In a nutshell, Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah has proposed that people bao toh others who litter by snapping them in action in photo or video form. The bao toh-er will then receive half of the summon money collected by the National Environment Agency if the summon is enforced.
Now, Ms Lee isn’t some flash-in-the-pan gun-toting litterbug-hunting MP. She’s put in place several ground-level initiatives in Nee Soon, in which volunteers go out in force to pick up litter. But this latest proposal, modelled after a system in Taiwan, might prove dangerous and detrimental to Singapore’s social fabric.
(1) Stress and Depression
For one, the mere idea that you’re always being watched, whether you’re about to commit a crime or not, will intensify stress levels. Too much security leads to personal insecurity. That’s been called out in many scientific papers over decade. The idea that you’re constantly being watched raises your level of stress, and depression – as seen in the effects on people when it comes to neighbourhood design, and at the workplace.
Even monkeys get stressed when they’re being watched at the zoo, such that they claw at themselves more often and vigorously. Do we really need more stress in the boiler room known as Singapore?
(2) Who Watches the Watchmen?
We’ve ran this story on some Golden-Haired Beng who, as reported by an eyewitness, tried to scam people of their money by pretending to be blind. We’ve had the victim, i.e the Beng, subsequently show medical records that he’s really turning blind. Perception can prove different from reality.
Even in this incidence of a woman who was widely condemned for not giving up her seat to an elderly woman and a toddler. The truth was far from what the picture shared online described.
What’s stopping people from submitting fakes in the hope of a quick buck?
So unless, we’ve people waiting at every turn to film litterbugs, there’s likely to be more misses than hits for the NEA (and money-making bao toh hopefuls).
That’s going to lead to a whole lot of distrust, and possibly absurdity in the neighbourhood – imagine seeing your long-time neighbour Ah Seng hiding in the bushes proned and waiting to video litterbugs because his previous two photos tak jalan (didn’t make the grade) with NEA.
(3) Goodbye Kampong Spirit, Hello Gestapo
Are we headed for the same climate of fear perpetuated by the Nazis and their feared Gestapo cop force, which rewarded those who exposed their neighbours for being Jewish sympathisers. Later on brought to a whole new level by the Soviets, who rewarded those who bao toh-ed their kin for being anti-Commies.
For a government that seems to believe that ownself check ownself can work, shouldn’t the emphasis be on having the community exert pressure on litterbugs by telling them off on the spot, rather than hauling a picture of them to the authorities?
(4) The Confirmation that We’re All Just Animals?
If the proposal doesn’t work out, we’ll just have sowed so much social disharmony for nothing. If it does work, it confirms that Singapore residents ( Singaporeans and others living here too) are nothing but animals that need to be constantly tasered into playing nice.
After 50 years of nation-building, such a sad realisation that we’re still at the primate level of personal development is perhaps scarier than the punishing consequences of it.