“This is typical of Singaporeans,” my friend said while reading the March 16 issue of this newspaper.

Referring to the letter from Michael Teo, he said: “How can the commuters ignore the cheerful greetings from the bus captain? Isn’t it natural for you to return a greeting? But being indifferent is quite typical of Singaporeans.”

On another occasion, I was with my uncle at a fast food outlet. We noticed that most patrons could not bother to clear the table after meals.

My uncle commented: “That’s typical of Singaporeans.”

“No,” I said. “Those who did not had behaved in an un-Singaporean manner.”

I don’t understand why we have the tendency to associate poor manners and attitude with Singaporeans.

As I see it, there are outstanding Singaporeans, ordinary Singaporeans and unbelievable Singaporeans.

The outstanding Singaporeans are those with exemplary conduct. They serve as useful role models because their good deeds and philanthropic acts are worthy of emulation.

A large proportion of Singaporeans are just ordinary folk. They are law abiding and play their part in making community living pleasant and peaceful.

The problem lies with the small number of unbelievable Singaporeans.

Their uncivil actions are magnified so that we believe that they represent us.

Some Singaporeans don’t flush public toilets after use. A number of Singaporeans do not give up their bus or train seats to those who need them more. A few Singaporeans drive as if they own the roads. Some Singaporeans use mobile phones without consideration for others. And the list goes on…

Therefore, are Singaporeans, in general, discourteous, unkind, selfish, inconsiderate, uncaring and ungracious?

Not all Singaporeans behave that way. What did most of us do to deserve the label.

Instead of having kindness or courtesy campaigns, I suggest that we should have an all-encompassing “We are Singaporeans” campaign.

It starts with our contention that Singaporeans are gracious, kind and compassionate. Anybody who behaves to the contrary is un-Singaporean.

If you do not extend a helping hand to those in need, you are behaving in an un-Singaporean manner. You are un-Singaporean if you fail to arrive punctually at wedding dinners.

Any behaviour that is irresponsible and unacceptable is un-Singaporean. Singaporeans believe in courtesy, consideration for others and mutual respect.

We must take ownership of our reputation and not allow it to be tarnished by anything un-Singaporean. We must build a brand name for ourselves and live up to it.

(This article is printed in the TODAY newspaper of 25 March 2005.)