Mentally ill man punching Flag Day fundraiser

From ‘Hold family of mentally ill patient responsible for public misdeeds’, 1 Aug 2012, ST Forum

(Edward Zaccheus): MAY I plead with families of mentally ill people not to let their loved ones roam freely in public (“Dealing with mentally ill offenders”; July 6)? Last year, I was punched twice by a mentally ill adult while I was seeking donations for Flag Day along Waterloo Street. I called the police, who arrested him and sent him to the Institute of Mental Health where he was once a patient.

I could not seek compensation because my assailant was a mental person. When I contacted his family, I was chided for calling the police; instead of admitting responsibility for improperly caring for his mentally disabled father, the son blamed me. The incident has convinced me that while the mentally ill should rightfully be protected by the law, those in charge of their care must be held responsible for a mentally ill person’s misdeeds in public, especially if they are violent.

The relatives should be responsible enough to ensure that the public is safe from potentially violent behaviour.

If the writer wasn’t punched in the face, he would have gotten the same treatment as DJ Glenn Ong for his remark on ‘mad dogs’ needing to be put to sleep.  But you don’t need ex-patients, or escaped patients, to cause a ruckus in public. Anyone diagnosed with even a behavioral disorder like depression may snap in public, especially those who push old ladies off a bus.  The writer later clarified in a follow up letter on 7 Aug  that he was referring only to mentally ill people with ‘violent tendencies’. Perhaps Zaccheus was unlucky here; we’re more likely to be bruised in a scuffle with gangsters, road ragers, drunkards or priority seat hogging seniors than mentally ill people looking to thump you on the nose. Most of the bizarre behaviour we see don’t come from mental patients at all. You have pathological liars like Aristocare’s Kelvin Ong, random people roaming about in the nude, and serial pedophiles like Jonathan Wong. Then there’s politicians, whose decisions could affect the livelihoods of not just one poor guy with a donation tin, but everyone in the country.

Letting a dangerously ill person out is like putting a loaded gun in a child’s hand, and here the family plays the role of ‘weaponising’ the child. Yet many perfectly healthy ‘normal’ people out there are capable of the same, if not worse, kind of irrational, unprovoked violence. Who is to decide if a schizophrenic is fit to take a cab without strangling the driver, or a pedophile to soak in as children’s pool without getting frisky? Who can predict how much more dangerous someone like that could be if they’re confined at home? What if they end up hurling crockery from the window in the nude? There are safeguards in place to certify mental patients before they’re fit to be released into society, not so for the teenager who spends 8 hours a day playing bloody shoot-em-up video games and fantasising about running through pedestrians with a chainsaw instead of boobies like normal kids do. We can’t assume all the time that the only thing that separates a violent mental patient and a violent ‘normal’ person is the latter being ‘responsible for their own actions’.

There was a time when you didn’t need to think twice before labelling people with mental disorders. Before Woodbridge was a euphemism for the Mental Hospital, we had an Insane Hospital and Lunatic Asylum.  People who went cuckoo were called MADMEN in the press, and were hosed down by the police for disrupting the peace rather than escorted to the nearest clinic. In the 20′s, someone who went on a killing spree with no fathomable reason was a MANIAC run AMOK, and seemingly had the CUNNING of the INSANE. In the seventies, these patients were labelled ‘ILL’ in quotation marks. We were merciless in our categorisation of the psychotic, yet today, these politically incorrect terms have been defanged of their original usage. Insane and mad have become ‘ridiculous’ as in ‘He’s insane/mad to quit his job now’. Dick Lee calls himself the MAD Chinaman (Chinaman also a derogatory term). Artists are ‘mad geniuses’. Asylum is now something that people SEEK (refugees) instead of RUN AWAY from.  ‘Maniac’ is used to describe obsessive hobbyists, as in ‘He’s a maniac at the gym’, while ‘lunatic’ and ‘amok’ are rarely used these days. In the 80′s, it was OK to use ‘patients with an UNSOUND MIND, though nobody until now can define what a ‘sound’ mind is.

WOODBRIDGE, however, once believed to be named after an ACTUAL wooden bridge, has become synonymous with mental illness, and you can’t go wrong if you use the former instead of IMH when telling a taxi driver to take you there. In 1998, a road named Jalan Woodbridge was wiped off Singapore’s map and replaced with Gerald Drive because of its associations (Jln Woodbridge taken off map, 5 July 1998, ST). In 2002, however, IMH’s CEO tried to run a Club M.A.D campaign, comparing the hospital to the resort Club Med, a poor choice of acronyms (it actually means MAKE A DIFFERENCE) which does absolutely nothing to erase the stigma of mental illness at all, and only to bring us backwards to the jolly ol’ straitjacket days of the Sanitarium.

