Thursday, 8 October 2009

By Blind Faith Alone

The concept of 'political correctness' (PC) has changed the way individuals behave in modern society.
Wikipedia defines PC as "a term applied to language, ideas, policies, or behaviour seen as seeking to minimize offense to gender, racial, cultural, disabled, aged or other identity groups. Conversely, the term "politically incorrect" is used to refer to language or ideas that may cause offense or that are seen as unconstrained by orthodoxy."
Physically surviving in an urban concrete jungle is one reality while navigating through a multi-cultural and multi-religious society is a challenge of a completely different sort.

Consider Singaporeans who do not know me too well but wish to meet me socially. Dare they ask me out for drinks? If we decide on a meal is it necessary for the food to be halal – and can they order alcoholic drinks or pork dishes while eating on the same table with me? If one of us is a Hindu then maybe a vegetarian restaurant is our only option.
Those are all serious questions and different people will answer them in different ways. In the case of Muslims, I am sure that the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) will have certain PC guidelines which will increase Singapore's 'common space.'
However, life does not always have to be so serious. Often there are situations where split second decisions on simple but possibly sensitive issues are required.
A recent experience at Somerset MRT station will illustrate my point.
For those not familiar with Somerset station, there are currently many temporary pathways and detours due to construction work. The entry and exit paths are divided by a metal barrier and human traffic flows in both directions are considerable, especially during peak periods.
A blind man was travelling down the escalator in front of me. Once he reached the ground level he started waving his cane from left to right while walking against the flow of people.
Picture a sea of people walking in one direction suddenly faced with a man violently swinging a cane raised about six inches above the ground. People were jumping as if they were sprinters running a hurdle race – the knock-on effect meant others were violently running into each other as the person in front of them suddenly stopped to avoid walking into the blind man!
Do I help the gentleman, watch the show or just pretend that nothing unusual is happening?
I dashed across grabbed the man's left arm firmly and asked him if he needed help to get to the station platform. He shrugged off my hand and politely informed me that he was fine and knew exactly where he was going.
I smiled as I thought about the disruption and the high jumpers he will create during his remaining 30 or so meters walk. No doubt, he will board his train and reach his destination.

Acts of faith require a lot of bravery and a little bit of folly. Such acts are not always religious in nature

I could not help pondering what the incident reveals about human nature. On what occasions do we steel ourselves and face the world alone, optimistic that we will ultimately succeed irrespective of the hardship (to us and others) on the way.
Often it is harder to accept our own personal limitations and graciously accept assistance from others than it is to move forward on blind faith alone.  

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