Embrace 'culture of disrespect'? No thanks

A point repeatedly emphasised by Mr Fareed Zakaria, the moderator of last week's Institute of Policy Studies conference, about how Singapore should embrace a "culture of disrespect", has been troubling me ("S'pore political system is one that benefits all: PM"; last Friday).

Having spent my past 18 years working with at-risk youth - I consider his point preposterous.

May I suggest that he learn something from Singapore, which may help reduce some of the conflicts and shootings that often happen in the United States.

Respect is a universal, non-negotiable cornerstone for peace and a civil, harmonious society. I have worked with countless young people who have misbehaved, got involved in fights, some in response to self-perceived "disrespect".

In the US, many school shootings often involve young people who were bullied and disrespected. Hurt people can hurt people; hurt feelings suppressed and unresolved can erupt in painful ways. This is true of people and even in bilateral ties with nations.

The truth is that disrespect can draw out the worst in each of us. Human beings who interact at their worst are an open invitation to conflicts and disastrous relationships. Singapore is not a perfect place, led by perfect people. We keep improving by keeping an open mind, and learning with discernment.

Do we need to be more assertive? Yes. More confident? Yes. More willing to speak up? Yes.

But more rude or disrespectful? No, thank you, Mr Zakaria.

I'm very thankful for our values-driven, rational, pragmatic and brilliantly intelligent leaders, who work hard to make Singapore a safe and peaceful home where a diverse population can live harmoniously. That is the way we would like it to stay.

Adelyn Poh (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2015, with the headline 'Embrace 'culture of disrespect'? No thanks'. Print Edition | Subscribe