News

Too furious, too fast?

Housewife Shanice Chew makes it a point to "keep her tongue in check" when she is out.

"I used to be such an outspoken b**** and I'd get into arguments if someone so much as stepped on my toe," says Mrs Chew with a wry smile.

We are at a kopitiam in Bedok North, where she is babysitting her three-year-old grandson.

Mrs Chew, 60, says: "I think in my younger days, I'd have no qualms about picking a fight with someone."

But in recent years, she has become more careful because she has more to be afraid of.

"It's not so much for myself. But I keep up-to-date with the news and I feel very threatened. And I think, what if someone puts up a video of me arguing with another person?" she says.

Mrs Chew cites incidents such as the road-bullying video of Mr Quek Zhen Hao last week and the recent Facebook posting by Briton Anton Casey, both of which went viral.

Then came the online vitriol directed at both of them, followed by threats to their family members.

Mr Casey has since left the country with his wife, former Miss Singapore Bernice Wong, and their child. He has also lost his wealth management job.

Mr Quek, a 24-year-old undergraduate, was dubbed a road bully after his Honda Civic was filmed chasing and tailgating two other cars.

After the two videos of the incidents, which took place about four hours apart last Wednesday, went viral, he found himself targeted by online vigilantes.

In an exclusive interview on Thursday, Mr Quek told The New Paper that he fears for the safety of himself and his loved ones as netizens have made more than 10 online threats against him.

He said: "I want Singaporeans to stop taking aim at my family and my girlfriend because I am truly sorry for this incident and for endangering others."

Mrs Chew feels that "many people out there are getting angry very easily, very fast".

Her neighbour, Madam Julie Abdullah, shares her sentiment. The 50-year-old housewife says: "Our tolerance level is very low these days.

"(A) small private quarrel can turn one party into a national enemy. It seems that other people's problem can also become our problem."

And this is why she refuses to set up a Facebook or Twitter account.

"I think it is scary when we put our personal lives and details online and when something happens, the netizens are able to track down all our personal details," she adds.

The New Paper on Sunday conducted a straw poll of 120 Singaporeans, both young and old, to ask if people here tend to get too furious too fast. (See report on facing page.)

The answer was a resounding "yes", with 89 respondents saying that our fuses are now a lot shorter.

Mr Walter Gan, 80, a former school teacher, feels there is too much resentment festering in many of us. He ventures boldly to offer this suggestion: "We are just too fed up with the current state of life here.

"It's no longer good enough that we have a roof over our heads, that there is still a sense of security - where you are not robbed or beaten up randomly - and that most of us have a job.

"Maybe it is because space is getting smaller, we have more people, and when you are feeling the squeeze, it's inevitable to get angry more easily."

Polytechnic student Kiki Lim, 18, blames the cloak of anonymity that gives online vigilantes a false sense of courage. She says: "They hide behind a pseudonym and (have) verbal diarrhoea because they think others are too focused on the subject at hand to uncover their identity."

Miss Lim shares one example of how an angry online mob posted and spread photos and personal details of one of her girlfriends, all because the girl was dating another friend's boyfriend.

"It happened about two years ago, yet to this day, my friend does not dare to share anything else online, not even with privacy settings," says Miss Lim.

Psychologist Richard Lim, who has been counselling for nearly 20 years, says such hatred and uproar is expected, given the current climate of change.

Mr Lim says: "People feel suffocated and stifled, and they are trying to make ends meet or get a decent job.

"Then they perceive that their job status or standard of living is placed in jeopardy by foreign competition... and as a result, they jump at the first opportunity to whack anyone who may fit into that category."

Indeed. It is easy for us to jump on the bandwagon and cry bloody murder when we come across someone dissing our lifestyle, or lash out at foreigners for seemingly crowding our space. There is no instant pill that we can take to turn our hate into love, but this Heartland Aunty reckons that perhaps we can try another method.

Instead of getting upset and plotting various ways to seek justice, what about taking a step back? Let us allow the wrongdoers a chance to apologise and move on, instead of fanning the fuel that lights the fire.

In short, maybe it is about time that we start to turn the negative emotions and feelings into more positive ones and in doing so, we can perhaps be happier people.

HAVE WE BECOME TOO QUICK TO ANGER?

YES 75%

"We are so quick to draw blood from those who make us angry, especially online."
- Zhang Weijie, 24, student

"It's easy when you find a target online and direct all your anger towards someone who may have made a wrong comment or did something stupid."
- Ms Ang Yee Leng, 32, IT engineer

"I feel we no longer give people a chance to apologise for 
their actions."

- Madam Vanitha Kumaran, 30, 
driving instructor


"I think (the situation) online is the worst, people just whack without worry because most times, they stay anonymous."
- Mr John Leong, 40, teacher

NO 25%

"Not true. We may be angry, but there is usually a justified reason for the anger. It's not like we are being ridiculously angry."
- Charlene Ooi, 25, student

"I don't really think it is that bad. We may feel that way only because the bad gets highlighted and the good does not. So you feel that there is so much anger."
- Madam Jane Toh, 40, biochemist

"I still see acts 
of kindness and graciousness among strangers, like 
giving up of seats, 
but no one posts 
such good acts."
- Mr Kingston Pereira, 70, retiree