Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Little Darlings

Pop quiz: scenario is an older Malay woman, a middle aged Chinese mother and her 10 year old son board a train and there's one free seat. Who gets to sit down?

Answer: in Singapore, it's the kid. Mums rush onto carriages and point out seats where their children can sit down. They even encourage them to go right up to the doors and run in past the alighting passengers and find seats. Nobody ever complains about this behavior.

It's a cultural, generational inversion. The old(er) are respected for their contribution to the past, but the young are revered for their role in the future, particularly for their potential earning power. Kids have it tough at school, and the pressure to succeed at examinations, move up to better schools and achieve scholorships is intense. But their elevation to Dauphin at the expense of common courtesy baffles me. They sit there fidgeting with energy while work-weary travelers slump into corners.

The MRT trains are running a campaign at the moment with several trains emblazoned their whole length with the tagline "Practise courtesy for a pleasant journey". It would appear courtesy is strictly relative.