Factors behind our more positive outlook

Unlike Mr Lim Siong Guan, I am not puzzled by the "disconnect" between how Singaporeans see themselves and how they perceive the larger society ("Anomalies appear in attitudes survey"; last Friday).

It is a common human frailty to distance ourselves and view others with a jaundiced eye, or even adopt a "holier than thou" attitude.

While individuals may think they inherently possess positive values, they tend to attribute external factors, such as the errant behaviour of others in their midst, as a trigger that goads them to react negatively.

That said, it is heartening to know that, based on the findings revealed in the latest National Values Assessment survey, Singaporeans are becoming more compassionate, gracious and optimistic compared with the results of a poll conducted in 2012.

Lest we rejoice too early, we do need to examine more closely the underlying factors that have contributed to this attitudinal shift.

It was mentioned in the news report that recent changes in government policies for healthcare and education have contributed to a more positive outlook among Singaporeans.

Additionally, the fact that it is Singapore's jubilee year could possibly have had some bearing on the results of the survey.

Founding father Lee Kuan Yew's passing in late March had the effect of engendering a shared grief that unified Singaporeans from all walks of life and across generations.

Coupled with celebrations of our 50th year of independence, never has such a rousing sense of gratitude, confidence and pride in nationhood taken root among us before.

All these factors could, thus, have contributed to a more positive outlook and perceptions.

However, it remains to be seen if the positivity can be sustained.

I certainly hope it can.

It behooves us to remind ourselves that we have come a long way.

As we mature as a nation, it is our moral obligation to look out for those less fortunate and ensure no one gets left behind.

Marietta Koh (Mrs)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2015, with the headline 'Factors behind our more positive outlook'. Print Edition | Subscribe