“I’m tired of this negativity. Just makes me want to give up and withdraw for a few days,” a colleague ranted to me last Friday.
It had just been announced that dining group size would go back from 5 to 2 in light of the recent KTV and Jurong Fishery Port clusters.
Four days later, measures were further tightened marking a return to Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) until Aug 18, where dining in and indoor mask-off activities will not be allowed.
For the past week, Singapore’s daily infection cases have spiked into the hundreds, thanks to the recent clusters around the country.
Yet, as troublesome as these new restrictions are, they do not compare to the tragic news of a 13-year-old boy who was killed in his school on Monday, which left Singaporeans speechless.
Bad news travels fast
The past week has not been easy. We have been hit with bad news stacked on top of bad news.
Singaporeans looking forward to a celebratory National Day period, dining out with friends and family, instead have to deal with news of a month of dabao food again. On top of that, this year’s National Day Parade has been postponed to Aug 21.
On the business side, gyms and beauty salons bemoan the loss in income for the next one month. F&B outlets and retailers have “fully exhausted their reserves” and more closures are expected. Some say that they should not be penalised for clusters that did not come from their industries.
People are complaining, pointing fingers — and posting memes.
If you can’t do anything about it, might as well laugh about it right?
Temasek Holdings chief executive Ms Ho Ching took a jab at it, sharing two memes on her Facebook page with a caption advising people to get their Covid-19 vaccine jabs.
People are upset, and they are tired. And some of us resort to humor. Which is fine — we all have different ways of dealing with difficult situations.
Playing the blame game
But what is dangerous and worrying is the racism and discrimination that has pervaded social media and our own private conversations.
Netizen Jolin Dang shared on social media that she had been asked by a Grab driver: “Are you working in a KTV?” after finding out that she is Vietnamese.
Some taxi drivers have allegedly told Vietnamese passengers to leave their cabs.
When my colleague complained to me, I told him: “I think it’s normal for people to want to put the blame on something or someone, because people are suffering the consequences of something they were in no part of.”
“But we can be better than that,” I added.
Yet, I realised that I’m no better than those who have been playing the blame game.
While I have kept comments to myself, I admit that I have done my fair share of complaining as well — albeit to my long-suffering hubby.
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But let’s flip the script. Let’s stop dwelling on anger and frustration. Don’t let negativity invade society, much like Covid has invaded our lives.
Call me naive, but I want us to come out of this KTV cluster episode not feeling more disappointed, angry or resigned, but stronger, and dare I say, hopeful.
Hopeful because we are more prepared.
Hopeful because we have learnt from our mistakes.
Hopeful because we now see the cracks in our society, and we can do something about it.
Covid is a magnifying glass
I came across an Instagram post that compared Covid-19 to a magnifying glass.
In the post, the writer shares that Covid-19 has allowed us to shift our attention to the vulnerable groups in society.
These include the migrant workers who have been confined to their dormitories and worksites for the past year, the hawkers who are forced to consider closing their stores as business continues to suffer due to dining-in restrictions and the isolated elderly who do not have the skills to use digital technology to connect with family and friends.
In each of these cases, we have heard stories of how Singaporeans have come together to support them and raise awareness of their living conditions.
Back in April last year, migrant workers were shunned as they formed the bulk of Singapore’s Covid-19 cases, a total of more than 54,000 from dormitories.
Yet it also forced us to take a hard look at their plight and living conditions, with both formal and informal groups calling for better care for our migrant workers. The Migrant Workers Support Coalition, a fully volunteer-run ground-up initiative, was started in April 2020 to meet the needs of migrant workers affected by the pandemic.
Now, thanks to the KTV cluster, Covid’s magnifying glass has focused on women working in an industry sector where exploitation is rife.
Is there anything we can do to help these women?
So instead of pushing blame, let’s look out for these vulnerable groups in our communities and consider how we can try to bridge the gap.
How can we move forward?
It is only human nature to want to search for solutions, fix the cracks, find a cure.
What I’ve come to realise is that sometimes, there are none.
The world isn’t meant to be a perfect place. It isn’t meant to be free of prejudice or ignorance; pain or tragedy. There isn’t a silver bullet to solve society’s ills.
There is no magical cure, but perhaps there might be some soothing balm.
If we can make it a little better — if instead of pointing fingers, we can offer a word of encouragement or support to those who are hurting or those on the receiving end of discrimination — shouldn’t we at least try?
In an open letter to children in Singapore following the River Valley High School student death, Mary George, the editor of newsletter What’s Up, wrote: “My wish for you is that you will always still see that there is more good than bad happening in this world. And that you will add to the common good by being kind and caring to yourself and others… and having compassion for your fellow human beings.”
Bad news is unavoidable. Covid will become endemic and we will live with small outbreaks of the virus from time to time in the new normal. Sometimes, tragedy strikes and we have no way of dealing with it except to go through it, with our heads down against the storm.
But there is only one way we can move forward, and that is compassion.
Compassion, and a sliver of hope.