Addiction, Dependence & Slavery

Very often, I find the behaviour of people in this supposedly developed nation quite unfathomable. I was at a fried chicken stall inside a coffee shop at about 4.00pm. Everything in the stall was already laid out and apparently, they were ready for business. So I approached the “uncle”, got his attention and told him what I wanted. To my utter dismay, he ignored me completely and continued going through his stack of invoices. His behaviour puzzled me as it would any person in the civilised world. Why couldn’t he just tell me to come back later? Why did he treat me like I didn’t exist?

Like anyone in the civilised world, I ordered something else from another stall and didn’t go back to that fried chicken stall even when they were ready. Many people would agree with me if I posted this online, but the reality on the ground was quite different. Would you be so surprised if I told you that when Uncle decided to start taking orders, a long queue of folks from all walks of life (but behaving like obedient school children) quickly formed at the stall? Uncle was as rude as ever and people acted as if the chicken were free and they were starving children at Oliver Twist’s workhouse. This is certainly not the first time I’ve observed such behaviour. In fact, it’s the norm. The ruder the hawker, the better his food and the longer the queue at his stall. And this could be one of the uniquely Singaporean things as I’ve found many friendly hawkers who serve good food in Taiwan and Thailand.

Oliver Twist is alive and well and lives in Cambodia.

It’s a strange country that I live in. You don’t see child molesters getting stoned to death on the streets, but when cases involving any sensational crime are reported in the media, you would invariably see a flurry of comments on the sentences being meted out on the perpetrators. Almost always, the jail term is deemed too short. Others may complain that the number of strokes of the cane given are too few.

Especially touchy is the topic of mandatory death sentence for drug offences, mandatory minimum jail term, mandatory caning etc. Whenever anyone suggests that such sentences should not be mandatory, an uproar from the righteous public is practically guaranteed. One could give these seemingly bloodthirsty folks the benefit of the doubt and explain that removing “mandatory” means giving flexibility to judge individual cases and not forgiving the crime, but the you will always find moralists who still would not relent. So unyielding these keyboard moralists are with regards to good behaviour that they always insist on the harshest possible punishment regardless of circumstances.

In spite of the laws in Singapore being so harsh, the keyboard moralists never seem to see punishment for anything from drug offences to verbal taunts ala Anton Casey as adequate. Sometimes, even those who have only committed minor offences or even no criminal offence at all (merely inappropriate behaviour) get vilified and virtually stoned online. To those who only know Singapore from the online discourse of seemingly outspoken Singaporeans, it would seem as if this country is overflowing with fierce and fiery defenders of morals and justice. People are all saints and puritans who would not let any improper behaviour go unpunished.

Yet, when they encounter rude hawkers who insult their pride, they somehow don’t see the need to punish them by boycotting the stall. For the sake of a non-essential gastronomic treat, these folks behave like a pack of dogs rushing for bones thrown out by someone who seems to enjoy watching their kiasu, kiasi and gian png behaviour. What happened to the righteous characters judging people by the strictest moral yardstick? I’ve often wondered if the behaviour of the seemingly imperturbable diners at that fried chicken stall could explain the socio-political anomaly of bullies always winning the race that we often encounter in this society? If people are addicted to something and if you hold the key to their fix, will you be able to turn them into slaves? If people have lost the ability to cook and are totally dependent on you to provide nourishment, could you enslave them? What if people have lost the ability to think and become totally dependent on you for ideas? Scary, isn’t it? We fight so hard against drugs but are totally tolerant towards a far more pernicious form of dependence.

And just as we fight one peril while ignoring another, there is another instance of us guarding our front gate while leaving the backdoor wide open. Here is a neat piece of publicity from Singapore’s very own navy. The young man being featured in the video below shows great pride in guarding our warships.

Mothership ran the video on its page and you can see for yourself the number of shares and likes that it has garnered. Quite impressive, but I decided to post a little comment to see if the brain cells are working.

I was a bit surprised by the reply to my comment, but obviously it only goes to show another anomaly in our developed, First World country.

© Chan Joon Yee

Dewdrop Books