Saturday, September 24, 2005

Elusive sandwich

Yesterday, someone wrote a letter to the press lamenting the trouble and hassle he had to endure just to get a FREE sandwich. Apparently, Visa (the credit card company) arranged with the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit company (SMRT) to give away free sandwiches to every person who signs up to pay for their train tickets using their Visa credit cards. So this bloke signed up and went to the train station to claim his sandwich. The station control said they didn't have the sandwich, nor are they aware that there was such a promotion on. They re-directed the commuter to the service provider which was working with Visa on this. As an aside, who would stock sandwiches at subway stations anyway? Free or not, I wouldn't touch one because they'd go bad in no time.

According to this commuter, he was then given the run-around - in search of that elusive free sandwich! Sheesh. He was very angry about the whole affair and so wrote to the press laying out the whole story, making the point that whoever organised this giveaway promotion should get their act together.

I am not sure that it was wise of him to have done so - signed up for Visa payment, running after a sandwich AND writing to the press. He has my sympathies for his less than stellar experience with organisations that cannot plan their promotions well.

But paying by Visa is not free. I understand that there is a 20 cents surcharge on topping up the train ticket stored-value card throuugh Visa. The General Ticketing Machines (GTM) are conveniently available at every station, and its doesn't take two minutes to top up the card. So why pay 20 cents?

Second, I am sure the time, the emotional distress and money he must have spent chasing down the elusive sandwich would more than pay for a good one at Delifrance, which is what is being offered, but where is the FREE sandwich?

Third, I wasn't entirely sympathetic with his cause. I thought, 'Why is this guy chasing after a sandwich for? Is he that hungry? Is it of such tremendous value to justify the trouble?'

But I must give credit for his doggedness in pursuit of that elusive sandwich

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Freedom of Speech

There is nothing absolute about free speech, in spite of what many in the US would claim and do practice. There, you have people who say and do the most fantastic and shocking things, as well as hear the most reasoned speeches. Be that as it may, there is nothing absolute about free speech. Taking perhaps an extreme but nevertheless a real and recent example, thousands were trampled or felled to their death in a Bagdad mosque just because someone spread the word that there were terrorists carrying bombs among the worshippers. You cannot blame the worshippers for the panic that ensued because other terrorists had done such heinous acts just a couple of hours before nearby.

What if there had been more consideration before the utterance of a rumour? Lives would not have been lost. Similarly, especially in multi-racial communities where the cord that binds the various races can be very thin, a rumour that a member of a race has done something adverse to one of another race, troubles can erupt, particularly if it has been formenting for some time. Injury and death is usually not far behind. This was Singapore's experience in the 1950s racial riots. A friend of mine who lived through those days passed me a book written by a former Prime Minister of Malaysia that discussed racial problems and persons in particular in those days. This book was never widely circulated, at least in Singapore, probably because of its content.

I enjoy peace and harmony in Singapore today because of the enlightened racial tolerance policies instituted many years ago, and consciously practiced over the years. I look forward to more of the same in the future so that I am assured that my son, and son's son, will never see the dark and ugly side of racial hatred and jealousies just because the colours of our skins do not match. I am happy to state that I have many friends who are not of my race, who I respect for their abilities. I am certain these same sentiments are reciprocrated.