In the news recently: the USA finally marks the end of a 9-year mission in Iraq. Violent crackdowns on anti-government protests continue in Syria. The European Union is headed towards some sort of catastrophic economy crisis (no one can tell me for sure what the hell is going on there). CERN might have found the God particle.
Meanwhile in Singapore: Singaporeans are up in arms complaining over public transport breakdowns and inefficiencies.
Sounds really petty and trite, doesn’t it? But that’s the trouble we Singaporeans have with our issues: they’re really big and important to us, but sound really small in the global scale. This leads to lots of people criticising us for complaining by saying things like, “Just be glad that there isn’t high crime/union strikes/violent protests/civil war/natural disasters/meteor strikes.”
But does the fact that we don’t suffer from these large-scale problems invalidate all our criticism and complaints of the things that affect our lives? I don’t think so at all.
Firstly, gratitude for what we have and frustration for what we don’t aren’t mutually exclusive. I can be grateful that Singapore’s trains are safe enough for us to take after dark, while criticising SMRT for their huge failures in the past two days. And I don’t think we’re being brats for not being grateful when the train works. After all, that’s what it’s meant to be doing, and we pay for it to keep on doing it. Now, if people were to start criticising Isaac Ong (who is organising #freerides) for not being fast enough or not providing good service, then I’d say they were brats.
When governments and companies enjoy boasting about their “world class” service (ironically, our Transport Minister was in Cambodia talking about transport systems when this whole thing went down), then why should anyone be surprised if people are unforgiving of lapses in the “world class” service?
In a country where even peaceful public protests are outlawed, and there’s only one little park where people can speak freely, public discontent and frustration manifests itself in other everyday issues. These issues may seem petty to some, but they really aren’t because they’re symptoms of unhappiness, and there’s no other way for us to express ourselves.
In fact, situations like these become even more aggravating (to me, anyway) when we don’t have strikes and protests. Weren’t we told that these things were a “trade off” for law and order, and having things running smoothly? Didn’t we give up these rights precisely so we could have everything working perfectly? So why are they not working now?
The recent taxi fare hike and this SMRT debacle, although not directly the fault of the PAP, appear to be just another instance of big organisations over the little people – big companies prosper, little people suffer. Conspiracy theories have abounded that the MRT breakdowns have been planned to make people take taxis. It’s a bit out there, but it certainly wasn’t helped by the message sent out to all SMRT taxi drivers calling the breakdown an “income opportunity”.
The whole fiasco has just been compounded by the Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew being in Cambodia talking up our transport system, and our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong going on leave. Hello, PR disaster.
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