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Raffles Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

From ‘Solve quandary by having both names for museum’, 16 Aug 2011, ST Forum and ‘Don’t sever museum’s historic link’, 12 Aug 2011, ST Forum

(Ong Sheue Ling): IN THE near future, Singapore will have a new natural history museum. However, I am saddened to learn that the new museum will be named Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum instead of retaining its current name – Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, or simply Raffles Museum.

…Raffles Museum, founded in 1849, was brought about by Sir Stamford Raffles’ interest in natural history. An eminent naturalist, Raffles was not only the founder of Singapore but also the visionary behind Raffles Museum. Thus, the name Raffles Museum not only pays tribute to the man who contributed significantly to the natural history of Singapore, but also reminds future generations about the museum’s heritage. We should not forget our past as we move forward.

Over the years, Raffles Museum has established its role in research, teaching and training in both the regional and international context. The name Raffles Museum can be likened to a brand. Isn’t branding just as important? It could prove useful in making an impression and promoting future exhibitions.

To simply change the name because of the need to acknowledge the biggest donor is not justifiable.

…I hope the relevant parties will consider retaining the museum’s original name. In recognition of the Lee Foundation’s substantial donation, a wing of the museum could be named after Dr Lee.

(Bernie Cheok): …The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research was named after the founding father of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, in recognition of his immeasurable contributions to the natural history of Singapore.

The public is thankful for the generous donation of $25 million by the Lee Foundation which will go a long way in funding research and study. The Raffles link to the museum can still be maintained by naming it “Raffles – Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum” instead.

It seems like our forefathers are having a hard time getting named posthumously after things. Not everyone was happy with Tan Kah Kee MRT station because of its location and its overt link to Hwa Chong, nor Ng Teng Fong Hospital because he just seemed to be a really rich guy and did not come across as the philanthropist like Tan Tock Seng was. Some forefathers like S C Goho have been forgotten entirely, with someone suggesting that he be named after a bus interchange. Which leaves us with rubber magnate and legendary philanthropist Dato Lee Kong Chian, who, last I checked,  has libraries and schools but not a flower named after him like Raffles has. Incidentally, the Lee foundation also donated a whopping $60 million to the National Library at Victoria Street in 2003, and although we have a Lee Kong Chian Reference Library in the same building, the National Library hasn’t been renamed the Lee Kong Chian Library, yet. Adding the troublesome hyphen to form a Raffles-Lee Kong Chian hybrid as Mr Cheok suggests would mislead visitors into thinking Raffles and Dato Lee are one and the same person, by mistaking our founder’s surname as Lee’s first name (We know him more as Stamford Raffles rather than Thomas)

It’s one thing to name a new public hospital after a rich man because hospitals provide an essential service and people will still go there for medical treatment whether they  like the name or not.  It’s another to replace a renown ‘brand’  of a museum with a rich man’s name altogether. You can name libraries, theatres, airports, bridges, hospitals and universities after famous men but somehow putting Lee Kong Chian’s name to a museum of natural history is like renaming Universal Studios to the Goh Chok Tong Amusement Mega-Complex.  A museum’s description should be neat, simple and state exactly what it’s a repository for, whether it’s a museum of toys, Asian civilisations, peranakan culture, war or sex. More importantly, it shouldn’t be mistaken for another museum with a similar name. Names can also be awkward, like our very own Fuk Tak Chi Museum (which showcases Chinese heritage, contrary to what most would believe), yet one can also turn dull, pedestrian names like Singapore Art Museum into catchy acronyms (SAM) too. No matter how much funding is granted to museums, their objective is always to draw a crowd, for that is what museums all over the world do, getting people in to gape at old stuff. And ‘selling’ it with a marketable name that one can identify with is just part of the business plan.

Besides, the Dato already has had two shots of museum fame, the Lee Kong Chian Museum of Asian Culture, (the old Nanyang University), and the current Lee Kong Chian Art Museum, NUS. To further confuse matters, he also has two Schools (Business in SMU and Medicine NTU) to his name. There has, as far as I’m aware, only ever been one Raffles Museum.

Raffles Museum 1936

SMRT’s $5000 compensation is tragic

From ‘Unfair’, 16 June 2011, ST Forum,  ‘Thai teen’s family sues SMRT for $3.4m’, article by Poon Chian Hui in ST, 18 June 2011.

