if it’ll ever happen. This country is clean ‘cos of its army of cleaners. Driving is an unpleasant experience ‘cos of the behaviour of drivers. The ones who should speak up don’t ‘cos it’s none of their business, and maybe also ‘cos they know the S’porean can’t be or won’t be shamed, like the lady on the bus. Not sure where all this stems from. Years of education hasn’t made the situation better so I don’t know what can be done. Specifically with regards to littering, there’s also the added complexity of the someone-will-clean-it-up mentality. Let the rubbish pile up, I say. But it’s not going to happen so the topic is a little pointless, I think.

    But this us vs them mentality is something new; a new way of thinking. And since it’s new and fresh, this problem ought to be nipped in the bud quickly.

    • 41 Sgcynic 25 June 2012 at 20:05

      Indeed, it is irrational xenophobia without regard to who is right. It becomes a case of simply ‘they’ are wrong because it’s ‘them’.

    • 42 ilcourtilcourt 25 June 2012 at 23:20

      Yep!
      Totally agree,

      but it will not happen: respect of self, respect of others are entwined. People who litter have no self respect.

      I have also long believed that Singaporeans are rebelling against authority in mean little ways. In an F U moment. A country in adolescence.

      Obnoxiously yours,
      Charles

  15. 43 Chanel 25 June 2012 at 17:49

    Our social (anti social, rather) habits are mainly reflections of the national policies and where the country is heading. Thus far, all the policies are heavily skewed towards self-reliance and the pursuit of money and more money (growing GDP at all cost). Therefore, many people are totally focused on accumulating wealth as they know that they would receive little or no help from the state should they fall.

  16. 44 Kevin Lee (@inrsoul) 25 June 2012 at 17:49

    It be nice if they had more trash bins at the train stations. There are occasions where I have to bag my trash, bring it on the train with me and then dispose of it near my destination (in one of the bins of course). But yes, that is just beside the point that your article is trying to make. I swear buses are getting more filthy these days. I quite often see fresh stains on the floor, left by people spilling their drinks.

    • 45 octopi 26 June 2012 at 06:28

      No trash can on the MRT have to blame those weirdos who chemical gas attack the Tokyo MRT in 1995. And Mas SElamat. Bo pian one.

  17. 46 Susan Wong 25 June 2012 at 19:50

    Is there a reason for using “Singaporean” in the penultimate paragraph? Plenty of foreigners litter in Singapore too.

    • 47 octopi 26 June 2012 at 06:30

      We all ownself take care of ownself first. After that then we got the moral authority to hoot the foreigners.

  18. 48 Francis 25 June 2012 at 21:04

    Have you noticed that the buss do not have signs that forbid eating and drinking any more?? I wonder why? Yes locals and immgrants are just as guilty. You see drinking and eating shamlessly done on the MRT platforms and in the trains. These monkies are chomping away, students as well and no action taken. It is very seldom that a bus captain intervenes. I once went up a double decker at about 11pm and some teens were having a piicnic of hamburgers, french fries and the works. When i got down i asked the bus captain to look at his video screen but thats all he did look. Indeed “captian” of what?????
    Our poor cleaners have their work cut out for them. 1st world country think again. 3rd world manners and behaviour.

  19. 49 Sam 25 June 2012 at 21:18

    My overseas friend who visited Singapore recently commented that Singapore was more crowded, and dirtier compared to her visit 10 yrs ago.

