The end of a year always calls for reflection

From airplane disasters to the outbreak of Ebola, 2014 saw irrevocable tragedies, causing many to lose their loved ones. There were also good news like Singapore being Lonely Planet’s top destination and the successful fundraising for ALS. Here’s a look back in the year 2014 and 14 things we can learn from it:

1. Tell Someone You Love Them

The mysterious disappearance of the plane MH370 in 8 March resulted in 239 missing passengers — some were infants who were deprived of the opportunity to grow up and see the world, some were couples on a holiday, others were yearning to return to their loved ones. While there was rife speculation about a plane hijack, the evaporation of the plane still remains a puzzle today, nine months after. There is no evidence of plane wreckage or dead bodies found.

Such an incident has proved to us the fragility of life and we should learn to cherish the people dear to us.

Don’t be afraid to express your love — your other half, a friend or a colleague — be it in the simplest gestures. A hug, a simple text, a midday call would be enough to bring a smile to your loved ones’ faces and turn someone’s day around. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring and the uncertainty the future holds. If you love somebody, tell them.

2. Stay Law By Law

A Singapore-registered gold Mercedes breached the Woodlands checkpoint barrier on 8 March. The driver was entering the checkpoint from Malaysia and intentionally drove off after clearing immigration and customs checks. This was the second checkpoint breach this year, the first occurring in January. Both of them were arrested. More breaches ensued following these 2 high-profile incidents.

Such cases undermine national security and should never have happened in the first place. Hopefully, these cases would act as a deterrent to those who are planning to do the same.

Singapore is a law by law country — for laws that are on the bizarre side, we urge that you heed our advice and abide by it. One such weird law is the prohibition of one strutting around naked in one’s home.

Thinking of getting away scot-free? Don’t even bother challenging the authorities.

3. Need For Calmness Amidst Calamity

The Ebola virus is still running rampant through West Africa — the world’s worst outbreak of Ebola with over 7,897 cases currently. Measures have been taken in Taiwan to curb a panic attack among citizens. One would be the allocating of two to three minutes per day for a presentation by reputable retired health minister, Dr Lee Ming-Liang.

In 2003, the SARS outbreak rendered Singaporeans flustered, with little having heard of the virus and how it spreads. Even though Singapore is fortunate enough to not be infected with the virus yet, the SARS 2003 outbreak, as well as influenzas H5N1 and H1N1 threats in 2004 to 2005 and 2009 are constant reminders that Singaporeans should be on the alert, with a high level of preparedness against such threats.

4. Never Be Complacent

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In June, about 1,560 Singpass accounts were compromised, with hackers accessing these accounts without the permission of the users.

A few months later, personal details of over 300,000 K Box customers were leaked, with the information put online for public download.

Complacency is endemic in modern-day society, where Singaporeans are nannied by the government. Having such a mentality makes us susceptible to hackers — this is perhaps a wake up call for tighter security measures to be put in place.

5. Count Your Blessings

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Israelis and Palestinians have been embroiled in conflict for years, over the Gaza Strip, which lies in between Israel and Egypt. Dissent was sparked when three Israeli teenagers were abducted and killed in June, resulting in Israel to pin the blame on Hamas. Tension was further escalated when there was a suspected revenge murder of a Palestinian teenager on 2 July in Jerusalem.

Hamas then claimed responsibility on 7 July for the upsurge of rocket fire after a bout of Israeli air strikes — the first time in 20 months.

Singaporeans constantly complain about everything from train breakdowns to haze to having too much ice in our iced drinks, but we should be glad that Singapore is free from natural disasters, war and acrimonious conflicts. Singapore also enjoys prosperity, a contrast from its neighbour, Malaysia, which has to deal with a rapidly weakening Ringgit value.

Think it’s tough to survive in Singapore? Find out what you can buy in Singapore with RM10.

6. Narcissism Can Be Good

Between July and August, an ice bucket challenge, a fundraising project for patients and organisations with ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) went viral online, with celebrities enthusiastically jumping onto the bandwagon. Nominated participants had to dunk a bucket of ice water over their head, then nominate someone else to do the challenge within 24 hours. The ALS Association received donations of over $100 million in merely a month.

Even though some people may have participated for fun, rather than the campaign’s initial intention of raising awareness and funds for the disease, the ice bucket challenge’s low barriers to entry compelled many social media narcissists to join in the challenge. Some like influencers Naomi Neo and Tan Jian Hao being criticised more than the others.

Now, what about some narcissism to help raise money to a fund to combat Singapore’s rising cost of living?

7. Seize The Day

News of Robin Williams’ death on August 11 was conveyed swiftly on social media, devastating many. He was 63, and had hung himself at home. To most, Robin Williams was known as a comedian, but behind the facade laid a man who had battled severe depression.

The adoration for our beloved actor and comedian will forever reside in our hearts. R.I.P., Robin Williams.

Robin Williams has taught us the hard way — live life to your fullest and everyday as though your last. If tomorrow’s your last day on earth, you would have no regrets. Leave your footprints and let people remember you in fondness even when you’re no longer around. Happiness is a state of mind, surely we do not want Singapore to be remembered as the ‘least positive’ country?

Whenever you’re feeling down, listen to some feel-good songs that would also serve as a perk-me-up. I’m sure Pharrell Williams would concur. Carpe diem!

8. Champion A Cause, But Not At The Expense Of Another

The protest rally at Hong Lim Park on 27 September to demand for the return of CPF was overshadowed when bloggers Han Hui Hui and Roy Ngerng heckled the performance of special needs children. A crowd gathered at the rally organised by Han Hui Hui to hear her speak about CPF. Together with Roy Ngerng, they led the group in a march around the park, alarming and frightening the special needs children.

No matter how righteous a cause may be, there is no excuse in causing distress to the special needs children.

