Shimun Lai, a 19-year-old at Nanyang Polytechnic, posted a racially insensitive comment about smell and race that has gone viral. This kind of insensitive remarks will be repeated by the less sensitive and will irk those being targeted. People get offended by all kinds of things, some genuine, some imagery, some real, some unreal, some unjustified.
One aspect of Shimun Lai’s complaint is genuine and can be minimized, that is bad body odour, or unclean body. This problem is not race biased but affects all races, local and foreigners. All human beans have body odour and it smells badly if not wash properly. Then there are some with bad personal hygiene and do not take bath regularly. Some tend to sweat profusely and smell foul. Some have bad personal habits that produce very unpleasant bad odour.
And in the close proximity of trains and buses, even inside working areas or offices, really bad smell is a problem. And the person with the smell may not know it when people start to avoid them and stay away from them. The polite ones affected by the smell will endure quietly or walk away. The less intolerant will show their displeasure and may even tell the person off.
This little irritating problem calls for a public campaign to educate everyone to adopt simple personal hygiene routines to keep themselves clean and be less offensive to those around them. It may be a bit too much to ask for from manual workers as their work demands will make them dirty and smelly very quickly. And you have the foreigners with their own standard of personal hygiene and habits which they are used to without knowing that they smell and irritate and even offend those around them. We don’t have to live with their dirty smell.
For friendly co existence and acceptance, the offenders should be educated or briefed to keep themselves clean. It is not too demanding a request or expectation. It is actually very rude to walk around smelling and forcing it on others. In the train and buses, it can be unbearable. It is rude and offensive. The ministry should do its part to reduce this social stigma. What is the point of nice clean buses, beautiful restaurants and theatres, when the person next door did not bother to clean himself or herself. And I say this again, it is not a racial thing but affects everyone. Anyone who does not keep himself or herself clean will smell and will be unwelcomed.
Let’s do something to prevent this social problem from becoming an irritating issue. Everyone can spread the word around to their friends, and friends to their friends politely. It does not cost much to wash and bath and be clean. This is a first world country and first world habits, culture and social graces must be the norm. We should not go backward to accept and accommodate third world social habits by lowering down our standard of simple hygiene. We have allowed spitting and littering to return to our midst. It is a sorry state of affair.
Why do you think politicians irked when shaking hands with people? It is not fair to blame the politicians. Why should a pair of clean hands be dirtied by a pair of soiled hands? The politician is not impolite to want to wash the soil hands quickly. It is the other party that is rude and offensive.