    I told her it is symbol of growth. :(

  20. 50 KCW 25 June 2012 at 23:45

    the fact is… we are no longer hungry…
    do you remember we used to complain about ‘ang mo kia’ very naughty?? Look what happened to our kids?? Both working parents are too busy to nurture their kids…I am sure you see parents dragging their kids dashing across the road… we simply lost our sense of parenting.. in the pursuit of materialism.. we leave all to the housekeepers to take our important role… we even leave the usual ‘take our dog for a walk’ to the housekeeper… what else to say?
    Hv you seen parents instructing their kids to throw the used tissue paper onto the ground?? Just throw lah…familiar?? Cleaners will pick them up lah… because materialism has driven people to be self-centred, they believe that they hv paid for the service…
    New technology & convenience was meant to make our lives better… take for example the sensor flush that we often seen in most toilets around Singapore…guess what?? Our office block does not provide any sensor flush… & you see the horrible state of the uriners, toilet bowls… WHY?? because everyone just don’t care about flushing as they are so used to sensor flush… why bother to manual flush..they believe by doing it… the building management will install sensor flush..sooner or later… sounds familiar??
    Tell me the truth… when was the last time you actually spotted anyone walking up the staircase?? The elevator, escalator or lift has spoilt all of us, touch our hearts & tell the truth!
    We make ramp compulsory for all needy/handicaps & see who are using them…
    Bicyclists are complaining road bullies..while they do not realise they actually terrorise the pedestrian path…
    Pedestrians complaining drivers do not give way while they are found guilty of jaywalking… , taking their own sweet time strolling along greenman, cross even when greenman turning red, young able man even intentionally assist their aged parents to cross during redman knowing all drivers hv to give way to aged people…
    It’s all happening in the material world…not just Singapore…it’s everywhere!

  21. 51 Monkey 26 June 2012 at 00:24

    It could be started off by foreigners from places with poor culture. When these people reached a critical mass in Singapore, they start to influence others. Monkey see, monkey do. Let’s blame the government for opening the floodgates and destroying the Singaporean identity in the process.

    By the way, there are CCTVs on buses, in trains and stations, if the government bother to enforce, it could be done. A mandatory jail term and some strokes of the cane would be just fine.

  22. 52 oldguy 26 June 2012 at 04:54

    Alienation and empathy. Singaporeans are experiencing the first and have none of the second.

  23. 53 CY 26 June 2012 at 08:55

    My question is this: why did not a single Aingaporean speak up against the mom if so many people here think what she did was wrong?

  24. 55 joke.... 26 June 2012 at 10:27

    End of the day everyone just need to remember a civil country starts with me… Singapore will be a better place if more ppl think this way

  25. 56 devil 26 June 2012 at 10:27

    Please don’t mix up littering in public with the clearing tables for a private enterprise. One is about civic mindedness. The other is simply business cost. Otherwise where does this stop? Do you wipe the table if something falls off? The floor? Are you even given detergent to do so? Ever been to a place where everyone clears their trays but the table and floor is as disgusting as ever because the staff are standing behind the empty counter smiling at each other?

    If businesses want to clear the tables efficiently, they have to redesign the layout to do so. If they want their customers to do it, then they have to put up with customers that don’t or a society that doesn’t. It is very common in Asia to have the table cleared by staff at an eatery. It is not a social grace problem, it is just what people expects when eating out. I find it strange that many find this hard to accept. It is an eatery. Not a public bus or park! Just because one expects their things to be cleared at an eatery doesn’t mean they will also expect someone to clear up their litter after a picnic in a park! The setting matters, just like you dress differently for different events/occasions.

    I’ve eaten at a fast food outlet in some Asian first world country where the staff mainly consists of the elderly. Food and tea appears in front of you, and your empty bowl/tray disappears in a flash. The place is designed so that these can be carried out efficiently.

    Service has a price. Give me a discount for clearing my tray. I will do it. Leave it to the businesses to handle their cost, design their workflow, and offer their customers the incentives.

  26. 58 Duh 26 June 2012 at 13:17

    Actually, Singapore scores quite well for public cleanliness. Anti-social behaviours such as littering is a problem for many developed countries as well – see cities such as London and Paris. I was just in UK a couple of days ago and about 5 (mixed gender) Sec school students were seen leaving rubbish from their lunch on the floor in a public park on a beautiful sunny weekday afternoon in an equally beautifully maintained public park. I was enjoying my lunch there as well and was mindful not to leave any litter behind. And this is the UK – rubbish in nature trails (empty mineral water bottles and the like) can often be seen as well. However, most of the English are more mindful of this but it just takes a couple of inconsiderate people in the population to make a clean place dirty.

