Acts of irresponsibility cause for concern

Acts of irresponsibility cause for concern
Straits Times forum, 9 June 2007

I REFER to the report, ‘M-cyclist was hit by a car, run over by another’ (ST, June 7). It is sad to read about the behaviour of the two drivers, who callously did not stop to render assistance to the victim.

Whatever reasons there might be (e.g., running an errand, fear), these paled in significance when a life was at stake, especially when one was responsible for the situation.

The recent spate of reports on personal misconduct or sheer irresponsibility (e.g., hit-and-run accidents, drink driving, senseless violent behaviour over inconsequential matters and self-absorbed acts) highlights some contemporary social values which could be taking root in our society.

While these might be isolated incidents, they warrant concern because the individuals spanned the age spectrum.

We live in a hedonistic age, where personal success is now measured by social status and wealth. The detrimental effects on our social consciousness arising from the pursuit of instant self-gratification and one-upmanship are becoming more and more evident.

However, unlike in the past, inculcation of the values of delayed gratification, self-denial and concern for others can no longer be left to government social campaigns.

After all, personal behaviour is not the responsibility of the Government, but of the individual himself. Ultimately, one has to bear the consequences of one’s choices.

As for children, it is vital that parents or even adults set a good example. As the Chinese saying goes, ‘if the upper beam is not straight, the lower one will be slanted too’.

Hence, it gives one hope to read about fellow citizens going the extra mile to do the right thing. Such examples of personal accountability and social responsibility are truly worthy of commendation and emulation.

The ‘slouch towards Gomorrah’ does not happen overnight, but on a gradual basis when we allow certain values to take root, or condone certain behaviour.

Once these values take root, we will be increasingly desensitised to such behaviour, and gradually become a self-absorbed citizenry.

It would be ironic if our social fabric, which was carefully built upon the traditional values of our forefathers, is so carelessly withered away by those who come after.

Tan Eng Tat
Beijing, China

This was a well-written letter by one of my friends and ex-colleagues.

It seems that the blistering pursuit of growing the economy and pragmatism (instead of idealism) has already led to our society becoming so self-absorbed that symptoms are being seen in so many areas of life in Singapore. From not giving up seats on the MRT to pregnant women and playing loud music on the train, to a lack of civic consciousness, political apathy and a general indifference to anything in society that doesn’t directly benefit oneself or one’s family.

Things have got to change, if we are to progress (not just economically) as a society.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.