On Sunday, the Daily Mail in Britain published an article on a social experiment for TV, in which two little girls pretended to be lost in a busy shopping centre. For over an hour, only one person stopped to help them, while 616 others ignored them.
A journalist commented that "it is impossible to believe that in a civilised, compassionate society, there weren't many passers-by who wanted to help". She attributed this to the "paedophile hysteria" gripping her nation now.
This gives a fresh perspective to freelance writer Charlotte Ashton's recent claim that Singaporeans suffer from a "massive compassion deficit" ("'Massive compassion deficit' in S'pore?"; March 16).
Like British citizens, many of us are reluctant to help because of the fear of being misunderstood. Too often, we are told to not be a busybody. This goes against the teaching of kindness, courtesy, civic consciousness and other values such as loyalty to the institutions and the nation that nurture and protect us.
Where will all these fears and anxieties lead to? Doing nothing would become the preferred stratagem, or the norm in our increasingly "kiasu" (Hokkien for "afraid to lose") and "kiasi" ("afraid to die") society.
Ng Ya Ken
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.