MR DAVID CHOO: ‘The accident in which Thai teenager Peneakchanasak Nitcharee lost both her legs was tragic. What is equally tragic is SMRT’s meagre offer of $5,000 in compensation when this young girl’s family is faced with medical and rehabilitation costs north of $200,000. In contrast, it is heartening to see ordinary Singaporeans rallying around Nitcharee’s family with donations and support. It is time SMRT did the same.’

(ST)…THE family of the Thai teenager who lost both legs following a horrific accident at the Ang Mo Kio MRT station in April is suing SMRT for $3.4 million. The writ filed in the High Court here was served yesterday on the transport operator, which confirmed that it had received it.

…Although the sum received (from gifts and donations) has crossed the $400,000 mark, it is but a small proportion of her medical bills, spurring the family to take legal action.

Mummy's probably on the phone with a lawyer

This is indeed an awkward juxtaposition of events. Singaporeans rallied around the victim, donating a $250,000 check to cover her medical fees, probably assuming that the $5000 pittance that SMRT’s offering isn’t enough. The  5000 figure happens to be in line with our Government’s tendency to donate sums of money with the number 5 in it, the last donation, which left Singaporeans similarly unimpressed, was towards the victims of the Japanese tsunami. But that’s another story.

What happened to Nitcharee is no doubt tragic, and her will to survive and make light of a horrific situation is worth emulating. But we don’t hear as much of our locals making such donations to the numerous Singaporeans maimed or killed by trains all this while, which raises the question of what makes Nitcharee so special? Is it because she’s just a kid, was all alone in a foreign country or is this generosity triggered by the inspiring tales of her winsome, smiling fortitude in the face of tragedy? Why are we Singaporeans so nice to foreign students but turn a blind eye to our own kind?

We could have left it at that, until this twist in the tale with Nitcharee’s family coming back with a vengeance, undermining everything that Nitcharee represents (overcoming crises and getting on with life), all the loving memories she has of Singapore and all the goodwill expressed by her sympathisers. But how responsible should SMRT be, really, for someone inexplicably falling onto the track? The fact that this suit comes from foreigners and is scrutinised by millions of Thais further complicates the issue, as it would set a worrying precedent for compensation seekers who have been in some way or other incapacitated by an oncoming MRT train, whether it’s being amputated or getting a nasty bruise from the doors clamping the arm when one’s rushing to board. SBS has in fact been successfully sued for causing grievous hurt to one of the infamous complaining Khek sisters for an unnecessary emergency brake, ironically an action, if successful, that could have saved SMRT all this trouble in the first place. If the Thais win this case, instead of merely teaching SMRT a lesson on the importance of safety doors, we could also see a rise in desperate people trying their luck getting hit by a train before these doors become fully implemented.

As a commuter, I’d hate to see SMRT involved in such legal hijinks, nevermind if they could easily afford it. But losing a few million and bracing for more will only put ordinary citizens who take the train faithfully, without fooling around behind the yellow line, at a disadvantage. Now they can justify raising transport fees, or cutting back on the Downtown Line and extra trains, or spend less resources on reducing waiting times, all because these people are busy suing them on behalf of train jumpers/track stumblers. Nitcharee’s case is unfortunate, but I believe the Thai government, and especially Thai donors, should work something out on their side as well. Perhaps a Facebook page to support the funding of Nitcharee’s prosthetic legs? Either way, this is a classic study of a story of unbridled hope and altruism gone sour, and only God knows what Nitcharee’s Singaporean donors are thinking right now.

NSP donations in Nicole Seah’s personal account

From ‘回应设专属户头收取捐款 佘雪玲:我依法处理捐款’, 22 May 2011, article in omy.sg (LWZB)

全国大选已经尘埃落定,深受网民热捧,名气爆红的佘雪玲如今被人质疑她在网上呼吁支持者捐钱给她协助支付竞选费用,但使用的账号却是她名下的私人户头,似有不妥之处。

马林百列的林姓居民(29岁)告诉《新报》他不介意捐款作为佘雪玲的竞选经费,但捐款应该以国民团结党的名义来进行会比较透明。

佘雪玲在面簿上回复说,她设立专属银行户头来收取竞选捐款,是为了确保捐款来源没问题。

Translation: Questions have been raised by the public about why Nicole’s request for donations to defray NSP campaigning costs include directions to make payment into an account under her own name instead of NSP.

