Disclosure: the author was a former NLB employee.
It is within human nature to find fault with others, and Singaporeans LOVE complaining. It is one of our national pastimes. Combine this with the anonymity and convenience of social media like Facebook and Twitter, and you will start to see complaints multiplying hundred-fold.
I saw this reach its zenith the last couple of weeks as multiple events close to home occurred one after another. First, the NLB pulping incident. Second, the shooting down of MH17. And if you want to count the event several weeks before, you can also add in Pink Dot.
When I see complaints like the following, it gives me great sadness:
“Seriously flying so close to a no fly zone ?! I think no one is gonna fly with them ever given the questionable safety standards.“
If you had read the news properly, you would have known that the route across the Ukrainian border was an internationally approved route. Even an SIA flight had used the route recently (and very luckily did not get shot down by the rebels).
Rule no. 1: Make sure you understand all of the important facts before you complain. Ignorance is not an excuse.
The whole NLB incident in my opinion has been blown way out of proportions, all because of ONE parent who complained. And all because NLB decided to respond to that parent’s complaint.
I used to work at NLB as a temporary staff for five months, and was responsible for the handling of feedback forms placed throughout the library. It was my job to read the feedback from the public, enter them into the computer for record keeping, and highlight any important issues to my supervisors.
There was one notable complaint that stood out: an elderly lady had complained about the lack of safety barriers in one of the exhibits, where she had tripped off a platform and almost injured herself. This feedback surprised my entire department of supervisors, because it was something that they had not anticipated at all. Still, they made the effort to put up temporary barriers around those platforms in the exhibition, and by the next week, permanent barriers had been installed.
I can say with absolute, 100% certainty that NLB always listens to feedback. We take feedback from the public seriously. And what happens when we address a customer’s complaint and fix it? No one thanks us. Instead, people still insist on finding fault.
Even after NLB had organised a press conference, apologised to the public, and offered to move any controversial children’s books to the adult section, people STILL want to find fault and complain. What more do you want? It was an honest mistake, stemming from a genuine desire to respond to a customer’s original feedback.
This whole pulping incident has angered me immensely, because I learned that Singaporeans are quick to complain, slow to offer gratitude, and absolutely unwilling to forgive. If you live in Singapore, go take a look at your Facebook timeline now. You don’t need to scroll very far to find some sort of complaint or rant-filled post.
I joined Facebook and Twitter originally because I understood the potential of online discourse and community-sharing that both those platforms offered. The exchanging of media, discussions, and the ability to connect with old friends and new. Now? All I see on Facebook is complain, complain, complain, COMPLAIN.
It is within our individual freedom and rights to post what we want, and to do what we want, yes. But we should be focusing our efforts on more important issues. Does all of this complaining against MAS and NLB REALLY help us in the end? Singaporeans, if you can show this sort of passionate online discourse, then please replicate it for the 2016 General Elections. Choose your battlefield correctly and direct your energies towards the most important issues in society first.
At the end of the day, we have to learn to accept that all these incidents are part and parcel of life. Plane accidents will always happen, homophobic parents will always exist, and Singaporeans will never change. And that, in my opinion, is the biggest failure of having a meritocratic society: we are so used to achieving success, that when something stands in our way and challenges us, we are unable to accept it or endure it.
We just complain.