Sunday, August 21, 2005

Post No. 27: Know Thy Neighbour

Perhaps I’m thinking too much. Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. However, I recently saw a news report on TV which had, from my point of view, worrying implications and thus, I have decided to write about this particular news report & its implications here.

This particular news report reported that, several weeks ago, a Malay lady, who lived alone in a HDB apartment, was found dead in her apartment days after collapsing from a heart attack (she had a history of heart problems). Her neighbours called in the police after they suspected something was amiss when they smelt a foul stench (coming from her decomposing body) from her apartment. I don’t know about you all but I definitely see something wrong here. No, I’m not suspecting foul play in this incident. My question is why did the Malay lady’s neighbours only suspected something was amiss when they smelt the stench of her decomposing body? Didn’t they notice her sudden absence? Or did she keep to herself and not interact with her neighbours? In case you all didn’t know, this incident isn’t an isolated one. Over the past few years, there have been similar cases such as this. Yes, perhaps the number isn’t large and there are only a few such cases but, in my opinion, it is already a few too many.

To me, such kind of cases perhaps signify the disturbing phenomenon of Singaporeans, who mainly reside in HDB apartments, being so comfortably cooped up in their own homes and hiding behind the security of locked doors, gates & windows that we hardly interact or bond with our neighbours. In some extreme cases, there are those who perhaps don’t even recognise or know who their neighbours are. In addition, although this is only a general observation of mine that isn’t supported by statistical evidence, I am under the impression that this phenomenon of not interacting with our neighbours is particularly significant in the younger generation of today (yes, that includes you all & me also). Based on personal experience, it is my observation that members of the older generation make greater efforts to interact with their neighbours. This is quite evident if you all spend some time noticing that it is mostly members of the older generation who spend time sitting at void decks conversing or playing chess with each other. On the other hand, it is my impression that those of the younger generation, being so absorbed with their own lives, don’t interact much with their neighbours and perhaps don’t even bother to.

Wait a minute. Before you all (of the younger generation) start lambasting me for making sweeping statements and for adopting a “holier-than-thou” posture, let me answer that this is just a general impression of mine based on personal observations. Thus, I concede that I may be wrong about all this (though I somewhat doubt so) and that there do exist young Singaporeans who do have friendly relations with their neighbours. Also, don’t be mistaken, I’m in no way excusing myself from this phenomenon I am describing. Aside from the customary polite greetings & casual conversations I share with my neighbours, I’m also guilty (mea culpa!) of not interacting much with them and knowing them well. Well, at least I’m honest enough to admit this and have enough awareness to recognise the worrying implications of this phenomenon on society.

Okay now, so what’s the big deal about us not interacting much with our neighbours and not knowing them well enough on a personal level? Why does it matter whether we have invited them over to our homes to join in the festive atmosphere of our traditional festivals or whether we have spent time to talk with them? Well, let me enlighten you all to the answers to the questions I posed above. From my point of view, this phenomenon of Singaporeans, especially those of the younger generation, not knowing their neighbours well enough on a personal level has a significantly negative effect on the social/community cohesion found in Singapore. As an independent nation, Singapore is still considered quite young, having only celebrated its 40th National Day recently this month. In my opinion, for Singapore to continue developing towards maturity, it will need to, besides creating its own unique brand of cultural & national identity, foster a strong sense of cohesion & solidarity among its citizens. Thus, with this in mind, it can be clearly seen how damaging it can be for us not to know those who lives around us well enough on a personal level. What social/community cohesion & national solidarity can we talk about if we don’t even bond with our own neighbours? In fact, it is somewhat both ironic & sad that there are quite a number of younger Singaporeans who resort to an online service to socialise and interact with those living around them (here, I’m referring, with no intention of offence, to

In addition, in case you all aren’t aware, there is a semi-official government policy (though I’m not certain whether it is still being enforced or not) that stipulates what percentage of those living in a housing estate should be Chinese, Malay or Indian. The purpose of such a stipulation was to ensure that the various ethnic communities found in Singapore don’t retreat into their own enclaves and to promote interaction & cohesion amongst these various communities. Well, it seems to me that this semi-official policy isn’t completely successful if we are stuck at interaction of a superficial level with our neighbours.
In conclusion, what I would like to say is that I appeal to you all, my fellow (young) Singaporeans, to be less self-absorbed with your lives and make greater efforts than you all are making now to interact with your neighbours and to know them better on a personal level. If you all don’t want to do it for the sake of Singapore’s social/community cohesion, then at least do it for your own sake. We have nothing to lose but much to gain from knowing our neighbours better.

No comments:

Post a Comment