To be the 'victim' or not is a choice

In the 1990s, America's favourite pastime was said to be blaming everyone else for things that did not go its way ("Life is unfair to me and it's your fault"; Monday).

Japan was singled out as a closed market to United States automakers. Japanese steel was cheaper than US steel and was driving the American steel industry out of business.

The relocation of American businesses offshore was also a pet peeve - it was creating job losses in America.

America blamed everyone and became a victim of its own making.

On the other hand, Japan re-engineered its cars from right-hand to left-hand drive, set up manufacturing plants in the US and sold cars there.

The Japanese also perfected their steel manufacturing process and automated it to bring costs down. They soon captured the world market.

What was the difference here?

While one side cried foul and focused on blaming another for its ills, the other took the initiative and did something about it.

Similarly, we can choose to be victims or take personal responsibility for our action and response.

A country's leadership can play a key role in ensuring a level playing field for all - educational opportunities, housing assistance and financial assistance for the basics. But the rest is up to us.

I agree that we should not be over-reliant on the Government for everything ("Let's resolve not to play defeatist role of victim" by Mrs Marietta Koh; yesterday).

I have seen countries where the citizenry cannot rely on their government, and I marvel at their initiative and creativity.

For instance, when I suggested that they take the matter of inadequate potable water supply to their local town mayor, they asked, "Why?".

Instead, they organised themselves to dig a well. It was self-empowerment in action.

We can be a nation of victims or a nation of empowered individuals who are not afraid to take action for our own betterment and that of the community at large.

We have a choice.

Matthew Ong Koon Lock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2015, with the headline 'To be the 'victim' or not is a choice'. Print Edition | Subscribe