I want to put paid to this idiocy of insisting that people give solutions if they want to complain. It is a foolish sort of logic, bred by Orwellian elitists in ivory towers. Two comments in TODAY, one fueled by the illogic of the other, demanded that Singaporeans stop complaining unless they have constructive suggestions to offer. They derided Singaporean’s complaints as the whining of “petulant children”.
While Lim Sing Tat’s letter was directed at the Punggol Rooftop Childcare Centre issue, he borrowed heavily from Charles Tan Meah Yang’s piece and offered no new insight except a call for the government to be harsher on those who voiced unhappiness. Talk about regressive.
Tan’s article is better and contains many salient points, his reasoned tone shows that he probably does not mean to inflame. Still he trips over his logic at some point and perpetuates the unsubstantiated claim that complaints must be accompanied by solutions with a call for the government to listen more, communicate more and engage.
The flawed logic runs deep, concealed by a veneer of faux-constructiveness. Tan believes that taxi drivers (and I suppose every unhappy Singaporean, regardless of education and background) ought to be able to “offer pragmatic suggestions/solutions and defend them vigorously against scrutiny” before he will give them license to voice their “emotionally-charged, one-sided complaints”.
Granted, there are many whose complaints are unreasonable. Many are inflammatory. They should be ignored. But that is no grounds to insist that all those with complaints offer up solutions on the same platter. This is the worst kind of censorship, akin to Goh Chok Tong telling Catherine Lim to join a political party if she wanted to comment on politics.
You see, there is a reason why we don’t expect every pakcik and makcik to be able to offer suggestions for policy. Was Mr Tan expecting to have to drive the taxi himself when he got in? Did he not pay the taxi uncle to drive him? Why then does he think that the taxi driver is beholden to come up with policy suggestions when others are paid to do that job?
If a taxi driver is going too fast, can we not say, “You’re going too fast”? Must we suggest he make use of the second lane, let the engine brake kick in a little and stop trying to catch those mat rempit? Voicing out the complaint in itself is enough. Sure, I can offer more, but I don’t have to.
If I tell a chef that the food is too salty, should I be expected to suggest that he cut back on the kosher salt and the cheese? Not at all. I simply say it is salty and leave it to the chef to correct it. If I were an expert on cooking myself, perhaps I could suggest something, but is it a prerequisite for a complaint? No.
That, in essence, is what the dear taxi uncle was saying about “inflation, immigration and income disparity”. Should we expect a draft policy paper from him and 20 minutes in Parliament? If he doesn’t produce a paper and debate it, is it right to ask him to quit behaving like a “petulant child”? That’s intolerant.
My young children give me feedback like this – “I’m cold”, “I’m hungry”, “I need to pee”. Is that petulance? Shall I ask them what they think the solution is? At their age, it is not their responsibility, but mine. At some point in the future they will take it upon themselves to solve more of their own problems, and I will teach them to do so, but only a cruel, cruel man would call them “petulant”.
I’ll spell it out – complaints ARE feedback. Corporations know this and trawl through surveys, social feeds and recordings of customer service hotlines in search of precious complaints that they can use to improve the way they do business. They don’t want to miss this opportunity.
Even our G is more tolerant of complaints than Tan. They rarely tell you to shut up these days. The PAP is trying to reform for the sake of our nation and the myth that “complaints must be accompanied by feedback” is holding us back.