Abruptly and without warning, we found ourselves enveloped in another country's environmental disaster.
The severity of the haze sparked off panic buying of face masks, which in turn generated further anxiety by creating supply-chain bottle necks, snaking queues and profiteering. Just when Singaporeans are asphyxiating, an Indonesian minister drew howls of anger by commenting that we were childish to have overreacted to the pollution. Yet, I have to admit that some of the opinions expounded on the Internet and social media are not very far from being juvenile.
Some railed against the government for not taking a stronger stand, as if we could, by kicking up a bigger fuss, force another sovereign state to act. What are you thinking of? Going to war? Just think of the neighbourly disputes acted out every day in our society. Haven't you found it difficult to persuade your neighbour to be more considerate? Now imagine this challenge magnified manifold in the delicate bilateral relationship between two states.
There is such exquisite irony that even as people are busy criticizing the government, the demands they made reflect an almost touching faith in the ability of our government to solve any problem, and to solve it quickly. That is always how life has been, why should any problem be beyond the Government's capacity to manage? I remember that, as a child, this is how I used to feel towards my parents too - a sense of dependency, and firm belief that nothing is too difficult for them to handle.
To be frank, I find our reaction to this crisis is deeply disturbing, if this is truly a reflection of the strength of our character. In a war, would our citizens hope to complain our way to victory and expect no one to die? Would we, instead of presenting a united front, help others to criticize and discredit our own leadership? It seems that we have been so safe for so long that we have forgotten that life does give us occasional crises. In hard times, many factors would be out of our control, but each of us is responsible for how we conduct ourselves. And all of us have the duty to make things better in whatever little ways we can. Sneering, scoffing and nitpicking help nothing at all.