'Motive doesn't matter, so long as people do good'.

'Motive doesn't matter, so long as people do good'.
Dr William Wan, general-secretary of Singapore Kindness Movement.

Earlier this year, netizens shamed a passenger for yelling at his cabby. Last week, they hit out at a People's Association grassroots leader who allegedly made a vulgar threat against teenager Amos Yee, charged over online rants. Is such tit-for-tat behaviour worrying?

When we are agitated, we can lose our own sense of balance or sensibilities. And when we become vengeful against people who have done wrong, there lies the possibility of committing the same wrong, because we have lost restraint of our own emotions.

It's one thing to point out that something is not right and express our distaste. It's another to mete out our own vindictive justice by behaving in a way similar to, or worse than, what the perpetrator had done.

When people start lynching, it is as if there is no law and order. It becomes dangerous because there is no proper process or constraint. There is danger of causing more harm than good.

It is worrying, of course. As Mahatma Gandhi said: "An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind."

We must mature as a society and have a deeper sense of dignity in how we express ourselves. We should be able to say something without having to resort to expletives or threats - that just reflects poorly on ourselves.

I don't have a magic bullet. There will always be such people. But it would help if more have the courage to speak up and say it is not necessary to be uncivil.

There was a report this week of a flat in Eunos that was infested with pests due to hoarding, and had plagued neighbours. An HDB survey also showed that while fewer residents were inconvenienced by their neighbours, more of those who were, found it "intolerable". What does this say of the gotong royong (community) spirit?

That case is very sad - people who hoard may have a mental or emotional problem and need help. So I don't think these are necessarily bad neighbours in the sense that they purposely cause trouble for their neighbours.

That said, unlike the kampong days when it was possible to know everybody, now it's impossible.

But I don't think the spirit has totally been destroyed. The Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) started an initiative called Let's Makan last year to encourage people to get to know their immediate neighbours through sharing food.

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