Singapore is known for its diversity, openness, and acceptance. Cultures, religions, and many other ways of describing our differences are embraced with a clear intent of respect, honor, and knowledge of what the action will do to the community. The country’s founding fathers believed in the premise of diversity being a foundation of strength.
As the country approaches begins year build-up to its 50th birthday, there is a midlife struggle going on. The economic growth of four plus decades is flattening, a job seeker friendly market has some unemployment, and fear is beginning to creep in at the corners. Fueling the sense of uncertainty has been the bad behavior of a wide range of guests. Rich kids with their sports cars exercising no judgment with the world knowing by the sadness that follows when innocents die and works of art are destroyed. Others openly trash talking the hard working people who are also vulnerable in ways one rarely anticipates. Bigotry is colorblind but the reactions that follow rarely are.
As important as diversity is, it doesn’t feel quite as friendly as it used to. The perceptions feed behaviors on all sides, including what I do. I am come to expect little beyond basic courtesies from strangers.
As I went to park my motorcycle recently, the lot I was trying to use was filled. Every spot had been taken. Owners had even left their bikes in places that were not marked. As I arrived, I slowly cruised the line, looking for anything resembling a space. First pass, slow struggle to turn the bike around, second pass, slow struggle to turn the bike around, third pass all unfolded with the same answer; nothing was open.
“Can I give you my spot?” A young Malay man looked up at me as he smoked a cigarette in the shade. While I had noticed him sitting, I did not think he had paid any attention to me.
“Sure. Can lah. My pleasure.”
“Because of you I look like an idiot, I walk around ashamed to show my face.” (Psalm 69.7)