Singapore Revisited Log 5.2: No Outside Food Allowed

Culture comes from the word cult. When specific practices and beliefs propagates by recognition and acceptance from a micro community level to wider society, a unique culture is developed. Bearing that in mind, the idea of building a culture is rarely fruitful unless a great deal of time and resources are put into it. Take for example, the Singapore courtesy campaigns that had been going on since I knew how to spell the word 'futile' until even courtesy bear Singa decided to fuck it and retire, the courtesy culture in Singapore remains weak.

Meanwhile other cultures have been popping up like mushrooms as if Mother Nature intended them. When Tucky and I was greeted with interesting artifacts on tables in Tanjong Pagar hawker centre, I was told by the wise Tucky not to send them to the floor with quick flick of my hand. After all Tucky was a friend of 20 over years and often knew what was going on in the mind by looking at my devious expressions. As opposed to me, Tucky had been a city worker since he started his career and were wise to the Ways of the World in the city, such as shortcuts to get around quickly by foot or car and of course, the culture of reserving a dining table by marking a table of choice with a personal artifact such as a packet of tissue paper straight out of a pocket full of bodily aroma, a staff pass with a grinning photograph of the owner or a water bottle, sometimes with a lipstick mark near the neck. That completes the marking process, just like how my dog used to mark his trees and lamp posts by lifting his hind leg and injecting his DNA around. Unfortunately, unlike the dog marking process, the human way doesn't allow overwriting. Only the owner is allowed to remove his mark when he is done with his deeds. That was why I was warned against the fun act of flicking artifacts off the altars, to avoid dealing with vengeful wraiths that will be summoned to punish atrocious men who dare to walk into the shadows.

Elsewhere I spied upon a group of ladies who brought along their fancy drinks only to be warned by the gate keeper with a stern, "No outside drinks allowed," warning. The keeper was needlessly rude, telling off group loud enough for surrounding patrons to hear. "The sign over there written big big you never read!" She justified her hard stance by highlighting ignorance was not an excuse. Thou who fail to comply shall be treated like children. I couldn't but wonder the effectiveness of tactless approach. The ladies ended up hiding their drinks out of sight and took sneaky sips whenever they thought no one was looking. The shop still received no revenue for cutting out illegal beverage sources. What they achieved at most was reminding patrons to hide their drinks right from the start the next time, to avoid the humiliation of being singled out. If the keepers were to "give face" and tell their customers how they also can provide those drinks with a competitive price and free ice with a little bit of humor, there might still be a chance that the patrons would return the "face" by being paying customers in the future.

If so, that made me wonder could there be a better approach than to tell Singaporeans straight in the face that they commit more crimes or that they are bigots without taking time to figure out the reasons behind-the-scenes like the way the keepers simply couldn't see their products were just too shitty and overpriced that getting substitutes elsewhere was simply a rational reaction and that putting up signs was simply a case of barking up the wrong tree. The endless propaganda to convince Singaporeans they are the problem seems to be a lazy attempt to solve a knotty issue without understanding why Singaporeans are the way they are and who and what made them that way. 

Only time can tell if force feeding the Singapore society with cheap labour that seems to be rejected by system so far, will bring forth happy or tragic endings. That will depend on whether the system makes the people or the people makes the system in Singapore. Singapore as we know it today will be probably the first country to attempt to continue to grow by devaluing a certain set of skills so that a competitive edge can be created by offering cheap labour. So far this approach appears sustainable only by expanding the range of skills to be devalued. It will be interesting to see how this will turn out. We are going through a intriguing period of our history.

1 comment:

  1. sorry to bust your chops, but culture and cult are not related.