To Complain or not Complain

The idea of the true Singaporean ‘identity’ is one that has been contested and discussed ever since (I presume) we gained independence. Various different terms and even characters have been coined to depict the unique Singaporean culture and its practices.

Here are few infamous terms that are bound to ring a bell to any Singaporean beyond the age of 16:

a) Kiasu

b) Singlish

c) Sarong Party Girl

These terms have all been widely accepted at some point or another but still it seems very difficult to define us. One would have to experience the life and the people in this small dot of a country before he/she could even begin to understand why we are the way we are.

I was deep in thought about this topic, when my cab drove past the Marina Bay Sands on the AYE and my cab driver immediately burst into a serious of grievances and complains he had. He started by complaining about the false promises our government delivered when getting the public’s support for the Integrated Resorts. He then went on to the high cost of living and driving in Singapore.

Midway through one of those points he was interrupted by a driver who cut into his lane.  This sparked another series of complaints about the number of inconsiderate drivers on the roads. I was amazed, not at the cabby’s ranting but actually at the fact that I was entertaining his points. Hmm…

I took a bus on the way back that evening and was seated opposite two middle aged aunties who were going on about their displeasures regarding Singapore’s tax structure and how unfair their employers were. To my amusement, I could see other passengers nodding or smiling in agreement to the ladies’ ranting.

This got me thinking. Almost all Singaporeans love to complain. How many times have we come across people complaining on the train or bus about inconsiderate people who do not give up their seats or do not move to the back? I for one have to constant listen to my mother complaining about our noisy and annoying neighbours (note: my mother was born in bred in India and only came to Singapore after marriage).

Singaporeans love to complain. It’s as simple as that. The better educated and concerned citizen would write in to the newspapers’ Forum section to voice his concerns while the less bold or apt citizens would be content with ranting about it to their friends. Can we therefore say that a common Singapore characteristic is to complain? I have discussed this interesting point with various people and they seem to agree that Singaporeans will always have something to complain about: almost a popular culture, no? Something  that can probably considered a part of our unique identity.

STOMP is an interesting media portal. Citizens such as you and I can upload pictures or videos about anything and everything. I quick glance through the site will show you articles with the following or similar titles:

1) Feels like home? Woman wears bedroom slippers on MRT.

2) How can a pork rib dish at VivoCity restaurant be ‘out of service’?

3) Students hog tables at Starbucks but leave tables unattended.

These articles hardly seem like news worthy stories but more like the ranting of bored citizens. Has STOMP become a portal for citizens to complain online?

STOMPing has become a popular culture with a large number of followers. There are some very good articles and issues brought up via STOMP, but they seem to be drowned amidst the trivial, ‘complaint’ style of the majority of contributions.

Which do you think is a more interesting popular culture then? Complaining or STOMPing?

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2 Responses to To Complain or not Complain

  1. Define popular culture. The informal acceptance of any given set of ideas, perspectives, values, attitudes, images, phenomena and texts. In my opinion, the complaining by Singaporeans has always been more popular between the two. Writing on STOMP or ‘Stomping’ had only taken off recently. Singaporeans has always been ‘spoon fed’ and ‘taken care of’ by the Singapore Government aka PAP. We are obedient citizens who never really have anything bad to complain about our goverment in formal media platform such as TVs, radio and newspaper. Needless to say we do complain. Just in the sanctity of our private spaces – our home, office cafeteria, in taxis and other form of public transport. Never out in the open. For we ‘fear’ the unseemingly ominous backlash or retaliation we might received from the Singapore Government under the multitude of Penal Codes, Statures and Sedition Act of all numerals.

    Maybe deep down, in spite of the public knowledge of the intended use of STOMP as a online platform for fellow Singaporeans to interact. The little cynical voice within those of us who still remains paranoid, chose to instead tread on the safe side of the law by simplying ‘complaining’ about harmless topics.

    To advocators of freedom of speech and liberty, the semiotics behind the setting up of STOMP was not just an online platform for social interaction and active citizen journalism. It serves and signifies a step forward towards a more democratic for Singapore citizens, without having to resort to senseless violence (refer to Bus Hock Kee bus riots).

    Salmiahyus
    S3219185

  2. The Scarlett says:

    Hi, great post! I do agree with you that Singaporeans love to complain, and it is seen part of the Singapore culture, just like the notion of “Kiasu-ism”. STOMP provides a platform for Singaporeans to voice out, air their views and highlights our concerns. STOMP has distinguished itself from the vast number of websites. Most Singaporeans hold this viewpoint, highlighting trends and happenings in Singapore.

    Lets get back to laymen point of view. Why do people complain? For obvious reason, to have our voices heard. ‘Singapore’ as you know, takes comments seriously especially those comments against the Government . We are living in their ‘territory’ and most afraid of raising up our ideas. Take a look at some of the defamation cases: Gopalan Nair, Devan Nair and Dr Chee Soon Juan. We are afraid of the consequences! STOMP however provide an alternative option to ‘complain’, especially those younger generations.

    The idea of online journalism has become a participatory culture, where famous bloggers like Mr Brown and Sarong Party Girl (as you mentioned in the blog post) have become increasingly popular. They critiqued government policies in a sarcastic manner, and this is only one option they can expressed their thoughts and opinions.

    However, if I may add on, I feel that the idea of ‘STOMP-ing’ has gone beyond complaining. There has been quite a lot of salacious articles or photos, and somehow or rather, it has become ‘voyeuristic’ – definitely not healthy for the world of online journalism. Some of the news were banal and mundane too. STOMP should be revamped to promote critical and mature thoughts regarding our social issues one day. This should not be a Singapore culture.
    So back to your question, whether we should complain or not, my answer would be neither, we should play by the ear. Lets keep it, not as option~

    Thanks!
    Muhammad Hadi
    S3218991

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