Let's resolve not to play defeatist role of victim

Dr Arthur C. Brooks' thoughtful commentary ("Life is unfair to me and it's your fault"; Monday) is timely, especially when some people may be in the midst of drawing up a list of New Year's resolutions.

Dr Brooks rightly cautioned against a culture of "victimhood" taking root in society, for it gives rise to a sense of misplaced entitlement and recriminations against others, which stem from unvalidated observations or prejudice.

It has a polarising and enfeebling effect on society.

Each camp holds intransigently to its own standpoint and refuses to consider the merits of compromise.

Individuals also choose to wallow in what they perceive as circumstances that are beyond their control and, thus, lack the initiative to effect change.

While such a trend of victimhood here hasn't reached levels comparable to the United States, I worry there may come a time when Singapore may be mired in the same undesirable situation.

The widening income gap, for instance, may result in the lower-income group blaming the wealthy, as well as globalisation, for their plight.

This, in turn, gives rise to a sense of entitlement and dependence on the Government for safety nets and handouts.

There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest that when personal aspirations are stymied, the blame game is played.

Examples include not getting into preferred schools ("the system favours those with the wherewithal to give their offspring all the help they can get") or not securing the job they have been gunning for ("foreign talent is robbing me of opportunities or my birthright").

Granted, the examples given may be simplistic, but perhaps the culture of blame or victimhood in Singapore can best be understood in this context.

If we persist in behaving like aggrieved victims and submit to determinism, one's life will forever be held in thrall by a succession of self-fulfilling prophecies.

However, if one chooses free will and believes in one's own capacity for change, there is no reason why an individual's prospects cannot be altered for the better.

In the spirit of making New Year's resolutions, let us resolve not to play the defeatist role of victim, but to be in the driver's seat instead, actively steering and charting our own paths.

Marietta Koh (Mrs)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2015, with the headline 'Let's resolve not to play defeatist role of victim'. Print Edition | Subscribe