Saturday, February 14, 2009

Lee Wei Ling's lack of empathy

Notwithstanding Lee Wei Ling's privileged position to comment on just about anything, her forthrightness has earned her a weekly column in the Sunday Times. But unfortunately, except for the occasional pearls that fall out, most of her comments fall short of being wise in any way.

Her comments today on empathy was somewhat scary and unreal in its coldness and lack of logic.

Looking out for oneself and one's own is a reality of life which probably applies to most animal species. This is how packs, herds and tribes survive. Without this empathy, it becomes everyone for his/her own and everything unravels. She seemed somewhat surprised by her own empathy for people around her that she could identify with. But what really surprised and scared me was her confession of an obvious lack of empathy beyond what she could identify as family, friends or fellow tribesman. Did she not consider that a fellow human being in Darfur or further, was worthy of consideration or assistance? Was that distant being not a fellow citizen of our race, and a fellow passenger here on planet earth?

She excused herself in the end by the almost flippant remark that this lack of empathy beyond our shores kinda indicates that we have a "Singapore identify that transcends race and religion". And that somehow seems noble to her.

I would have been ashamed to discover that my compatriots cared little for people and suffering beyond our tiny prosperous little island where poverty was represented by not owning an HDB flat.


auntielucia said...

Gigi: got to disagree with u on your post re LWL's empathy or lack of it for foreigners..

I re-read her article and feel that what is expressed is very commensensical. We can't love or help the whole world, too many bits of which are in trouble.

It's the reverse of Eclesiastes abt all the rivers flowing into the sea etc... all that S'poreans have to offer the world is like using tea-spoons of water to quench a blazing fire.

Put another way: the Chinese saying "far away water can't douse a local fire".

That's y I often think our involvement in Habitats for Humanity etc is more for our own good feelings than really making a difference.

LWL is right abt feeling more for someone right here in S'pore than someone whose face and fate we only know from reports. It wld have been different had she said she didn't feel anything for suffering foreign workers here.

Come to think of it, those of use who want to do something for Dafor or wherever: have they done anything for abandoned foreign workers or do they say leave it to MOM?

gigamole said...

Welcome back, AuntieLucia!! Glad to see you again.

You are right that it represents some commonsense. However, that to me is really self serving. One could argue that we should first look after ourselves before looking after our family members. Then our family first before our compatriots. Then Singapore first before the world. It would not be illogical.

But to me our humanity calls for more than that. I believe we are called to be a bit less self serving than common sense dictates. Otherwise where would the Mother Teresas come from? She would have done better looking after the poor in Albania.

Such sentiments that LWL profess strikes me as just excuse to blind ourselves to needs beyond our comfort zone. No need to look further than the range of our tv remote control. If we can't reach it...don't bother.


arron said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
auntielucia said...

Hi Gigi: think u've been spammed by Arron...;)
as for the topic of our discussion: haven't u heard of the saying "charity begins at home". And Mother Teresa stood out precisely becos she's an aberration rather than the norm, tho I mean no offence to her memory when I say this.

gigamole said...

yep...deleted him.

Charity begins at home? Yeah, often just an excuse for it never ever leaving home...And Ma theresa will continue to be an aberration if charity never leaves home!!

Time to change the world AuntieL!!