Priority Seats – No Need for Public Shaming

priority seats
 
A video has emerged online of a man shaming a woman whom he felt should have offered her seat to an elderly person.
 
The whole incident was filmed apparently by the man’s friend.
 
As the video opens, the man could be seen and heard saying to his friend, “Start already?” He was apparently asking his friend if he had started video recording the incident.
 
The man then addressed the woman who was seated on one of the priority seats.
 
“Excuse me,” he began. “Your leg injured, you got baby, you’re pregnant or your leg injured or what?”
 
The woman, who appeared to be in her late 40s or 50s and who was looking at her phone at the time, was somewhat surprised when the man started addressing her.
 
She said something in reply (inaudible in the video) and promptly stood up and gave up her seat.
 
The man continued, “No, right? Give people, old people a seat ah.”
 
The video is then edited to slow-motion with a voice over by the man himself. 
 
“You can obviously see the old man behind me, there’s an older guy behind him but cameraman did not capture [him], so that sucks!”
 
The video then shows the man giving a thumbs-up to another woman who was also seated. 
 
In the meantime, the priority seat which was at the centre of the incident, remained empty, and in the video you can see the first woman standing beside it.
 
The incident is troubling for several reasons:
  1. It seems that the man had planned the whole confrontation to show himself up as some sort of a “hero”.
  2. He had also apparently planned to have it recorded so that he could later post it online – with the intention of either shaming the woman or to make himself into a hero, or both.
  3. His approach to the woman was rude, using sarcasm and raising his voice to shame her publicly, first on the train itself and later online through the video.
 
For those of us who take the train every day, we would have come across many instances of people voluntarily giving up their seats to those who need them more. 
 
Singaporeans, and commuters in general, are kind in spirit and would not begrudge the elderly, the pregnant, children and others the seats. Of course, we do have one or two bad apples from time to time who would choose to be selfish. But that is to be expected.
 
Nonetheless, when we feel compelled to speak up to ask others to give up their seats, we do not have to be confrontational about it. We can ask them in a courteous manner. Most times, the person will oblige.
 
Do also keep in mind that sometimes we are unaware, for various reasons, of those who may need the seats more. For example, there have been occasions, as we are all aware, when we are so tired ourselves that we fall asleep while sitting on the priority seats. (Yes, not everyone who closes his or her eyes while on the priority seat is pretending to be asleep or being sick.)
 
Another point to remember, which many seem to be unaware if, is that occupying the priority seat is not against the law or rule, and in fact there is nothing wrong in doing so. 
 
What we want to encourage, however, is that people give up their seats (whether they are priority ones or not) to those who need them more. 
 
This does not mean we cannot take up such seats if or when no one else requires them.
 
Coming back to the video in question, it is quite shameless, in fact, to make yourself into a hero, film your “heroic” act, post it online, and make it look like you’ve saved some helpless elderly by shaming a woman.
 
I think that is a low blow, especially coming from a man who should have been more gracious and courteous. The woman, after all, promptly gave up her seat when asked to. 
 
Was there then a need to shame her – twice?
 
Let us not degenerate as a people into thinking that shaming someone for what we feel is a noble cause is justified. 
 
It is not.
 
As I said earlier, most people are decent, honest and kind enough to give up their seats to those who need them more.
 
If we want to encourage a kind society or acts of kindness, as the man probably did – given how he ostensibly is concerned for the elderly – let us not ourselves become that which we frown on.
 
There is no need to resort to public shaming of others, and worse, do so while shamelessly propping yourself up as some sort of knight in shining armour, stoking your ego by bringing others down.
 
Decent and kind Singaporeans can see through such selfish acts, even if they are disguised as noble ones. 
 

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