It’s reasonable to be suspicious of any form of fund soliciting and be on one’s guard against misappropriation if it’s done through social portals like Facebook. It involves money after all, though Singaporeans have donated to social media advocates for far more frivolous reasons than election campaigning, like blogger Qiu Qiu’s boob job for example.  Unlike the itemised bill for NSP expenses, a sponsored boob job pays off visual dividends and you would know directly if your money was well spent on such assets or not, but it’s such exploitative sympathy poaching for breast augmentation which makes serious business like Nicole’s impassioned online request sound less sincere and serious than it’s intended to be. Still, what to do if you have more than a 100,000 fans on Facebook. It’s a goldmine just waiting to be tapped, though Nicole is also taking a considerable risk exposing herself to cries of exploitation by fans and the watchful eye of circling media vultures. I’m surprised no one in NSP has yet thought of capitalising on her popularity and selling Nichole Seah merchandise ala Yam Ah Mee coffee mugs to ‘defray’ their costs.

Ultimately it’s a case of ‘caveat emptor’ here, and if the public is not comfortable or satisfied with how their money will be used in the NSP cause, then they have every right to reject the plea. The problem with using a personal account, other than exaggerated fears of funds being channeled into non-political gains (especially coming from a 24 year old Opposition candidate), is having to take extra precautions not to leak the slightest bit of extravagance online, whether it’s purchasing a new car, making posh wedding hotel reservations and especially flashing branded apparel, knowing how layman Singaporeans become brilliantly meticulous audit accountants only when it comes to how politicians spend money, whether it’s a cooking course in France or a Kate Spade bag (including those who didn’t donate a cent). Nicole may even be forced to live the rest of her political career as an ascetic like Gandhi in order to keep the inevitable scrutiny away, and probably wished that she had done busking at NSP rallies for a fee instead of broadcasting her personal bank account number online.

I wouldn’t donate to NSP myself without getting more information on what ‘Chope’ tissue packs are though (See excerpt from Nicole’s Facebook page below), but I hope for Nicole’s sake that she doesn’t suffer the same flaming and ultimately, fate, as another not so popular, but no less important, Opposition figure in the 80′s requesting donations for an entirely different reason altogether (See below ‘Jeya’s cash drive raises questions,’ 2 Dec 1985, ST Forum).

Hard to resist drawing parallels with the 1985 Jeyaretnam case, though like Nicole’s detailed breakdown of costs, it was clear in the ‘Hammer’ press release that the appeal was ‘personally for the Chairman and Secretary General of the Party’ to cover their legal expenses against criminal charges, though this raises the tantalising scenario of ‘What if JBJ had a Facebook page in 1985′? Also a tantalising opportunity for sweet revenge from a certain Tin Pei Ling since Nicole’s complaint against her Cooling off day flouting, and I can only hope both girls keep their composure, focus on their jobs and stave off the possibility of this overlong GE aftermath descending into a girl-on-girl mudslinging fight to the death.

Ng Teng Fong Hospital sends wrong message

From ‘Name change sends wrong message’, 2 April 2011, article by Salma Khalik, ST

Former Member of Parliament Tan Cheng Bock has stepped down from the board of the upcoming hospital in Jurong because he disagrees with its new name: Ng Teng Fong Hospital.

Dr Tan said that…this was a ‘moral issue’ as it looked as if a rich man could pay to have a public institution named after him. He feels that public institutions should be named after people who had been philanthropists all their lives or had contributed greatly to Singapore.

Also, while the $125 million donation is a large sum, it is small compared to the $1 billion the Government is spending on the 700-bed hospital…

…(Tan Cheng Bock): This is a donation…We must be careful. We’re sending the wrong message to our children and grandchildren. What do I tell them if they ask why a hospital is named after a certain man? That’s because he donated enough money, it’s okay? That means you put money at the top of your list….People like Lee Kong Chian and Tan Tock Seng – they did charity all their lives…they put their heart and soul in and deserve the name.

…He added that another danger of naming a lesser-known donor was if ‘he turns out later to be not such a great guy’.

As a billionaire tycoon, Ng Teng Fong probably screamed at a few subordinates or even fired a staff member or two as part of his job,  but if Dr Tan is the sort willing to dig up dirt to determine if a donor deserves to be called a philanthropist, then he should apply such standards across the board (see list of people named after buildings below, from same article, ST). Just because someone is a prominent politician and has earned a place in our history textbooks doesn’t mean he or she is of flawless character. Even ex presidents and founding fathers have an unsavoury  foible or two, and if there’s such a big fuss over how deserving such people are, one might as well rename all public hospitals after fictional patron saints or aristocratic rulers like the good old days of the British empire. Nobody is going to question if Tan Tock Seng ever lied to his parents or kicked a stray cat in his lifetime, and remember in those days we didn’t have internet trollers or Facebook, so unlike our deceased today, our forefathers had the luxury of bringing their private indiscretions to their graves without nosey ex politicians throwing a fit over their legacies and wondering if they’re ‘great guys’ or not, which by the way is a gender-biased assumption that philanthropy is a man’s thing (Doesn’t help that two women named after buildings are related to men named after buildings, see below).

