Another British is in limelight, again, for the right or wrong reason.
A BBC journalist, C. Ashton, who conveniently labelled Singaporeans as a compassion deficit breed [Here] based on her unpleasant train journeys where no one gave up their seats to an expecting mother like her, and where no one took the initiative to attend to her needs on the train.
I do not intend to defend our compassion deficit label over here but I take issue with her simplistic approach of generalizing all Singaporeans based on her concoctions of her train journeys and conversations with Singaporeans that were already framed under the compassion deficit label. I am not even sure if she intends to generalize about the people in Singapore or about Singaporeans.
I wouldn’t think of using my travel experience on the London tube as a means to pinpoint the British nature or to gauge their compassion level but I would ascertain Taiwanese’s warm-heartedness through the observations of Taiwanese commuters on Taipei Metro. I am not a journalist. But London is a metropolitan with under half of its residents being non-British. Furthermore, London is London and it stands as another planet in the British isles and therefore does not and cannot represent all British.
Ashton chose to, whether simplistic or out of convenience sake, use the behaviour of the commuters on our public transport and that alone as a measurement for compassion level, ironically at a juncture when large numbers of economic migrants from both the West and East arrive in droves into Singapore and are making their presence felt strongly on our public transport. Our public transport is already an epitome of Singapore’s fast-changing demography in the last decade where native Singaporeans (excluding the number of new citizens) are already made the minority in our home country. I find my own nationality any time on the train on this island being the minority. If Ashton is bashing Singaporeans, our public transport is definitely not the most ideal channel to portray Singaporeans. On the other hand, Ashton chose to speak to Singaporeans on this compassion deficit theme, so I can only guess that she is indeed bashing Singaporeans and not just the people in Singapore.
Ashton is entitled to her own observation on our trains. As a regular train commuter, I see a fair share of people giving up seats and people hoarding on the priority seats. Among those who gave up their seats for others, unfortunately for Ashton, I saw proportionately more locals doing that than foreigners. That is my own personal observation too. But still, I would not absolve Singaporeans from our compassion deficit label based on giving up seats on trains alone.
And whether commuters’ behaviour on trains and that alone being used as a means of compassion level measurement is justified and whether graciousness instead of compassion level should be more appropriate for Ashton’s case, we really need good journalism from BBC to investigate.
Beyond the domain of public transport, it is also noticeable, if only Ashton would care to observe, that Singaporeans are generous and over-zealous with their pockets when it comes to donation drives. Whether a cleaner, construction worker or a cabbie who lost their lives in an unfortunate manner, donations pour in to support their bereaved families. That gesture seems to contradict our compassion deficit label does it not? What does that portray about Singaporeans in this aspect?
A diligent journalist would certainly probe further before labelling the people of a nation. After all is said, there really is a difference between ungraciousness and compassion deficit.
Besides lazy journalism demonstrated in Ashton’s article, there is also a sense of snobbery exuberating from her unpleasant encounters on our trains, and that brings to mind Anton Casey, another British economic migrant who jeered at public transport commuters. For Ashton’s case, it was the sense of self-entitlement of help from the public because she is an expecting mother, 10 weeks into pregnancy and she expects all commuters on board to pay attention to her tummy and to be also on the stand-by to attend to her needs at all times without her having to ask for it. When help was not granted, Ashton finds Singaporeans a let down and thus we earned the rightful label of compassion deficit from Ashton her majesty. Singaporeans are not compassion deficit simply because we did not give up seats to elderly or physically challenged people, but that we DID NOT GIVE UP OUR seats for Charlotte Ashton. Therefore, Singaporeans had let her down. That “letdown” phrase betrays the “me” mentality of hers. Singapore has to be Ashton-oriented in order not to let her down. But who does she think she is really?? I am curious to know.
At this point, I suddenly wonder if it would be more appropriate to discuss the kind of person Ashton represents, rather than compassion deficit Singaporeans. For a woman who is 10 months into her pregnancy and a foreigner, expects her host country to cuddle her everywhere she treads portrays either a super-pampered woman or a snob. And whether that snobbery stems from her 10 weeks pregnancy (because Singaporeans cannot procreate sufficiently?) or her gender or someone who hails from BBC or London (but what does that mean really? Superiority? ). Anton Casey mocked at those who are less wealthy than him whilst Ashton reprimanded a nation who didn’t help her.
I received far worse treatment during my time in Europe than not being given seats on the trains. I really should then generalize each and every of those nations but I really couldn’t find them a let down nor did I feel being let down. They were at most, unpleasant encounters. There must be expectations in the first place to constitute a let down. And do these countries owe me anything in the first place?
I had a fall while cycling in Punggol Park once. I didn’t expect any help from anyone. It was just a fall. But a cyclist stopped and helped me to pick up my fallen bike and park it by the wall before he cycled away. Another one amazingly had plasters with him, saw my plight, pedalled to my side before insisting to give me a plaster to stop the bleeding and to sterilize the wounds. These people made my day despite my fall and I really didn’t expect any help or see any need of help from anyone from the start. Was it because I have zero expectation from a nation of compassion deficit? Or was it the result of self-reliant mentality? I have no answers to myself.
Coming back to our topic of compassion deficit, I am not sure if that trait of ours has intensified in the last decade when the already-stiff competition for limited resources and space is further exacerbated by the increasing presence of non-Singaporeans on our shores and especially when we have to put up with the likes of Caseys and Ashtons, and more of them to come in the near future.