Wednesday, September 03, 2008

nation of tattle-tales

it’s a tough job being a good neighbour. your children should never be too loud or have too much fun, you as an example to them, should never have any fun at all throwing after-10 parties, enjoying loud music, indulging in insect-breeding plants, loving disease-carrying pets, have questionable lifestyles, questionable religious practices, non-singaporean-looking people stick around who speak all sorts of odd languages or show any interest in your neighbour as no one appreciates a busybody. (suck in breathe)

the best neighbours it seems, are working couples who don’t come home till late and have no time for hobbies, TV and sex.

if the town council officers think they are overwhelmed with complaints now, have they thought what it would be like when we do fulfill our national vision of a fertile vibrant diverse 6m-strong melting pot of cultures and lifestyles? If we are a nation of tattle-tales today, i shudder at the hubbub when our precious newborns and esteemed foreign friends take the pledge and become true blue Singaporeans tomorrow.

mr mah, you say you receive 530 complaints on cats every year from the residents. i hate to tell you but things are not likely to get better for either of us. 4.5m people = 530 complaints, 6m people = 706 complaints. 706 complaints, I can see, would be all the more reason you would say your stance is indeed the ideal one. the way i see it, we are looking at a long hard blistering road of discord between cat haters and cat lovers for as long as you are here and i am here. don’t forget, the numbers on my side will swell too.

and so the argument that the number of complaints that TCs receive is a good gauge of public sentiment and apt justification for curbs and restrictions is another fine example of rational reasoning that doesn’t do anyone any good. moreover, the attitude behind it frankly runs counter to the rhetoric about embracing a vibrant diverse gracious society.

for one thing, it tells people they have to be part of the majority or they are a problem. for another, it rewards a lot of people who simply do not make any effort to connect with neighbours who aren’t like them.

perhaps the way forward to resolving neighbourly angst is not to come up with more restricting laws and by-laws but to break this culture of complaints altogether, by helping to bridge differences and build relationships.

if it were deemed perfectly normal that some people keep cats as pets and care for strays, and perfectly understandable that some people fear and dislike cats, then everyone would have no choice but to find a middle ground. if we are to succeed as a model of multi-racial/faith/cultural graciousness to the rest of the world, finding middle ground is precisely what we all need to be good at.

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