As to how to answer our children or grandchildren, it’s easy to allow a huge sum of money to shroud our understanding of why such a donation was made in the first place. It’s unlikely that Ng Teng Fong demanded to be named after the hospital, since $125 million is supposedly pittance compared to what the Government chipped in and could be done without. You could say this man, though he wasn’t the perfect giver most of his life, was at least KIND enough to donate part of his fortune in his passing to building this hospital, and that someone, for better or worse, decided to name it after him to recognise his efforts, which is more than what you can say about the majority of top earners in Singapore (You know who you are). Furthermore he’s dead, so he’s no longer around to gloat about it to his tycoon friends. Naming the hospital after a rich man, even if his last good deed were the only one, isn’t sending ‘the wrong message’, it’s people forgetting that a donation is a sacrifice, and assuming that such acts are posthumous tickets to immortality ala King Tut’s tomb, that do. Seriously, if the hospital is up and running and doing what it’s supposed to do, what does the name matter, really? Is it even fair to pluck names out of history and allocate new buildings to them when they had nothing to do with these institutions whatsoever? If we had a philanthropist with as big a heart as Lee Kong Chian called Tan Ah Kow, would we still bequeath such a name to a building? The letter which sparked the whole debate off here.

 

 

Mongolia more generous than Singapore

From ‘Payback time’, 19 March 2011, My Point, ST Forum

(MS JACKIE LAU): ‘Singapore’s economy has benefited much from many Japanese companies’ millions of dollars in investment here. They have been providing jobs for many Singaporeans. Now Japan needs all the help it can get – it is payback time. Surely, our Government can afford to give more than $500,000 if one of the poorer countries in the world, Mongolia, can give US$1 million (S$1.28 million).’

One wonders what formula the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ accountants use in calculating how much to donate in terms of humanitarian aid to a certain country, whether it factors in present diplomatic ties, the extent of disaster damage, the wealth of the country affected, its local investments, or how much of its culture has permeated our own. Too little and you have complainants like Jackie above implying that the Government is ungrateful and stingy. Too much and you have people whose grandfathers were tortured to death by the Japanese during the Occupation complaining that that we’re overdoing it, or have our immediate neighboring countries complaining of being treated unfairly from previous disasters such as Cyclone Nargis (See stats below). Whatever it is, the Japanese Government are in no mood to compare humanitarian monetary aid amongst various countries unlike how our  newlyweds compare ang pow donations from friends and relatives after wedding dinners, but the first step to developing a theory on how the government decides on how much to give in any humanitarian effort, assuming that its generosity is not affected by economic downturns and the like, is to review recent contributions and try to uncover a trend of some sort, taking into account some rather frivolous (but at least more objective measures than sympathy or gratitude) variables like impact , deaths and how close we are geographically.

2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami

Estimated death toll:  300,000
Magnitude: 9.0 on Richter scale
Proximity: Sumatra (Practically neighbours) – 2656.9 km (Sri Lanka)
Relief amount: A cool $2 million ‘humanitarian aid package’ (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia)

2008 Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar

Estimated death toll:22000 (possible underestimate)
Proximity:2442.4 km
Relief amount: US $200000

2009 Padang earthquake, Indonesia

Estimated death toll:1115
Magnitude: 6.7
Proximity: Practically neighbours
Relief amount: $US 50000

2010 Pakistan floods

Estimated Death toll: 1500
Proximity: 4859.15 km
Relief amount: $100,000

2010 Haiti earthquake

Estimated death toll: 250000
Magnitude: 7
Proximity: 17735.4 km
Relief amount: US $50000

2011 Japanese tsunami

Estimated death toll: Still uncertain
Magnitude: 9
Proximity:5255.7 km
Relief amount: $500,000

