Cleanliness habit has to do with self-respect too

I fully agree with what the chairman of the Public Hygiene Council, Mr Edward D'Silva, said (Coming clean about being a 'cleaned' city; Oct 23).

He said that "cleanliness is all about courtesy". To this very pertinent view, I would like to add that self-respect, too, plays a very important part in a person being perceived as courteous, kind, considerate and respectful.

People who have self-respect will neither stoop so low as to not clean up after themselves, nor will they litter or behave in an uncouth manner in public.

And a true test of one's integrity is to ask oneself this simple question: "What would I do if I knew I would never be found out?"

Singapore has transformed itself from a Third World country to a First World one in just over one generation. Sadly, the same cannot be said when it comes to our social behaviour.

We seem to be stuck in our old ways in terms of our manners.

How can we bring our social behaviour, especially on the question of cleanliness, to the level that is considered the norm in Japan and Taiwan?

It is worth serious discussion at the national level. We need to urgently look into how to transform a "cleaned" city into a proud and truly "clean city in a garden".

Old-fashioned campaigns do not seem to produce long-term results. And penalties like fines and Corrective Work Orders may serve as deterrent to those who are prone to littering, but it may in fact have the opposite effect.

Those who have been fined and punished will more likely be angry and, thus, bear a grudge against the authorities. They may resort to taking "revenge" by littering even more when they know they cannot be caught.

In brief, we should put our hands together - parents, schools, grassroots organisations, religious groups and all concerned citizens - to make it happen, instil self-respect in all Singaporeans and create a truly clean Singapore, and not a "cleaned" Singapore.

Tan Kim Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2018, with the headline 'Cleanliness habit has to do with self-respect too'. Print Edition | Subscribe