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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

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Citizen, name thyself

SO there were two pages of angst in ST on Saturday. People penning their thoughts about whether we are gracious – or not. Xenophobic – or not. Why we are gracious – or not. Why we are xenophobic – or not. So much soul-searching. No solutions. But that’s okay. I would dread to think that someone would come up with…
a) Be gracious to your neighbours day. This is when we put aside a day to invite neighbours into our homes for a meal – after locking up our valuables. Or has that already been done?
b) Be kind to everyone campaign. This is when we try to give out stickers, flowers and badges with Smiley faces to anyone on the street, who will run away thinking it’s yet another flag day. Or has that already been done?
c) Be a gracious ambassador and help foreigners integrate. This is when we appoint someone in the community who will lead the welcome party for new immigrants, and find we can’t speak their language. Or has that already been done?
d) Tell a kind story today. This is when we write about good acts we’ve witnessed, so we can feel good that someone else is actually better than we are. Or has that already been done?
e) Give a Kindest Singaporean award. This is when we ask people to nominate those they think are at the top of their list of “good’’ people, after which we will grumble that they are not good enough. Or has that already been done?
Methinks quite a bit has already been done, so what else can we do? Talking is a start. It will raise the level of awareness in society that more SHOULD be done. Then again, it’s always someone else who is not gracious isn’t it? I mean, we won’t point fingers at ourselves and say WE are not gracious. Even if we do admit it, we have a million reasons to explain away bad behaviour….so there!
Anyway, I have been giving it a think. Is it all about self-confidence at the end of the day? I ask this because we always maintain that we are “shy’’, “reserved’’ and don’t want to stand out in the crowd – whether to do right or to correct a wrong. We will do so only when asked. That’s why we watch, and grumble. We don’t speak up, and act. We call it a cultural trait or something. You know what? Maybe we’re just cowards.
But then again we don’t seem to lack courage when we are anonymous. So we lash out (some might call it speaking the truth), secure that what we say can’t be traced back to, say, a father of three children, a high-profile banker, an A student, a teacher or just plain ole’ Ah Tee whom people in the neighbourhood can identify easily. I mean, you would be forced to defend your views in real life if someone comes up to you and say, “Aiyoh Ah Tee, why you say these kind of things on the Net? You mad or what?’’
Anonymity gives false confidence.
I sometimes think we don’t like our names. In fact, it’s become an increasingly odd thing I’m witnessing. When asked who they are, people never seem to want to give full names anymore. They tell you which school, what workplace, what part of the workplace or why they want to talk to you or the name they’ve given themselves (usually something esoteric or exotic)…anything but full names.
Funny that we should be discussing a national identity, when we don’t even seem to be secure enough about our OWN.

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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