Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Can Graciousness and the 2 Ks Coexist?

Recently Parliament has been talking about how to encourage a gracious society. Personally, I think it's a losing battle. Why? Because I cannot find a way for the 2 Ks and graciousness to coexist together.

What 2 Ks? They are actually Kiasu, and Kiasi.

Kiasu is a Hokkien word that translates to a fear of losing. One very good example can be seen everyday in the MRT. People rushing into the train even before the train doors are fully open, blocking the passengers from coming out. Why? Because they are either afraid of losing the seat to someone who goes in earlier than them, or afraid of the door closing onto them. This trait could also be seen by people who stands right in front of the door. When the door opens, some will block the door and refuse to step out so that passengers can get out of the train. Why? Because they are afraid of not being able to get back onto the train.

Kiasi is also a Hokkien word that translates to being timid. One very good example can be seen everyday in the MRT too. People who needs to get out of the train use their "eye power" to try to telepathically tell the person to move. Either that or a rather timid and soft "excuse me" will come out, which is at times inaudible.

Tell me, with Kiasuism and Kiasiism so common, how can there be a gracious society?

First Kiasuism. This is rather straightforward. In a gracious society, you let passengers get out of the train before going in. If you're blocking the way, you will make space to allow people to move pass you. With Kiasuism so prevalent, do you see this happening? I do, but you still get idiots who refuse to budge.

Next is Kiasiism. Why I included this is due to one reason. You cannot be gracious, if you do not know what's happening around you. Looking from the point of the person that said an inaudible excuse me, the person in front is not gracious. Looking from the point of the person in front, he/she did nothing wrong because he/she doesn't know what is happening. In fact, it's the fault of the other person for not making known his/her intention to pass through. In a gracious society, you also expect people to politely say excuse me. However, note the number of plugged in people in Singapore. Plugged in as in plugged into their handphone, MP3/MP4 players, etc. Do you think that a polite excuse me can be heard? Not very likely. So most of the time, we have to shout our excuse me. Is that gracious?

To me, the culture here fundamentally does not allow graciousness. This is especially so because of Kiasuism, which is also a direct result of competitiveness. How can you be gracious if you always have the fear of losing to others?

Of course I do see graceful Singaporeans but they are few and far between. For me, the only way to resolve this is to lower the pace, and adjust our expectations. Do not always expect 101% from everyone. Sometimes, 90% is enough. Give 10% as a buffer for them to re-charge. If people have time to re-charge, maybe a more gracious person will emerge.


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