Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Should you post photos of bad behaviour?

Should you post photos of bad behaviour? was the name of a Straits Times article which reported the controversy over some pictures, which depicted people with 'bad behavior', posted to the Straits Times' online portal. The controversy lay in whether such pictures were justified as tools to shame bad behaviour, or were simply unjustified, being nothing more than outrages of privacy. According to the article, both views recieved some support.

I don't claim to be absolutely certain of every nuance to this issue, but I believe that any society that believes in shaming as an acceptable resort to curtail bad behaviour is essentially flawed and immature. Why so ?

Let us just consider the particular case discussed in the news report. A woman, upon noticing that some commuters 'fell asleep' when a mother carrying an infant entered the train carriage, snapped a picture of those commuters and posted it to STOMP (the Straits Times online portal). Now, I have a very important question here. Did the woman perform any actions in order to solicit a seat for the mother?

If the answer is No, then I can detect a very singaporean angle to the behavior of the woman. Some would call this behaviour a complaint-reflex, in which the singaporean seeks to point out what is wrong with the situation rather than finding solutions for the problem in the first place.

Alternatively, we might say that singaporean society is a punitive rather than a restitutive society. In other words, as a society, we prefer to seek retribution rather than to find a solution. This symptom manifests itself most visibly in our legal system, where many sentences seem more concerned with punishment rather than rehabilitation (although this is improving gradually).

Of course, when I point out the previous two points, I must admit that I myself am very singaporean and hence would fall prey to the same base impulses. Perhaps, given time, we can all extract ourselves from such behavior.

In the meantime, if you see bad behaviour, just approach the offender and politely ask him to correct his behavior. Otherwise, hiding behind the safety of a camera certainly does not give one the moral ground to criticize the offender.

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