Where Are The Neighbors?

deserted corridor
 
This week, TNP had a sobering story to bring us out of the stupor induced by all our holiday merry making. 
 
The paper carried a story about a Toa Payoh man who died alone in his flat. 
 
The way this man's demise was discovered was the saddest part of the story. Apparently, the loner's body was only discovered last month after his neighbors could no longer stand the stench emanating from his flat. It seems that he'd been living in filthy conditions for a while which was why his desensitized neighbors hadn't noticed anything was amiss for a while. 
 
Din, as he was known to his neighbors, wasn't old. He died in his 50s. He died young by today's longevity standards.
 
Din might be gone but his flat still bears the mark, or rather the smell of his death, because no one has been able to reach his next of kin to come and clean the place up. 
 
The paper reported that the only people who've been in Din's flat since his passing are some folks from the Cat welfare society who were there to rescue 7 cats. How sad is that? That more people care about the cats than the fact someone died. 
 
It seems that the only one who would gave a hoot about Din was his mother. But she passed away 10 years ago and he hadn't been the same since her death. None of Din's neighbors seemed to care or wonder why Din would sometimes sleep in the void deck instead of his flat after his mother passed away. 
 
I really wonder if his mother was the last human contact he's had. Because isn't it ironic that we as a society can be so densely packed together and people around can basically die unnoticed. We live in a paradox where we're all emotionally distant despite being physically close together. Are we that focused on ourselves  that we wouldn't notice a neighbor in need? Or do we simply not care about what happens to anyone beyond our own door step? 
 
The even bigger irony: when we finally deem matters like what happened to Din as something worth caring about, we start by pointing the finger at the grassroots for letting another person fall through the cracks. We abdicate our own personal responsibility to our humanity to a "higher" power. 
 
"O this is the grassroots fault. They didn't look after him enough." 
 
Or "O it is the government's fault. They're not doing their job." 
 
These are the common refrains we often hear in response to tragedies like Din's. No one seems to want to learn more about Din and what his life was like because that would humanize him and make it that much harder to emotionally distance ourselves from his tragedy.
 
I wonder. Is there even anyone who would grieve over Din's death? 
 
Does poor Din even have an epitaph? 
 
Does Din's life even matter?
 
Did his neighbors do anything aside from complaining about the stench Din's death caused? 
 
That's the thing isn't it? We have become so consumed with minding our own business that we don't care or even notice that someone who lived among us passed away in a very tragic way. 
 
Why am I feeling so riled up over this? 
 
Because no one should have to die alone.
 
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