Negative trends to avoid in next 50 years

As we end this year celebrating our jubilee, we need to be mindful of two trends developing in our society which may not augur well for the next 50 years.

The first was articulated in yesterday's commentary ("Life is unfair to me and it's your fault").

While it is good to care for those who are victimised, we must guard against developing a victimhood mentality, which invariably leads to selfishness, a sense of entitlement and an outlook that everyone owes one a living.

In my medical practice, for instance, I have come across seniors who withdrew their Central Provident Fund savings and spent them indiscriminately on frivolous living, then blamed their siblings, friends and the authorities for not helping them with their basic essentials when all the money was gone.

I have interacted with children who blamed their parents for their poor academic results and their lack of what they considered essentials, such as mobile phones and trendy clothes and shoes, because their parents could not afford to hire them tuition teachers and give them extra pocket money.

There seems to be a lack of gratefulness, an absence of healthy contentment and a tendency to blame others for our lack of diligence and discipline.

This certainly is not helpful for individuals and society.

The second negative trend was highlighted in yesterday's report ("Rising trend of self-harm among the young").

I have previously written letters about increasing depression and suicides among the young at the prime of their lives ("Work culture a factor in depression among the young"; Feb 1, and "Growing trend of depression"; Jan 15, 2004).

Pressure to excel is positive to a certain extent, but excessive pressure to achieve academically and in careers, and be "successful" from society's point of view may do more harm than good.

Parents who are absent from the home because of their own relentless pursuit of such goals, who replace their absence with gifts and "sweet-nothings", and who wish to see their own ambitions fulfilled in their children, are contributing to young ones feeling dejected, unloved and increasingly isolated and depressed.

Self-harm is just one expression of such a condition.

Parents need to transmit to their children, by word and deed, the importance of true success and what is in line with wholesome moral development, as well as the importance of concern for others and those deprived in society.

Paradoxically, when we care for others and love our neighbours, we find our true fulfilment and "success" in life.

Quek Koh Choon (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2015, with the headline 'Negative trends to avoid in next 50 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe