The Straits Times
Published on Nov 30, 2012

Needless emotional baggage over 'emotionless' criticism


THE result of an international survey that ranked Singaporeans as the planet's least emotional people ("Strong feelings over 'emotionless S'poreans'"; last Friday) has led, in part, to a knee-jerk reaction that any negative perception is the result of the Government's "oppressive" and "authoritarian" policies.

So it was during a BBC Radio programme last Friday evening.

Without questioning the methodology of such a survey, local writer Catherine Lim blamed the Government's authoritarian policies.

In a subsequent BBC Radio programme hours later, another citizen blamed the "oppressive" government policies of the past 50 years and was supported by the next caller.

Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of politics would be appropriately baffled by the logic of how the issues are linked.

If they are right, how does one explain the confluence of nations that have been under oppression for the longest time in vast tracts of South America, Africa and the Middle East, but which harbour the most emotional peoples on earth as well?

Even the Filipinos, who ranked highest in the survey, suffered extreme and violent authoritarian rule under the late President Ferdinand Marcos for more than a decade.

What was equally informative was that the "emotional" Filipinos on the same BBC Radio programmes were more knowledgeable and nuanced in their thinking, and the quality of their comments was far superior to those of the Singaporean respondents, who were weighed down by, yes, emotional baggage.

Finally, what would the Singaporeans have said if we substituted "cool" or "rational" for emotionless?

That this was due to the oppressive policies of the Government? Don't bet on it.

Tan Ying San