Time to display First World behaviour

Singaporeans have much to be proud of. Within a short time, we have seen our standard of living improve. We also enjoy world-class transport, housing and education systems.

But amid these visible changes, has our social behaviour kept pace with our economic success? 

We may have observed the following scenes: A passenger on the bus speaking loudly on his cellphone, oblivious to other commuters' right to a serene ride; passengers eating and drinking on the bus. 

Some bus passengers still alight at the front entrance, going against the flow of boarding passengers.

We can look at how our shared spaces are used - neighbours cluttering shared corridors with plants, old newspapers, wet laundry, garbage and other items. Such acts often start a clamour for common space among neighbours.

Newly upgraded estates quickly find their lift surfaces defaced and letter boxes scratched. The soft flooring of playgrounds often gets mutilated soon after installation.

At foodcourts, we see how patrons discard used tissue paper into bowls of unfinished soup, leaving a ghastly sight for others who come after them. Some hoard bigger tables while reading their newspapers, oblivious to others looking for a seat. 

Littering remains a perennial social problem.

It is also strange that we have to be reminded that shoplifting is an offence, just like how we tell our students not to cheat in examinations. 

Against this backdrop, just how do we measure up as a world-class city? Inconsiderate acts speak volumes of our attitudes; that we put ourselves ahead of others.

A First World city should be one where people are gracious and civil in their daily interactions.

We should rely on societal norms to deter us from anti-social acts and not on signs that tell us to do good. Civil society begins with each individual.

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2015, with the headline 'Time to display First World behaviour'. Print Edition | Subscribe