The pursue for positive change should be with a respectful mindset, with calm and calculated rationality that would be advantageous to the general public, instead of fits of emotional explosions stirring up hate and discontentment.

Only then would Singapore truly enjoy progress, along with peace and stability.

 9. Not To Take Singapore’s Peace And Stability For Granted

Violence broke out in Hong Kong after the police resorted to using pepper spray, batons and tear gas to scatter the protestors. These thousands of pro-democracy protesters demanded that China lift its election restrictions on Hong Kong.

While Singapore enjoys political stability as well as racial and religious harmony, this should not be taken for a given. History has showed us how a little disagreement can lead to irreparable consequences, as in the case of the Maria Hertogh riots.

A smaller-scale, present-day version of the Maria Hertogh riots had taken place in Little India late last year, much to the surprise of many, where riots in Singapore are rare and unheard of in contemporary Singapore.

 10. Karma Exists

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In early November, Mr Pham Van Thoai, had initially thought that he would be embarking on his dream holiday, which later turned out to be his worst nightmare. Jover Chew, the owner of Mobile Air at Sim Lim Square, conned the tourist into signing a contract to pay the shop $1,500 for a one-year warranty after purchasing a phone at $950. Pricing a warranty at a cost more than a phone is definitely a rip off.

Although Singapore has a stringent judicial system to ensure ethical business practices, there is still little authorities can do about these unethical, yet not completely illegal situations. Consumers should keep vigilant to ensure that they do not fall prey to such shops. You definitely do not want another Jover Chew and his staff laughing at your face.

With online vigilantes in the form of SMRT Feedback Ltd upholding their version of justice by revealing Jover Chew’s personal details and photos, along with his family’s personal details, he has had his comeuppance with all the harassment. After all, who wants pizzas being delivered to them every single day for no rhyme or reason?

Here’s a parody of Jover Chew’s misery:

Now, this is what you call Karma.

*This writer is not advocating executing justice on one’s end.

11. Beware Of Backstabbers (Literally)

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We certainly do not need more real life cases of The Purge being reenacted. On 14 November this year, an alarming case of stabbing took place at bustling Raffles Green in the Central Business District, where a man stabbed another in an attempt to rob.

While such cases have not been uncommon since the Downtown East staring incident, it is astonishing that such an incident would occur in broad daylight in Singapore’s busiest district.

12. Bend Around The Ban

Singapore has implemented a ban on shisha, which was put in place on 28 November, under Section 15 of the Tobacco Act.

Ironically, shisha is banned but cigarettes are still legal. Amongst other banning atrocities is United State’s ban on Kinder Surprise, in a bid to protect children from consuming the embedded toy in the chocolate (which plays an awesome role in one’s childhood, by the way). Meanwhile, the use of guns is still legal despite prevalent shooting cases. As a countermeasure, a US company has worked its way round the Kinder Surprise ban with Choco Treasure, which places the toy inside a plastic capsule within the chocolate, offering a legal alternative to Kinder Surprise. This capsule also divides the chocolate into two hollow halves.

These bans sure aren’t stopping Singaporeans, with many visiting neighbouring countries to get their stash of these banned products instead, i.e. chewing gum. Shisha smokers can always turn to cigarettes, or similarly go to a nearby country too.

Well, it’s time we learnt to work things around these bans. You’ll never know what’s the next ban. Ketchup, maybe?

13. A Little Personal Touch Goes A Long Way

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A change from the usual routine recorded announcements, captain Tan Ming Hui incorporated some personal touch into these messages, pleasantly surprising the commuters.

Indeed, listening to the same announcements on the train everyday is predictable and monotonous, especially if you’re dragging your weary body to work. Adding a little distinctive touch can help to brighten someone’s day. People in the service industry could adopt this, instead of being a mechanical robot.

14. Grow As A Nation

Following new developments like the burgeoning appearance of luxurious hotels, National Art Gallery and the Singapore Sports Hub, Singapore bagged Lonely Planet’s nomination of world’s top destination for 2015. This is the first time Singapore has made it to the list, being recognised as one of the most multiracial countries with a growing fashion, dining and cafe scene.

While it was an honour to have been listed as the top destination, are the tall swanky buildings what really define Singapore? Sure, we may own the world’s two most expensive buildings, but it is the people that make the country, and there is room for a lot of improvement for Singaporeans to grow. For example, we should all learn to be more gracious, especially on public transport, instead of relying on campaigns that see limited success, like LTA’s Thoughtful-me campaign.

Although commuters are aware of the need to be gracious, many do not put this into practice. However, the situation has changed for the better over recent years, with commuters queuing up systemically.

Let this thoughtfulness be gradually inculcated in us and grow together as a nation, truly becoming a gracious society without the need of these campaigns as a reminder.

Each and every one of you is indispensable in helping to build a finer Singapore – a place for all of us to call home. Bearing in mind the lessons that we can learn from an eventful 2014, here’s to a better 2015 where we usher in the Golden Jubilee of Singapore!


Featured image via Daily Mail
With reference to The Straits Times, TODAY, YoutubeThe Straits Times, Singapore Business Review,  The Straits Times, YoutubeTODAYThe Straits Times, History SG, The Straits Times, TODAY, Youtube, Movember, Hollywood Reporter, CNBC, Youtube, CNN, Wikipedia, Yahoo! News, The New Paper, Youtube, Coconuts Singapore, Youtube, TODAY Online, Asia One, Yahoo! News, Wikipedia, The Independent, Los Angeles Times, Channel News Asia, Huffington Post, Mothership
Images via Tech Times, Everyday On Sales, Bplans, The Real Singapore, List Crux, JustSayGood9, Mashable, Hardware Zone, ABC, Yahoo, NBC News, Daily Mail, The Real Singapore, Wikipedia