  27. 59 mike 26 June 2012 at 14:10

    Totally agree with you! Kudos to the driver for upholding the no-food rule! U shd let sbs know of the incident! Kudos also to the only other passenger who told the lady off…graciousness as a society can only b achieved when both the schools, public and home do their part. Unfortunately, many kids don’t get the correct values at home, or, like in this example, the kids wd have thought it no big deal if they had been allowed on the bus…and when there is not enough public pressure from the rest of the passengers, the lady wd also tend to argue for a longer time…I reserve my sarcastic n caustic thoughts to the immature n short-sightedness of the remark made by the sniper in the midst of the other passengers…

  28. 60 Suzz 26 June 2012 at 14:14

    I have been seeing youths eating in trains, esp transport coming from the West side of SG. Once I told a youth off for eating in the MRT n he told me it’s non of my business. I feel that the youths are getting very defianted and they feel privileged and others should pick up after them.

    Many points the fingers at foreigners, AKA The Chinese, for the litters. But I’m currently living in Shanghai and sad to say. It’s cleaner than Singapore!!

    So who is the litter bugs? I think we need to instill the values on our young Singaporean. May it be the teachers or parents. They should set the examples for our next generations and maintain a clean and civil society.

    • 61 Poker Player 27 June 2012 at 11:43

      Bad behaviour is across all age groups. So is feeling privileged and thinking that others should pick up after you. I dare say that in some things, the younger you are, the more considerate you are – the treatment of maids for example – some of the worst behaved people here are senior citizens.

  29. 62 Chow 26 June 2012 at 17:16

    Neither. It’s neither “our” fault nor “their” fault. Littering has been a problem way even before the floodgates were opened. It’s probably becoming more noticeable because of the larger number of people (and hence a proportionate increase in people littering). Perhaps it is the way our society has developed. Perhaps it’s the parents who learnt ‘class distinction’ from their parents and have now passed it on to their children. Perhaps it’s the eternal rush for money, grades, and position such that people stop thinking of themselves as part of a wider social network and more in terms of “it’s their job, so it’s their responsibility. I will not take on more responsibility than needed”, which offers a tantalizing peek into the way they approach their work as well. Whatever the case is, one thing is for certain. As Ranger Smokey Bear once said: “Only you can prevent forest fires” and so it is with us. Only I can make a difference and I will try to keep the place clean. Even if no one else does.

  30. 63 Rabbit 26 June 2012 at 22:07

    When Singapore became one of the most stressful and unhappy nations in the world, all these side effects will inevitably surface. People need to release their stress somewhere, thru bullying, stealing, littering, complaining and yelling for a piece of dwindling common space. Haven’t we heard that Singapore Mental Institution was seeing an increase in number of patients being admitted? As such, we can’t say growing at all cost has not substantially contributed to the ills happening around us.

    Education can teach people to behave properly, show respect to others and be a considerate citizen. Our country leader has a different take on those ideas and stood firm that we can’t hold highfalutin, noble belief in a diversified society. He also said we need to pay obscenely to prevent corruptions and retain talent in a globalize world. The message fed to the people was clear, in an elitist world there is no equality. In other words, the road sweepers and table cleaners are the loser in the “cheaper, better and faster” class of citizens; those being served with astronomical pay are the winners. Thus, pant up defiance litterbugs resort to such cheap achievements when they see cleaners cleaning up after them or having maid under their beck and call in the little self-importance kingdom inside them. The mother’s rude attitude towards the bus driver tends to measure such perceived high status or privileged class in her, whether she lived up to it is beside the point, it is a common disgusting mask we see everyday. When main stream Medias kept repeating ad nauseam their master’s elitist belief, or tried to hide news from elite’s wrong-doings, they indirectly created an ugly culture we see today. Winners can get away easily, defying our traditional value we hold dear during our grandfather’s days.

    One solid example is the arrogant behavior and unleveled playing field displayed by the ruling party, not only during election when they threatened voters with country resources, they also gagged the people with unpopular policies by giving all sorts of rhetoric’s and cutting off reasons from the ground to sustain their self centered rule for many years. Having only 60% mandate and self rewarded with 90% seats in parliament is the biggest joke and bully, no different from the kid’s mother, so full of herself. I am sure WP & SPP can relate better to how unfair the People’s Associate were in allocating its resources. These are negative signals send from our leader to fellow citizens that “dirty” game became order of the day. It further eroded the value in our systems full of loopholes to exploit – high profile sex scandal in exchange for business deal, employers mistreating unprotected workers, one country two set of laws for the have and have-not.

