Speak out when faced with ungracious acts

How many of us stand ready to point out a wrong in public?

It is only through developing a set of self-enforcing social norms that we can hope to be a civil society ("Get tough on passengers who block bus exits" by Mr Lawrence Chu Tuck Fai; Jan 18, and "Singapore's 'clean city' image trashed by litter" by Mrs Nazneen Zafar; Jan 24).

Littering, vandalising, spitting, jaywalking, queue jumping, fare cheating and trolley hoarding are antisocial acts that need to be binned like rubbish.

The perpetrators are opportunistic and know that they can get away with such acts when no one is watching.

The authorities cannot be present in every situation. Neither do we want to turn Singapore into a high-surveillance state, with security cameras everywhere.

Imposing monetary fines may not be enough as a deterrent, as it links inconsiderate acts to one's ability to pay.

Ultimately, good citizens subsidise such antisocial acts, as it may cost more to reinstate destroyed public amenities, and public enforcement officers need to be paid.

Thus, it falls on everyone to develop civic consciousness .

Perpetrators should be frowned upon or reported.

Our silence in the face of such acts may encourage more people to be ungracious.

Education should be continuous and start from a young age. Schools should teach civic values and adults should set good examples.

Visitors and new immigrants should be socialised to toe the line.

Perhaps it is time we bring back national campaigns to help make the point.

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2017, with the headline 'Speak out when faced with ungracious acts'. Print Edition | Subscribe