In praise of politeness

As my 10-year-old and I wandered my downtown Toronto ‘hood, she pointed out the many tarry, black patches on the sidewalk. I explained that was the residue of chewing gum deposited on the sidewalk by crass, impolite people who hadn’t been raised as well as she. In Singapore, I told her, you can be publicly whipped for spitting your gum out on the street. I bet you don’t see too many tarry, black patches on the sidewalks of Singapore.

It’s often said that you can’t legislate politeness or common sense. They’ve proved that wrong in Singapore.

Recently, an American citizen in Singapore allegedly sent an e-mail criticizing the actions of a judge in the handling of a defamation suit. The man, Gopalan Pallichadath Nair, then allegedly posted the letter on his blog.

Shortly thereafter, he was taken away in cuffs for “threatening, abusing or insulting a public servant.” He faces a fine of about US$3,500 and up to a year in jail if convicted.

So think about that before you hit send the next time you’re tearing someone another one in an e-mail message. And before you spit that gum out on the sidewalk, you Philistine.