Money or your life?

This was the infamous catchphrase of the 60s and 70s when the island was infested with triads and secret societies. It was a common occurrence to find a knife at one's throat while walking alone and the phrase, 'money or your life' would threaten the intended victim. Many would just have their wallets emptied and walked away a few dollars poorer. Today, 'money or your life' has taken a new meaning. The amount is much much bigger. And the victims were not healthy people walking alone at night, but walked with a whole entourage of family members into a posh hospital. There, the extortionists were not the gangsters or triad boss but clean and sophisticated professionals armed with the best medical degrees from the best medical universities. And if the potential victim happens to be suffering from a critical illness, it is as good as hearing the catchphrase, 'money or your life' being repeated. And they are not asking for a few dollars. It can be in the hundreds of thousands, or several hundred thousands of dollars. But there is a big difference between the gangster's demand and the demand by the professionals. After paying the gangster, the victim walked away alive, though a bit shaken. In the other case, they may go home in a casket after paying the huge ransom. There is no guarantee that after paying the money asked for that his life will be safe. Money or your life, or maybe money first, then we see how it will go.


Anonymous said...

me born in the beginning of the 50s, the society was never as bad as You described here.

In fact,quite the contrary was true, there were lots of camaraderies, clan spirits, communal and community cares and supports.

Hate to read exagerations ofcrimes and triads of the earlier days. Ilive in peace and safety to post this comment. However, i am quite worry about safety and people relations nowadays. So many are aloof and cold, even neighbours are strangers to one another.

What has become of Singaporeans ?

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

hi anonymous,

life in the 50s and 60s were not as simple as what you have mentioned. but it all depends on which location one was staying. if you were in katong or bukit timah life could be good. but if one is staying in lorong tai seng, redhill, the port area or around the singapore river, having friends and neighbours who were gangsters was a norm. as child i too had been asked to collect protection money from hawkers. i had seen many fights involving my neighbours, with different gangs, street lights smashed to darken the area as they prepared to take on the police.

Anonymous said...

Sympathizes very much with your youth day history.

Me happened to be born in the Eastern part of Sin and had friends all the way from Geylang Serai, Chai Chee, Somapah, Changi Village to Old Tampines. Was living amongst/with most of the Triads active people around though not their member.

True, there were fights, rarely fatal though and unruly scums. However, me found most of those people had genuine feelings, human feelings that made good human relations. It is not like the commercial smiles and diplomacies of modern days. Nor were the people then cold and aloof, they were ever ready to give a lending hand, to help and give when needed.

Me just kind of believed You, redbean, had enjoyed the 'kampong spirit', the kinsman/clansmanships, the emotional bonds and camaraderies though most of the inhabitants then were not well off.

Eversince we were resettled into the hardlands, livings have never been as enjoyable as before the seventies. Me can only lament that there could never never be a U-turn to those good old days unless one moves away from SIN.

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

the quality and physical comfort of living were very poor than. We have made great leaps forward in these areas. i believe many people have had a better life than the 50s and 60s.

of late, unfortunately it is like going full circle and some are finding the cost of living pretty prohibitive. and they should not begrudge people making millions and with million dollar bonuses just because they are penniless. they are just mere mortals without much talent. the talented today will earn millions with having to work.

as for feeling like a kampong like community, there are big difference then and now. the people then had very little things to do, a lot of free time to while away. many were jobless and penniless. so they will sit around to kill time. it did make them know everyone in the neighbourhood.

the gangsters and triads do not normally bully the weak and fought because they were fighting for their turf.

but many were just as ugly as todays, even when they were poor.