Empathy and antipathy

Another year, another industrial accident in supposedly-safe, universally-Utopian Singapore. And another hard-hearted by-the-book response by the Powers That Be: standard-operating-procedures being used to deflect attention to protocols; and then a recitation of statistics and KPI’s achieved.


If the Singapore government can be said to have unequivocally failed in any area, it’s in PR, surely. Government communication with the public seems to be an unending and unmitigated disaster only exacerbated by the national press. Yes, our parliamentariotrons are now programmed to say things like “we are sad” when bad things happened, but you don’t really get the sense that it really touches them. We’re living in a world where machines have started passing the Turing test. If a computer can convince us that it’s human, why do our leaders so frequently fail to do the same?

What’s with the allergy to saying sorry, anyway? C’mon, the chairs in Parliament House are really new — they’re not the Seat of Peter, and nobody expects their occupants to conduct themselves infallibly. But they seem to feel obliged to conduct themselves as if executive inerrancy was settled dogma.

Just say sorry once in a while, guys. We can deal with it. Focus on the families and their loss. Sympathise, reach out, connect. Here, let me show you: “The tragic deaths of the two workers are a great loss to SMRT and to the nation, but none feel their loss more keenly than their families. As (officeholder) of the (organisation), I would like to extend my condolences to the families in their grief, and to assure them that SMRT, LTA, and the nation mourn with you. You have our sympathy and our support in this difficult period. In the days ahead, we will with renewed determination discover the errors and accidents that led to this tragedy, and strive to ensure that such a grave mishap will never again occur. Continued progress in developing and maintaining infrastructure must be balanced against the need to ensure the safety of all our staff, and we want to assure them and the public that we will do our utmost to keep our transport system safe for staff as well as commuters.”

IT’S NOT THAT HARD. But no, instead, apparently the Powers That Be believe that the best course of action to wash the blood off their hands is to adopt a posture of total bloodlessness.



EDIT: Minor changes to remove some flippancy. The deaths of the two workers are a real tragedy, and I did not intend to poke fun at their families’ loss.


2 thoughts on “Empathy and antipathy

    • Possibly, but I refuse to believe that Ministers can’t hire people capable of treading the line between “invitation for lawsuit” and “robot overlords” with some grace. If it wants to.

      Also, the investigation that they’re going through now will inevitably reveal if there’s cause for a lawsuit or not. We’ve already had an inkling that the faults run deep.

      Liked by 1 person

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