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Singapore most emotionless society

December 20, 2012

THIS is apropos of the Gallup survey that reported Singapore as being the most emotionless society (Nov 23). The main fallacy of this survey is that it treats all Singaporeans as a single entity, which they are not.

Singapore has three main ethnic groups, Chinese, Indians and Malays. They vary in their emotional response to grief, pain, merriment, etc.

I am reminded of an obstetrician colleague who used to say just standing outside the delivery room that one could guess if the patient is an Indian or Chinese, as the shrieks of the Indian would be many octaves higher.

It is not proper to generalise but my impression after many years of teaching both in the National University of Singapore and the Aga Khan University is that AKU students are more vocal than those of NUS.

I am sure this is a cultural phenomenon and depends on the values taught from childhood. People of the subcontinent are obsessively vocal and gossip is their favourite pasttime. This is not the case with the Chinese who are more reserved and do not interfere in other people’s private affairs or religious matters.

This gives the impression that they are relatively emotionless. In this respect it is worth knowing the views of Confucius who has had enormous influence on the Chinese thought.

He says: “One should be quick to act but slow to speak”. I wish more Pakistanis would follow Confucius’s advice.

In my humble view it is better to be ‘emotionless’ than to be overwhelmed with emotions which leads to nothing but trouble.

Even if this survey is correct, it is a credit to Singapore, not a debit.