If you are Singaporean, what does it mean when you walk into a supermarket and see fruits in a couple of baskets with a sign that says, "Free fruit for kids"?
I'll tell you what it does NOT mean.
It does not mean you should take some for your children or grandchildren at home.
It does not mean you should take one to munch because it is given out for free anyway.
It does not mean you should settle your kids' lunch by making a few loops around the shop.
It does not mean you should dabao another set after your kids finished the first.
It does not mean you should tell the entire village in your address book or post on social media to "come down and grab free fruits."
It does not mean you should take some for your friend's kids who are "coming soon."
And no, it does not mean your kid should be getting one because he is 24 years old.
To be honest, it is fucking embarrassing if the management of the business have to put up an additional signage to explain the simple gesture of "Free fruit for kids." Not on the management mind you, but their customers. I posted the above picture to as many Singaporean friends as I could and asked them if there are such initiatives in shopping centres yet, as I have been away for quite long by now and genuinely want to know if there are any progress in social graciousness. I want to know if businesses in Singapore started to practice social responsibility. Real social responsibility, not those sponsoring the PAP for events or election crap. I want to know, at least, if companies bother to improve their service a little by offering something nice like free fruits for our next generation. I want to know, if businesses in Singapore are willing to offer a sincere no-string-attached initiative for their customers.
Of course, the answer to the above is a resounding 'No.' Why am I not surprised?
My Singaporean friends simply told me that was too idealist to work in Singapore. Businesses will end up 'broke'. Customers will turn ugly and demand for baskets to be topped up. The management will be too tired of dealing with their customers' crap that they will decide it is just not worth it - even for publicity's sake.
My next question to them was, "Why?" Why do (too many) Singaporeans behave in such a way? We are one of the richest country in the world. We have a population with among the highest literacy rates in the world. All of us go through moral education at a young age and as far as I know, I have yet to hear anyone failing that subject. We have no excuse really. We are educated enough to know what is right or wrong, what is gracious and what is considered socially acceptable. So why do we behave in such an ugly manner, taking advantage of things, abusing loopholes and choosing to stand at the darkest corner of the grey areas all the time?
Honestly, I do not believe this boils down to human nature. I have seen "Pram parking lots" being left unused at a packed car park in a shopping centre in Perth. I see parking lots reserved for the handicapped being reserved all the time despite no warning signs of being fined or threat of enforcement if ineligible people are caught using it. People will rather park on grass verge or mount the kerb to squeeze somewhere than to do it. I have never seen people using the "change rooms for parents" when they are not supposed to. I have yet to see people abusing the free BBQ pits available in public parks or drivers grabbing a few extra cups of free coffee kindly offered by small businesses far out in the regional areas. People generally do not litter. Perth is not a perfect society without problems. In fact it has its fair share of (serious) problems but human graciousness is not one of them at the moment.
The incident where hundreds of commuters worked together to free a man trapped between the platform and train was a good testimonial of it. I have seen a more gracious society with my own eyes and I know it can work.
"But not Singapore loh," my contacts chorused. It is never going to work, they said. I felt sad to hear that. Examples of humans helping human are few and far between such that kind acts have to be highlighted during the National Day Rally by the PM every single year. Why can't the spirit be held day-to-day, in our everyday life? According to the government, we are a first world nation backed by 50 years of "miraculous" nation building. Millions have been spent on countless of courtesy campaigns. We have to be reminded to stand on the left and queue up, like rebellious children, all the time. Some of us would point fingers at certain foreign nationalities, who have been allowed to emigrate to Singapore at large figures but in truth, kiasuism has been prevalent way before the flood gate opened.
No one could give me an answer about the baffling manner Singaporeans behave, let alone a satisfactory one. One of them attributed it to the Behavioral Sink theory, a study that describe the collapse in behavior which resulted from overcrowding. That itself remains a mystery to me. Do Singaporeans really believe that more overcrowding is critical to our survival? Is it an absolute must to get our population to 6.9 million. Already, there are talks about planning for 10 million and beyond. Why do Singaporeans keep endorsing that, I will never know.