Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Violence on buses only a small part of the larger picture

(Published - ST Forum, Online Story. June 27, 2007)

In view of the cases of violence and abuse on buses, a host of social issues must be examined.

These cases continue to prove that there are people among us who lack graciousness, courtesy and civic-mindedness.

Perhaps, the perpetrators of abuse and violence are themselves victims of stress and pressure, on many different levels.

Stress levels in a country or city can increase with a growing population. As Singapore may accommodate over six million people in the near future, it will be highly unlikely stress levels will go down. This will probably be compounded by increasing competition for scholarly and professional excellence, extending to that of other material aspirations the Singapore Dream encompasses.

Laws that protect victims of abuse and violence only serve as remedy and legitimate retribution for violators, but more has yet to be done to prevent the problem in the first place.

A society consisting of people who are highly strung and less than gracious is indicative of the existing social and cultural environment.

According to http://www.happyplanetindex.org/list.htm which charts how happy people in various countries are, Singapore ranks a lowly 131 out of 178 countries.

Since the Singapore Government has the habit of benchmarking our economic practices with those of other countries, perhaps we could also follow the social practices and programmes of other nations to lower the stress levels and make Singaporeans a little happier.

Ho Chi Sam

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Single and stay-at-home parents a minority group who deserve rights, recognition, respect and representation

(Published - ST Forum, Online Story. June 21, 2007)

There have been letters in the Forum discussing issues pertaining to stay-at-home mothers and single mothers.

These individuals who dedicate their time and effort to taking care of their children have always been in existence, but as society changes, they become less invisible and more recognised.

Singapore is unfortunately not a place for single mums as policy and welfare do not favour them. Perhaps it is time to make changes to accommodate single mums in society, and not discriminate against them in any way.

This should not be seen as advocacy of single motherhood or singlehood per se. However, the Government should recognise that single parents contribute to both family and the economy.

We should also be wary of our patriarchal predisposition and be less discriminating when it comes to gender roles. Policy and welfare unfortunately embody and reproduce patriarchal norms and expectations based on traditional, and to some extent puritan, ideology. Any family unit that does not fit the traditional description of the 'normal' family cannot be dismissed as dysfunctional or a signal of moral decay.

In this case, stay-at-home parents, whether male or female, should be respected, recognised and represented by policy, welfare, the system and society. We should not bother ourselves with trying to dictate the form and function of families, or act as moral police providing rigid moral yardsticks for others. Such attempts will only stifle minority groups, with the system leaving them with fewer or even no options for welfare, rights and progress.

As society progresses, we need to be open to many choices as well as many more choices for others.

Ho Chi Sam

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Health and property deserve priority over stray cats

(Published - ST Forum, Online Story. June 2, 2007)

I REFER to Mr Tan Chek Wee's online letter, 'Let's hope town councils do not start a 'holocaust' of cats' (Online forum, May 30).

I understand the concerns of animal lovers, whether morally or religiously related.

However, as a resident living in a public housing estate, I have concerns about the safety and hygiene of the area, more so since it is shared by many other residents.

Stray cats can be a nuisance. Some climb onto cars and leave scratch marks. Some scatter litter and rubbish.

Another problem lies with animal feeders, who leave food at void decks or throw it out of their windows, perhaps to answer the moralistic call of feeding cats and pigeons. This constitutes a littering offence.

Moreover, the food attracts more strays, pigeons and crows, which can pose health and hygiene problems.

I feel that our health and property, such as our cars, deserve priority.

I believe the solution is to educate public housing residents, on top of having a more stringent policy on strays.

Ho Chi Sam