Sunday, 20 January 2013

The World is Treating Me Bad - in Singapore?

"The world is treating me bad, misery"  So said the Beatles in 1963, but it comes as somewhat of surprise to learn that the sentiment is alive and well in Singapore.

An excellent article in the South China Morning Post questions why both Singapore and Hong Kong are, despite their wealth, so unremittingly miserable?

I have to say that I never found it so but according to a December 2013 Gallup poll, Singapore leads the pack as Asia's most miserable place, ranking rock bottom in the poll of 148 nations and territories. Only 46% of those surveyed felt positive about the place.

The methodology of the poll is somewhat flawed I feel, as Gallup has tried to standardise a basic human emotion "happiness" across many different cultures and ethnicities and each interprets the term differently.

The time and place when the poll was conducted would also have a bearing. Ask a group of Singaporeans commuters waiting for a late MRT train in the sweltering sun if they are "happy" and the result will be resoundingly in the negative.

Ask the same group in the Robinson's Sale when they have snaffled a bargain then they could express an entirely different sentiment. Happiness is a very subjective thing.

The article went on to quote a teacher in Hong Kong, Alan Lo Tzee-cheng, who believes that that local populace are "too focused on achieving material success, which made them unhappy".

"Money and competition about making more money than others penetrate all parts of people's lives. Their education, the way they raise their children, what they eat. Even to go shopping can be an emotional trial" he went on to say.

I guess only Singaporeans themselves can say whether or not this applies as much in Singapore? Certainly the material occupies many peoples thoughts but I am not convinced that this by itself would be the cause for so much misery.

Yeoh Lam Keong, vice-president of the Economic Society of Singapore, believes the survey has pin pointed something important - that Singaporeans work some of the longest hours globally and have a very poor work-life balance. "They are overstressed and do not have enough time for family and recreation."

As the gap between the wealthiest and poorest Singaporean grows wider so does the range of feelings. The wealthy get happier and the poorer Heartlanders less so. Hong Kong is experiencing something similar.

Chua Kheng Kok, Asia Pacific president of Mary Kay says "I find Singaporeans more envious of each other and therefore less happy." She may well be right, but wanting and getting "more" of something doesn't necessarily equate to "happiness" in one's life.

Achieving the 5C's ( car, cash, credit card, condominium and club membership) may be one mark of success in Singapore but it should  not the only one that society or the education system promotes.

As for me, I find music raises my spirits so here is the Beatles' rendition of the song I mentioned above (and keep smiling!)

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