    Overall, it was an accumulated mental stress dealing with several of the above unfair situations that people don’t see any incentive to keep this country spotless. Logic no longer worked to the sensible and stressful minds. Society immediate reflex when confronted with such unfair situation is to retaliate through inconsiderate behaviors, which might explains the root behind those litters among other social ills we saw everywhere. Nobody cares if this is their home anymore, attachment to the country dies with every stupidity preached and created by the ruling party. Reuben’s used of profanities against Teo Chee Hean is one such example of retaliation, to release his stress, when confronted with arrogant leader.

    Next time when you see litters everywhere, don’t forget those stuck-up in the ivory tower who created the mess in the first place and yes, they are recyclable too.

  31. 64 SingaporeWTF (@singaporewtf) 27 June 2012 at 00:04

    My take that it’s due to the ‘broken window’ theory.

    Basically, as Singapore’s infrastructure slowly deteriorate due to high usage, people tend to have less respect for it, and treat it like shit as a result.

    In the end, it gets worse.

  32. 65 Any 27 June 2012 at 05:45

    When Singapore hosted the IMF and WB, there was a comment in the papers that the visitors were nosing around looking for litter. The sad truth is in Singapore, they engage an army of cleaners. If we are really a gracious society, we surely do not need an army of cleaners. It’s obvious the fine and CWO do not work. I am sure education will not work too. But nevertheless, we have to start with something drastic.
    For litterers, the first level of punishment should be a loss of severe privileges – maybe removal of passport for next 5 years? For PR, WP etc – immediate expulsion? For visitors – a hefty fine or jail?
    All food courts, hawker centres are only allowed to employ 1 cleaner who will just go round doing minimal clean up. Let the place rot and get infested with rats, etc. The smart ones will think of taking out but wait.
    Refuse clearance should take place once a week/ block. This will force people to finish up their food, wash recyclables and we get minimal garbage taking up valuable land refills, pollution from the incinerators.
    Obviously with such drastic action, we may be in line for the black death, but then we may end up learning a good lesson. Europe today was not like that few centuries back. The Hong Kong of today is so much cleaner pre SARs.

    • 66 Staatsicherheist 27 June 2012 at 17:28

      Unfortunately, such a proposal would be shot down by the Opposition parties as being too “draconian”. The vultures that are called The Online Citizen and the Temasek Review will use it as another example of “government high-handedness”.

    • 67 lobo76 28 June 2012 at 11:49

      First, you have to catch them. Catching them red handed is going to be difficult.

      I would say be serious about catching them, and employ ANY method regardless of cost. e.g DNA testing if needed. All costs can be charged to the litter as part of the Fine. It’d be jail time if they can’t afford the fine.

  33. 68 Yours Toothfully 28 June 2012 at 15:18

    You won’t feel the full impact of the myth that Singapore is clean until you visit Lucky Plaza on a Monday morning.

  34. 69 ape@kinjioleaf 29 June 2012 at 21:50

    Hi Alex, has it not crossed your thought that why you didn’t speak up too? I’m not criticising you. I’d have done the same, that is keeping quite and perhaps waiting for the right moment or someone else to speak up.

    You are right though that we should ask ourselves and take a hard look at what sort of society we have become.

  35. 70 Desiree 4 July 2012 at 12:28

    Hilarious that people will still find ways to blame the government for their own littering habits. If it wasn’t for the army of foreign cleaners in Singapore I cannot imagine how dirty Singapore would be.

  36. 71 The Pariah 9 July 2012 at 14:48

    Look at how the parents behave and you can project how the kids will behave.

    Look at how the govt behave and you can project how the citizens will behave.

    47 years of nationhood under an overwhelmingly Pay And Profit (PAP) Govt for most of that time – and blogger Alex Au is asking about “the sort of society” we have become ….. well ……

  37. 72 Markx 11 July 2012 at 22:37

    Singapoopeans have NEVER been clean and tidy. They have simply depended on an army of 3rd world cleaners. About ten years ago I spent a two year period living in Tampines. On my early mooring walk to the MRT the amount of litter on the sidewalk every single morning was mind boggling.
    Thus I realized this Singaporean cleanliness was an artificially contrived myth.


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