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13 October 2003
Singapore, the Southeast Asian island that isn’t shy about lashing its people into obedience, has a new behavior idea: public kindness. It is a serious effort, paid for and strongly encouraged by the government.
Smile more, they say. Flush that toilet when you’re done. Be kind enough to turn off the darn cell phone at the movies, and don’t even think about showing up late for a wedding.
“It’s a small act of courtesy,” Noel Hon, chairman of the government-sponsored Singapore Kindness Movement, told the Associated Press. “But it can mean so much to everyone.”
The Kindness Movement recently announced it was issuing 400,000 punctuality reminder cards to couples preparing to send out wedding invitations. Hotels have been asked to report weddings that begin on time to help couples whose guests care enough to be obedient win a “wine and dine” cruise.
Critics, of which there are understandably many, have labeled this quest for civility much too Orwellian. Still, the government has gone to great effort to make ever-elusive kindness a national priority for its 4 million residents. Slogans include: “Be a good neighbor,” “Let’s be courteous;” “Say Please/Thank You.”
Nice try, but half the world is laughing. Who can blame them? Perhaps someone should remind Singapore of its not-so-nice history.