Attitude, not enforcement, key to graciousness

In the past half a century or so, we have had courtesy campaigns to make us a gracious society.

But the results have been dismal. There are still many rude and inconsiderate people around.

Thus, the suggestion by Mr Jeffrey Law Lee Beng ("Better enforcement of priority queues, seats needed"; April 4) is also doomed to fail.

This is because enforcement, no matter how stringent it is, is not the solution, as we have seen. One reason is that enforcement, while deterring us from breaking rules, does not necessarily make an offender, if apprehended, change his bad behaviour.

Another reason is that enforcement officers cannot be everywhere, every minute of the day. People will commit their anti-social acts when the law is not looking.

We have to get to the crux of the problem, and that is attitude.

Many of us do not see the need, or worse, do not care, to give way to the elderly and those with disabilities in shops, supermarkets, foodcourts, public transport and other places.

We have to change this mindset. We should make people realise that it is the decent thing to be gracious.

They should want to do good deeds of their own accord, not because the law is looking over their shoulders.

This is where the Singapore Kindness Movement can put its expertise and experience to good use in educating the public on this matter.

Hardcore, recalcitrant adults may be difficult to convert. But there is hope in the young if we assiduously inculcate in them, at home and in school, the need to be gracious and considerate to everybody. Their parents, teachers and other law-abiding adults should serve as role models.

Then, we won't have to use the stick, unbecoming in a First World nation, every time we want people to do something right.

That should be our ultimate aim.

Anthony Oei