I’m not so sure you will be pt. 2

Link to pt. 1

Continuing on the train of thought from pt. 1, the next thing I would like to touch on is if altruism matters.

As in, does it existing or not affect anything?

Also to consider, a thought and response provoking reply by a couple of my classmates regarding helping the needy.

“Looking at the scale and impact of a single person, does it even matter since it barely helps? It looks just like a self-comforting gesture, to absolve oneself of the guilt we place upon ourselves.”

I don’t have a reply because it’s a valid point. It’s like that drop in a bucket argument that doesn’t really materialise because the person placing that drop is already part of the very privileged, with the most connections and greatest ability.

But just because no one else will be kind doesn’t mean that I will stop being kind.

I don’t believe in “An eye for an eye,” probably because of my upbringing and growth in a primary school whose motto itself was “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” this idea of servant leadership, leading by serving is and has always been part of me.

Being served makes me uncomfortable, the same way leading does because for me they ought to be one and the same.

A leader must know how to sweep the floor and command respect that is rightfully earned.

I rather not leaders who shout from the get-go to gain attention. For me, that is a mark of a leader who establishes dominance and not a partnership. A leader like that conveys that you want only yes-men who fall in line at the crack of a whip.

(Ah, I went off course again.)

Even if the people you can help is only so little, only for an hour, only for selfish desire, isn’t it better than nothing?

I won’t be trying to say that you can do better, that you can (as students, I take the perspective of a student because I am one) study a little less, sleep a little less, trade-off this and trade-off that to go and volunteer on a daily basis.

Regardless of a pragmatic viewpoint of getting those CIP hours, self-ego-boosting LSD trip that doing good feels good… does it matter?

Does this intent matter if in the end you are helping someone?

(I’ll talk about this ‘helping’ thing later but for now)

Does it matter..?

Is it not better than nothing, in the case where without incentives the number of kids going for ViA/CIP events and doing S-ViA would be that much lower? (Again, I assume that children are rational agents who weigh cost and benefit and honestly, are as selfish as the rest of the human race.)

What about the organisations that benefit from the help that these self-interested students volunteer to do?

Does it matter to them..?

What a terrible question to ask, I guess.

The next thing to wonder about is if the sincerity, the attitude, the ‘altruism’ affects the quality of service and help rendered.

It does, I would think.

If you don’t actually want to help, there is this hesitation, an unnatural heaviness to your action that tells me you’d rather not be there.

Theoretically, if someone could fake the enthusiasm and sincerity enough, then it wouldn’t, right?

But if they could do that, would you question their sincerity, I don’t think so.

Does this mean that it doesn’t matter after all?

It’s just theoretical, so of course the attitude matters.

I remember the way the teacher-in-charge of ViA and SL Projects spoke to us, the sheer loathing-anger-resignation in her voice as she told us the guidelines needed for our projects to qualify for the thing she said we were all gunning for.

To her, the attitude matters a lot because she invites us to consider that beneficiaries are humans not an organisation, are humans not things, are a relationship to cultivate rather than a job.

I would like to, someday, given the chance, speak to her about this idea of ‘altruism’, and ask her more about her experience serving as a tutor in the prisons.

The term ‘beneficiaries’ assumes things already.

That the organisation benefits from our contributions, that we are in a position to give.


This is where I try to tie back our conversation to the original idea in class today.

If I do not write faster, I will have to double back and edit the today to a ‘yesterday’.

Coming back to different SES.

The government (at least MOE if no other Ministry) holds the view that students ought to give back to the community, that’s what CIP is for.

ViA came up in GP class’ discussion of SES somehow and my thoughts went something like, “Well because high SES need less help than the lower SES.”

While true, this showed a click in my thinking that I never questioned before.

“What is high SES and low SES.”

The tricky thing about SES in Singapore is that we don’t have a poverty line. The varied needs of individuals because of medical complications, number of dependents, nature of jobs and base level of education makes it hard to establish a poverty line of a single fixed number.

Because of the inherent inaccuracy of a poverty line, (aptly put by an acquaintance I met at YLM 2018), you might as well not have it, just put in place checks and safety nets, bursaries and funds.

This comes back to the idea of being self-reliant in pt. 1. If people refuse this help and struggle, is it the Government’s job to ensure that these people get the help, regardless of their pride/self-respect?

Over today I have come to the realisation that the idea I talked about to my HSP interviewer about how “People may not even know that help is available to them,” may be less prevalent than “People do not want to take the help because they feel it reflects poorly on them,” but I don’t have facts.

I openly admit to my lack of facts and evidence. All I have are these thoughts that float around without basis in anything but my own (dare I say it) logic.

As the HSP interviewer took issue with, this lack of evidence and stats, so I will not state or whatever.

Having only anecdotal evidence of a single old uncle who lived below a HDB flat near the mama shop I used to frequent, now, I dare not generalise.

How much can a single person help, how much does it matter if this one person does not help?

People always use this argument for protecting the environment, why not for being kind?

If everyone thinks that way then the world will become a colder, sadder place to live in.

The fact that you feel guilt for not helping is a sign that you feel an obligation to help.

My question for you now is, “Why do you feel this guilt?”

Societal norms? The elusive morals you reconsider daily?

It becomes a question of, “The life you could save.”

Taken to extremes, my question is, why does the government fund parks or businesses or schools instead of helping those in lower SES.

Do I have a right to ask that question..?

Uh, maybe not.

Maybe again, you don’t feel any guilt, you don’t feel like it has any bearing on you since you didn’t choose to be born as you are.

I know I wasn’t asked if I wanted to be born.

I also know that despite posting this there are these self-imposed limits that prevent me from balancing perfectly a long-term service commitment with my school work and other things, so perhaps in writing this, I aim only to absolve my guilt.

It’s all about trade-offs in the end right?

Tell me, which is more important: Helping my younger sibling with homework or doing my own?

It is this cycle of blame that continues, I should have not written this so I would have the time to do both.

Thing is, I didn’t finish the Literature, Economics or Math homework for the weekend. Should I be thankful that only the Math was something assigned by the teacher?

Last question, being selfish and honest, altruism or nonsense, if you cannot even spend time with your family, should you do service learning?

Most of the time, though not all,

the problem is indeed



After all,


is to blame for the fact that we are


not perfect?



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