Current Affairs Editorial

The return of the Kampung spirit – Updated version 2.0

7 Aug , 2015  

#SG50 #wearesingapore

Hi guys 

As some of you may know, I am actually really, really busy right now! What with work, bubs and getting things ready for our house. Yes! Finally, finally, finally, after 5 loooooooooooong years of waiting, Pips and I are finally going to move into our own home, and are now busy doing mad research on renovation, products to purchase, great designs etc. It is all very exciting and exhausting at the same time!

While wading through this black mass of BTO-related issues, such as rectification of defects, what to expect, renovation lobangs, design ideas etc, I feel so glad to be part of my housing project’s facebook group and whatsapp chat group. It is such a lively, warm community, and that has really got me thinking about how the Kampung spirit has evolved over the years with the advancements in technology, into the active, vibrant community it is today.

There was a time (50 yrs ago! #SG50 mah!) when “远亲不如近邻” was so rich in meaning, when doors of houses needn’t be closed, and neighbours greeted one another like the best of chums when they met. There was a time when neighbours readily shared food with one another, when kids would play catching together under the hot sun while the mothers gossiped and the fathers shared a beer. There was a time when there was no YOU, there was no ME, and there was only WE and US. For neighbours were all part of a larger family and community that grew up together, people who embraced the present and welcomed the future TOGETHER.

Those nostalgia-tinged days will forever hold a special spot of reminisce in many of our parents’ and grandparents’ hearts.

Then, things started to change. Singapore prospered. Our economy advanced and society opened up. It is sadly ironic though, that with the opening up of our society and economy, people started being more insular and closed. Competition was the name of the game. MYOB (Mind Your Own Business) was the catchphrase of the day. YOU and ME started to appear again, as neighbours walked past one another like strangers passing by in the stealth of the night.

I am somewhat ashamed to say that I myself, even as I was growing up, made no effort to remember the names of my neighbours other than the obligatory cursory small talks, and polite greetings. I simply never gave the neighbours much thought, for the only thing tying us together was proximity, and polite manners was more than sufficient to maintain cordial neighbourly relations for people living in the same area. I was just going along with the flow, using my identity as a student then to mask the lack of interest in the community I was living within and the fact that I could have in fact, contributed so much more to the culture, spirit and welfare of this community in my little ways.

And now that I am preparing to move into my own home in a couple of months, I hope to fully do my part to change this. I have yet to even move into my estate but already, I feel as if I know so many of my future neighbours not just by faces, but also by their names, their families, their personalities and their penchants. We share lobangs over whatsapp, and problems over the estate’s facebook group, all pioneered, maintained and spruced by active administrators who are the new sons and daughters of Punggol. These guys don’t get paid, but still devote their precious time and effort to maintain the online orderliness. Neighbours troubleshoot one another’s problems and questions online without asking for anything in return.

And lest you think this communication and interaction is all kept within cyberspace, and is but a pathetic excuse and imitation of how real life interaction should be, I am most happy to tell you that these cyberspace activities do translate into neighbourly friendliness in reality. House visitations, be it spontaneous or planned, are conducted, and neighbours welcome each other with open arms and cans of beer. It is really nice and heartwarming to see the smudging of lines between cyberspace and reality, where the two converge into the modern society as we know today.

Processed with Moldiv

Processed with Moldiv

Things are not all rosy and peachy though. The one thing that has evolved with the popping up of social media is digilantism, or otherwise known as internet vigilantism. In online communities such as a housing project’s facebook group, which consists of a rather tight-knit community, some people have taken their unhappiness with thoughtless acts by others living within the same community by naming and shaming these acts. Upon deeper probing, it is sometimes discovered that some of these people who posted, haven’t actually made the effort to speak to people who they potentially have an issue with, and used the convenience of the internet to air their woes.

Granted, this mostly generates a response quickly and social pressure may embarrass or scare the offender into cleaning up his acts. However, the BIGGEST problem I have with the practice of naming and shaming is that VERY OFTEN, we are only presented with a SINGLE side to the story, a biased point of view, with captions that frame a picture unfairly. The other problem I have is that Naming and Shaming people online DISPLACES actual interaction, where people are contented to be keyboard warriors who vent their frustrations online in order to see corrective actions being done.

 A simple example to illustrate these two points is when people complain of neighbours living above them having noisy renovations done during the weekend or throwing rubbish into the common area when it could be due to their contractors, contractors whom they might have briefed against committing such acts. Wouldn’t a note to the owner of the offending household, a direct communication be so much more efficient, effective and most importantly, kinder?

 Lastly, such digilantism, with which comes along naming and shaming, inculcates an atmosphere of fear within the community. It’s a fine line to tread indeed, the precarious balance between shaming and sharing of information with the community, but as we evolve, I am hopeful that we can revive our Kampung spirit in the best possible way. So while we welcome an update to our old Kampung Days in the digital age of the millennial century, let us do our best and our parts to ensure that our kampung community is as kind as our forefathers had known.

 Cheers to the Kampung Spirit!


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