In retrospect, the immediate response of DOING NOTHING by the train drivers when the trains stalled strongly suggests a CONDITIONING of the minds of SMRT staff by the recurrence of such incidences.
Such inactions are a telling sign of SMRT employees ‘getting used’ to the idea that such occurrences are to be expected! What probably passed through their minds was to just sit still and wait for the electricity to come back on (just like ‘last time’?) or an order or instruction from their superiors of what action to take next (again, just like the last time!).
This sad little scenario is pregnant with the following ‘classics’:
Classic 1 – A creeping Pavlovian conditioning of the SMRT management and staff TO ACCEPT such disruptions or stoppages as ROUTINE.
The CEO’s, Ms Saw, much publicized INDIFFERENT, even curt and blase responses and inactions to previous similar occurrences and issues have only helped to lure her subordinates, up and down the metaphorical and literal, line, into a complacent state of mind. (If the boss who should know more about what’s going on is not worried, why should you be?)
SUCH AN OPERATING ENVIRONMENT IS NOT UNLIKE THAT OF A FROG SITTING QUIETLY IN A POT OF WATER THAT IS SLOWLY BUT STEADILY HEATING UP. THE SLOW, EVEN IMPERCEPTIBLE HEATING, HAS ALLOWED THE FROG TO ‘ACCLIMATISE’ TO THE STEADILY BUT INCREASINGLY HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT – I.E. COMPLACENCY SETS IN AS IT IS EASY ENOUGH TO HAVE TO DO NOTHING BUT WAIT FOR FURTHER ORDERS. BUT, WHEN THE FROG FINALLY FEELS THE REAL HEAT, THE PAIN, IT IS TOO LATE TO HOP OUT; IT HAS ALREADY BECOME THREE-QUARTER DONE FROG SOUP!
Classic 2 – When the means becomes the end.
This is a common, even rampant, governing style of the Singapore Govt – that of an initial action arising from some RATIONAL decision made AT THE BEGINNING with the best and most noble of intentions being subsequently USURPED, HIJACKED, SIDE-TRACKED, SUBVERTED AND COMMANDEERED for opportunistic purposes (in this case, bottom line gains, or simply, greed). At the expense of the RAISON DETRE AND ORIGINAL BRIEF for the development and building of a mass rapid transport network to serve the country and citizens’ commuting need, the creation of a series of underground retail outlets spanning the system, ostensibly to defray cost, have apparently taken a momentum and created a priority and life all its own that it even comes close to eclipsing the very source that makes the retail outlets feasible in the first place. Much like a monster poised to swallow up its own parents?
(Other (too) familiar examples of ‘money spinners’ are of course, GST, parking charges, COE and the ERP, not to mention big ticket items like HDB housing.)
The CEO and the Board must have been patting themselves on the back for the huge bottom line gains generated from the rental of retail space within the rail network’s stations. IN A NUTSHELL, THEY HAVE BEEN SIDE-TRACKED into focusing on the wrong ball in an attempt to shine.
To be sure it is not wrong to exploit opportunities that come along the way – like the mangoes on a tree that overhangs into a public road, there for the picking. The huge mistake appears to be that they have embraced such incidental opportunities with BOTH HANDS OFF THE STEERING WHEEL!
Classic 3 – When Royalties get into the picture, Farmers or Eunuch acts only to preserve their own positions and rice bowls, and NOT THE STATUS QUO, NOT WHAT THEY HAVE BEEN PAID TO REALLY DO.
Do I need to elaborate, say more on this?
Classic 4 – This flows partly from Classic 1 AND Classic 3. It is CONDITIONED GROUP THINK. It is ‘received wisdom’ in Singapore that if you want to go anywhere or get anywhere or even just to maintain your position in govt or govt related or linked organizations, you have BETTER to put on your GROUPTHINKING CAP!
It is because rewards can be handsome, very handsome, depending on your position and ambition, and where principles are cheap and not legal tender – the latter won’t fill your stomach nor get you your next new car or your dream condo – that there are many willing and able to sell their principles for the highest price.
For those at the lowest or lower rungs of the pecking order, such as the drivers and maintenance crew members, abiding by ‘groupthinking’ is also essential for survival and even a lower living cost. For starters, their vocations would at least provide free or subsidized SMRT travels for themselves and possibly their immediate family members. And at the rate the Public Transport Council (PTC) is condoning and approving fare increases, year after year after year, irrespective of service quality or otherwise, this is a consideration not to be sneezed at!