"An elderly man was trying to find a place to sit and observe the Olympic Games, as he went to each section. All the other Greeks laughed as he tried to make his way through. Some ignored him. Upon entering the Spartan section all the Spartans stood and offered the elderly man their seats. Suddenly the entire stadium applauded. All the Greeks knew what was the right thing to do, but the Spartans were the only ones who did it." (here)
During my Sec 1 days, a thought struck me. It seems to me that Singaporeans are sucker for rules and authority. Everything that we do (or should not do) must come with some form of written rule from the relevant authority. Now, I'm not saying obeying rules are bad. Rules are necessary to ensure things run smoothly, in the broadest sense. However, what I found strange was that some people regard the absence of rules meant endorsement of anything else that the rules did not cover, or the presence of rules meant endorsement of every privileges that may come with it... regardless of what common sense or moral values tell them. It's like saying,
"Oh...there's no regulations that says I must give up my seats to the elderlies so why must I do that?" or
"Oh, as a pedestrain I have the right of way at the zebra crossings. Motorists must keep a lookout for me and give way to me. I can take my own sweet time."
This thought came to me at a time when I observed a bunch of kids making a ruckus at the void deck. An elderly man, who was not related to these kids (except they're of the same race), told them sternly that their behavior was unruly and unbecoming. The kids quietened and left for the playground eventually, restoring peace to the neighbourhood. Initially I thought to myself that the elder had no authority nor responsibilities over the kids. What if those kids turned around and challenged him "Who do you think you are?!" Would it not be better if he informed the parents of the kids or the police or Town Council to let THEM handle those unruly kids? Afterall, these people can exercise some form of authority over these kids but not the elderly. However, comonsense and cultural values also tells me that elderlies are to be respected. Moreover, he did the socially correct thing and that was to tell those kids to respect the neighbours. He didn't need a warren card or a letter of authority issued by a Minister or Commissioner of Police to do that. He did what is socially and morally right of an elder... to educate the children.
From that moment on, whenever I notice something not so right, I asked myself if that particular situation require the relevant "authorities" (including parents, teachers etc) to step in and make some rules. I was a "young adult" or "old child" (depends on how you look at it) and should start to take on more responsibilities. Instead of "Teacher! Teacher! He took my rubber!" or "Mommy, mommy, he called me a monkey!", I started to approach my classmate directly and say "If you need to borrow my eraser, you could have asked and I'll be more than willing to lend it to you" or "Mind you, I am not a monkey. I am an ape, Orang Utan. To be scientifically correct, I am a Pongo Pygmaeus."
But of course, if I was up against gangsters who are out to wallop me... I would still run to teacher and yell, "Teacher! Teacher! Ang Kong Beng want to wallop me!" and the teacher would go "Mata, mata! Got Ah Beng want to beat my student!" There are times when the relevant authorities have to step in. Don't try to be a hero when you do not have laser eyes and wear your red underwear outside like Superman.
If you know you are doing something right and not harming anybody (including yourself), do you really need some figure of authority to support you and make some rules? All the time? In every situations?
I end this post with a short clip (here). The stand up comedian is Peter Russell... the way he said "Do The Right Thing" is hilarious.