So a little boy flipped his finger at the camera towards the end of National Day Parade 2017 and became a viral Internet sensation.
In just two seconds, he became the focus of a $15 million production, practically stealing the entire show. Almost every mention of the parade on my Facebook newsfeed seemed to talk only about him, which made me wonder if everyone thought this year’s parade was such a dull affair that the only thing worth talking about was the finger.
Some media outlets have suggested that what he did has caused outrage, and several patriotic souls on my friends list, scandalised by his actions, are demanding that both he and his parents be punished. There are those who have also branded him a hero for what they imagine is his courage.
But by and large, most of the reactions have been amusement, thankfully.
We know now that Littlefinger is a student of Henry Park Primary School and the school has since come out to say the boy has been counselled by the school and his parents, and was “deeply apologetic” for what he did. While I hope that would be the end of it, I have much less faith in the Internet and have learned never to underestimate the stupidity of those using it.
If we called him a villain, we would be holding Littlefinger to the standards of behaviour we expect of adults, which isn’t fair. When I first saw the video clip, I seriously wondered whether the young boy had any inkling that what he was doing could be seen as offensive. It could just be that he was striking a pose he thought was cool without actually considering its meaning and the consequent reactions. Or he could have done it at the end of a very long, tiring day for him, without considering that anyone would pick up on it.
At worst, he was just being a naughty boy. He has been counselled, and perhaps reprimanded. No caning is necessary. No severing of his offensive finger is warranted. And no jail term needs to be considered – for him or his parents.
To call him a hero would be just as unkind. Many who have done so may merely be projecting their own frustrations and politicising something a lot more innocent for their own gains. Others have lauded his courage, and even called him the next Amos Yee in what they think is a good way. Memes that have come out of this episode include one celebrating “thug life” with Littlefinger’s picture embellished with bling, shades and a smoking cigarette dangling from the edge of his mouth.
Funny? Maybe to you, and perhaps me on a humourless day. But I didn’t laugh when I saw it. And I’m not sure how Littlefinger would feel about it. The attention could be embarrassing rather than amusing for him. He may also be subject to ridicule and bullying from his classmates, which won’t be a good thing.
Also, the greater danger of celebrating his action is that it would negate the counselling he has been given. He may prefer the adulation over discipline, and become impossible to counsel in future instances of inappropriate behaviour. It is also frightening to consider that his classmates or all children like him, for that matter, may see that such inappropriate behaviour is celebrated rather than punished. I wouldn’t want my son thinking it is possible not only to get away with being rude, but to be praised as a hero in the process, and for that I am hoping Littlefinger’s teachers, parents and the adults around him manage the situation that he has found himself in appropriately and with sensitivity.
There is another danger, really. Celebrating the heroics of Littlefinger might start an unhealthy fad: Children could start posting videos of themselves flipping the finger, and we could become famous for starting a trend we couldn’t possibly be proud of later.
And what about the casual laughter, those little jokes we are making of the episode? It might seem like a small matter of innocuous mirth for us to have a little chuckle over, but, without knowing what actually went through the boy’s head, are we perhaps doing something that could traumatise him without knowing it? With so much and such easy access children now have to the Internet, it would not be a big surprise if many of these careless giggles reach his ears, and his ego – we have no idea how delicate, how fragile it is in his formative years – could take a battering. There’s also the worry again that all the online mirth might cancel out the endeavours to discipline the young boy – how is he going to have any sense that what he did is wrong if so many people think it is so funny?
In a sense, our own reactions to the action of a tween may be a reflection on our own maturity. Perhaps we should chill out, grow up, and let the poor boy – who, may I reiterate, regrets and has apologised for his actions – reflect on what he has done and grow up, too.
Oh, did you know that another child was also caught on video doing about the same thing as the aforesaid Littlefinger? Well, we are not saying another word about it because there really isn’t a need to anymore.