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Jump to conclusions and you may shame yourself

You’re probably aware that in mid-August, a middle-aged woman was photographed squatting with her pants down and  defecating at Holland Village mrt. She wiped herself and left the scene before anyone could stop or identify her. This shocking incident took place despite the fact that one never has to walk far to get to a restroom in Singapore.

The photo of the defecating woman at Holland Village went viral on multiple social media platforms, sparking a flurry of negative sentiments and suspicions that the woman was a non-Singaporean. Netizens launched a modern witch-hunt, lambasting her lack of civic consciousness and even dissed PRCs in general for being an “uncivilised” bunch who shouldn’t have invaded Singapore.

hysteric woman Are we a nation of witch-hunters?

As it turned out, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has later identified the woman as a 34-year-old Singaporean female with a long history of schizophrenia and intellectual disability. So she wasn’t a PRC after all! Those ignorant naysayers have made a fool of themselves. Jump to conclusions and you may shame yourself instead.

Despite the fact that the defecating woman at Holland Village is actually a Singaporean, the online witch-hunt didn’t wane. Keyboard warriors, emboldened by a degree of anonymity, continued to rage against the PRCs.

These netizens seized the opportunity to blame foreigners for everything, from our overcrowded trains to talking too loudly on their mobile phones to competing for jobs and university spots here.

Different ‘tiers’ of Singaporeans

Some commentators on online forums were adamantly insistent that she’s not Singaporean. A common question raised was, “What kind of Singaporean is she? Did she just get her IC in the last few years?”

Joanna Chia lashed out on theonlinecitizen.com, “With the current sentiment about foreign trash, can the authorities afford to let it be known it was a foreign trash that crapped in public and put the spotlight on its immigration policy that has obviously gone wrong?”

So what if the woman was indeed a PRC or a relatively new Singapore citizen? At this point, may I remind everyone that many of our forefathers came from China too?

Before the influx of recent PRC immigrants, as early as 1992, there were signs displayed in public lifts warning people not to urinate there. Now, if Singaporeans of that era weren’t guilty of committing such acts, those signs wouldn’t have been necessary in the first place. Have we forgotten that we only recently became the first-world, clean and green city of today?

Herd instinct of bullies

A straw poll among my peers revealed that the majority of them admitted to being “privately xenophobic”, and they are particularly against the mainland Chinese (PRCs). How did this resentment against immigrants start?

C.W. said, “My sense is, there is a very small minority of people who are especially virulent in attacking foreigners online. They are so sucked into their own narrative of foreigners being the root of social problems that they work themselves into a frenzy trying to put foreigners down. This minority look to the loudest critic of foreigners as their hero, as the leader of the pack. Trapped in their own echo chamber, they derive a sense of in-group solidarity and belonging by hurling greater and greater abuse at foreigners.”

Sandy, an American working here, observes with a dose of sarcasm, “Nationality bashing gives those who jump to judgement a certain warm fuzzy feeling of superiority.” There is the perception that Singaporeans or Singapore expats are somehow more sophisticated and civilised.

Let’s be a little nicer to one another

Personally, I’m aghast that we have to put others down (especially when they’re not even the culprits) just to feel a little better about ourselves. I believe what we can do is to actively avoid fanning the flames of cyber-bullying.

It’s cruel, unfair and short-sighted of us to jump to conclusions and play the blame game without sorting out the facts. What has years of promoting multi-racial, multi-ethnicity tolerance in our education system led to?

What are your views about the defecating woman at Holland Village mrt? We want to hear from you. Drop us a comment now!

By Runbin Yew