Why the law is not enough when it comes to doing the right thing

By Alex Rosaria

  People often claim that our biggest problem is the lack of laws and enforcement. But is it? I was recently on a metro train in Singapore, a country known for all kinds of strict rules, including stiff fines for not clearing your table after eating in a fast-food restaurant. An older but seemingly fit man wearing jogging gear was sitting in the designated area (by law) for the elderly and expecting mothers. At the following stop, a young guy got onto the train stumbling and making a grimace. He had his skateboard under his arm and had obviously hurt himself badly. He asked the older guy if he could sit but was denied as the older guy pointed to the section of the law above his seat.

  The older guy was, of course, right. He had the right to sit there. But did he do the right thing? Must we just comply with rules and regulations in order to be good citizens? Can’t a young person be needing a special seat on the train?

  It seems we’re creating a society that only relies on rules or laws to do the things we ought to do out of graciousness and civility. It’s clear that we’ve lost our moral compass. In the past, we relied on the church for direction, but these are so deeply engulfed in their own scandals and how to cover them up, to be taken seriously.

  So next time we blame the lack of law and enforcement for the filth all over our island, as well as the dire state of our street animals, we ought to be teaching norms, values, civility, kindness, and cordiality at home instead of waiting for someone to legislate what cannot be legislated.

Alex David Rosaria (53) is a freelance consultant active in Asia & Pacific. He is a former Member of Parliament, Minister of Economic Affairs, State Secretary of Finance and UN Implementation Officer in Africa and Central America. He’s from Curaçao and has an MBA from University of Iowa (USA).

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