SIGN OF THE TIMES

Augustman - - Editor’s Note -

IT’S UNCIVIL to be­rate some­one who is dis­abled and sug­gest that charity should be their only op­tion for sur­vival. Strike that.

It’s down­right un­con­scionable. And any­one with a mod­icum of de­cency would want to con­demn said per­son’s ac­tions, only stop­ping short be­cause we don’t want to ap­pear uncivil our­selves. But then, to rein in our bet­ter judg­ment and say nought is as good as be­ing ac­com­plices to the dis­grace­ful act. It’s a case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.

Ed­mund Burke once said that “the only thing nec­es­sary for the tri­umph of evil is that good men do noth­ing”. That is as true to­day as it was in the 18th cen­tury, ex­cept when good men do some­thing to­day, they run the risk of bring­ing ab­surd law­suits upon them­selves.

Per­haps by the time this mag­a­zine is out on the news­stands, Ms Alice Fong’s din­ing mis­de­meanours will have been for­got­ten by many. Af­ter all, as she has sug­gested in a news­pa­per in­ter­view, she’s re­ally a good per­son who was merely a vic­tim of cir­cum­stances. She’d been un­well. There was some­thing alien in her food... Right. All of which must jus­tify why she could rain abuse on a cleaner at a food court and de­nounce his right to earn his liv­ing by in­de­pen­dent means, even though he’s dis­abled.

The ques­tion is, what is an ac­cept­able re­sponse in this sort of sit­u­a­tion? This is par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult for me be­cause I’ve seen how peo­ple are apt to over-re­act.

A friend of mine was ac­cused of hav­ing said some things. Yet he re­fused to dis­close in­for­ma­tion that would have ex­plained the sit­u­a­tion. This ret­i­cence al­lowed a vi­cious In­ter­net attack to go un­stemmed and even­tu­ally caused him to lose his job (be­cause the com­pany took the easy way out to avoid bad press). In tak­ing it like a man of rea­son, he ended up suf­fer­ing at the hands of peo­ple with­out re­straint.

My friend’s sit­u­a­tion may be dif­fer­ent from Ms Fong’s, but both cases beg the same call to re­ex­am­ine the so­ci­ety we live in. We need to ask our­selves what sort of com­mu­nity we are if we have cre­ated per­son­al­i­ties who are strongly self-cen­tered, self-right­eous and un­com­pas­sion­ate. We also need to ask our­selves how we must have treated the hand­i­capped to make them feel re­spon­si­ble and li­able for their dis­abil­ity?

Mr Png, the man who was ver­bally abused by Ms Fong, said he felt bad at hav­ing caused the com­mo­tion. He will be leav­ing his job at the mall be­cause of the in­ci­dent. Isn’t it enough that the dis­abled have to go through life equipped with less? Why does so­ci­ety pile the sense of guilt on them for not be­ing able to re­act like the av­er­age per­son? It’s not their fault.

A na­tion of kind­ness? It’s an ad­mirable con­cept but we ob­vi­ously can’t con­grat­u­late our­selves yet when we still have such a long way to go.

DAR­REN HO MAN­AG­ING ED­I­TOR dar­ren.ho@burda.com.sg In­sta­gram: @Dar­renHo Twit­ter: @Dar­renJYHo

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