It is sad to read in the Straits Times of 29 Jan of the amount of trash left behind at the Laneway Music festival at the Gardens by the Bay.
The reasons given by audience were, it didn’t occur to me to take my trash away when I left because there was trash everywhere left by others. That they assume the organizers will hire cleaners. That the cleaning fees should be built into the price of the ticket. I can totally understand why The Prime Minister was disgusted and took the example of the Myanmar football fans picking up all their litter before they left the National Stadium. In the same article in the Straits Times it was reported that a National Environment Survey of 2012 stated that one third of the respondents will litter if they could get away with it. Why did this happen, why is our society become so uncaring, where is the social norm?
I think this problem started about 30 years ago when the Government started to increase the salary of the Ministers to be in line with top earners of different professions. The increase was rapid. The Government introduced Market Norms to their salaries and to their professions. About 20 years ago, the Government stopped building hawker centres and wet markets, they left it to private organizations to do it, again the Government introduced Market Norms to what was basically a social requirement.
There were many other instances that the Government chose market considerations over social needs.
Any zealous practice of Market Norms will unfortunately affect Social Norms. The role of any Government should be more social than market and not only has to be but also has to be seen to be. When the Government is identified as a Market Norm, the general populace will take the cue and behave and act accordingly. When society switches to Market Norms then everything is a transaction, hence the remarks by one of the audience at the Laneway Music Festival; that the cleaning fees should be built into the price of the ticket. Same applies to many antisocial behavior; like illegal parking; if caught I’ll pay. Not returning the trays after a meal at the hawker centre; the cost of collecting the trays is built into the price of the food. There are so many examples of society lacking social consciousness.
It is sad that Market Norms have taken over in our daily lives, transaction is the way of life, social norms and social consciousness have taken a back seat.
Singapore is a mixture of different races with no dominant culture and philosophy, with a dominant political party that rules Singapore for the past 50 years, their style of governance inadvertently setting the way we conduct our lives and social behavior.
Always remember, people take cues from the Government, no amount of kindness and courtesy campaigns will change people’s attitudes, it is the example set by the Government and the way they govern that will determine society’s social behavior.
It is of little use to compare ourselves with Taiwan and Japan on social consciousness, they are a homogeneous society with a dominant culture and most importantly their governments’ priorities to social and market norms is different from ours.
* Submitted by TRE reader.