The perils of selective solidarity

The perils of selective solidarity
The man who allegedly tried to steal a fishmonger’s takings while he was serving a customer, was caught by alert passers-by who restrained him with cable ties on 3 December 2013. The 50-year-old stall worker, who gave his name as Mr Ye, had been chopping fish when the thief was said to have snatched about $200 from a container on the counter at Chong Pang Market in Yishun.

WhenI first saw the photo of the man reportedly caught snatching about $200 from a fishmonger's counter in Chong Pang, my initial reaction was one of approval.

Good that Singaporeans are stepping up to fight crime, I thought. According to the Chinese evening daily Shin Min Daily News, the fishmonger's shouts attracted other stallholders and passers-by. The alleged thief was caught; he struggled, but was overpowered and restrained with cable ties.

But as I looked at the photo of the bare-bodied man on the floor, with his hands and feet tied together, I had another thought: He must have been desperate to try to snatch money in broad daylight.

Many others felt similarly. The photo and article posted on The Straits Times Facebook page had over 284,000 views as of Friday afternoon. They drew 642 comments and had 602 shares.

One commenter wrote: "Tragic but may have no choice if person was violent. He will have no sympathy from his fellow countrymen too. However, too many cable ties but glad Singaporeans help to avert crime." It got just three "likes" as of Friday afternoon.

Another comment: "Too cruel. Feet and hands turning purple." 180 "likes".

Another comment: "He just probably got no money to buy food, that's why he resorted to stealing. Just give him some food to fill his stomach. Why must tie him up like this." This got 103 "likes".

Reading the views was heartening and got me thinking that Singaporeans are moving beyond a sense of solidarity only with their kin, to developing a sense of solidarity with their fellow men, women and children.

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