Looking at the rough stats above, it’s hard to figure out how our government comes up with its figures. Being a member of ASEAN or a close neighbour doesn’t seem to have an impact, considering that more money was sent to Pakistan in 2010 than Indonesia the previous year. It also can’t be a morbid numbers game as a QUARTER of a million Haitians perished but they received a measly fraction of the sum allocated to the 2004 Indian ocean tsunami, which had a similar death toll. Unless you’re an expert in socio-politico-economics, I doubt anyone can make a fair, objective evaluation of how much aid is good enough without delving into cheap sentimentality. Nor can anyone pressure the government into giving more just because we wouldn’t have the obscenely successful Sakae Sushi without the Japanese. I personally don’t know what to make of half a million dollars, but at the rate at which the general public and private companies have been giving, and the surge of international prayers and humanitarian aid going in,  I’m certain the Japanese will prevail nonetheless, regardless of how stingy people deem our government to be. And that’s all that really matters.

Businesses don’t care about Japan Day

From ‘No charity from stores’, 18 March 2011, Voices, Today

(Aleteia Gray): WE HELD a fund-raising event called Japan Day at my children’s school yesterday. I had offered to help organise a stall and thought I would ask for some donations in kind from businesses in our area, to be sold at the fund-raiser.

…To my dismay, when I turned up with my humble pamphlet and donation box at many of the outlets at the shopping centre asking for any kind of donations – be it packets of sweets, soft drinks or even a free coffee – they were quick to tell me no, or that I should come back later or contact their head office.

I got quite cross. I decided to send an email to the supermarket’s head office – and ended up with a donation of 24 bottles of drinking water. The other companies I approached did not even bother replying to my email or phone calls.

In contrast, I was very pleasantly surprised by the manager of a sports store who gave us some apparel to sell. He saw how frustrated I was when I tried asking for a voucher for a free latte from the coffee shop. His sense of duty spoke louder than bureaucracy.

I understand that businesses are run for profit but companies need to acknowledge their social responsibility and offer a helping hand in unfortunate times like this.

The world is an awful lot bigger than Singapore and we never know what position we might find ourselves in tomorrow, so let us all be charitable.

It would have saved Ms Gray here all the trouble in the world (which we know is awful lot bigger than us) if she simply left the donation box at her stall and pasted a Japan flag on it. Or just sell stuff that she bought out of the goodwill of her own heart, inflate the selling price, and donate the profits to the tsunami cause; A win-win situation because shops don’t have to be obligated to donate proceeds of purchases, and tsunami Samaritans can continue to surf the tidal wave of outpouring sympathy along with other suddenly altruistic Singaporeans. Singaporeans who otherwise wouldn’t think twice about shrugging off students canvassing for Flag Day, blind buskers, or old ladies selling tissue paper at hawker centres. Singaporeans who are more engrossed watching Channel News Asia on radiation contamination than the President’s Star Charity over the weekend. Needy Singaporeans are probably wishing that they were struck by a tsunami themselves as we speak.

Did the writer actually intend to sell free vouchers at a fund raiser? Does it even make sense for kids, or anyone for that matter, to pay for vouchers entitling you to free stuff? It’s a terribly inefficient, mindbogglingly roundabout way of doing things, and if you’ve a charitable enough heart, you’d be more than willing to grovel for funds directly from your own school  instead of going around harassing shopkeepers, whose only ‘duty’ here is to support their own families first and foremost, before worrying about the plight of the Japanese people thousands of miles away. Such strong words  like ‘responsibility’, ‘duty’ and (strangely) ‘bureaucracy’ coming out of a person relentlessly projecting her righteous convictions onto others is an insult to philanthropy itself. If the Japanese knew they were receiving aid from an overbearing charity bully who pummels harmless shopkeepers into submission with a cudgel of curmudgeonly compassion, they would probably reject her donations as if it were Yakuza protection money.

And isn’t it a tad hypocritical berating about  ‘social responsibility’ when she’s peddling 24 plastic mineral water bottles which are likely to end up in a landfill leaching toxins, more so in the context of an environmentally conscious society like Japan? It’s like donating beef jerky to Indian disaster victims. If one is really serious about  ‘paying it forward’ for the Japanese people, craft something out of scrap with your own bare hands, an ethic that the Japanese would relate to,  and auction it, not make enemies of people who, for all you know,  are already donating more money to Japan than your puny charity voucher garage sale will ever reap. Of course, there’s a simpler reason why people are not donating; a learned wariness of scamming that occurred even during the wake of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake (Warning, 24 Oct 1923), proof that times of suffering are also the ripest for unsavory characters capitalising on frail human sentimentalities. The world may seem an awful lot bigger to the complainant, but her understanding of the human condition is as awfully simple as it can possibly get.

 

 

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