Shenton Way 'culture' Or 'Shenton Way Culture'?

The two may look seemingly similar, but the differences that lie between the two is a mechanical manipulation of English terms, and a very important one; as the meanings of each term is different.

The ‘beep’ of my ezlink card marks the start to an hour-long bus journey to school, and I am kept less than a metre into the bus due to the peak hour-cram in the morning. It is not uncommon however. One can notice almost immediately that these people are accustomed to this tight squeeze and quite blatant intrusion of personal space; think face under armpits, elbows in someone else’s back, or wet hair in your face (and the only fortunate thing is that it is the start of the day and no one smells, yet). Despite this squeeze, that people find respite in their iPhones and iPods, that slight entertainment to last them for a mere 4 stops, is really nothing wrong at all.
What was peculiar to me was that it was always packed at the front, and nobody would move towards the back of the bus to allow for more passengers to board. Everyone was just preoccupied with their iPhones (or iPods) and was contented with their position as long as they were near to a handle or to the door – so that they can alight conveniently thereafter. I felt puzzled, every single time I took this bus at this particular time to school. It proved more challenging for the elderly; they had to look frail enough in order to earn themselves a seat amidst this tight squeeze.

This indifference towards their surroundings, whether deliberate or not, is definitely surprising for me, as at the back of my head I connected this to how culture is about man and their ability to make sense of their surroundings. Could indifference also then be considered as a “reaction” towards one’s surroundings, a deliberate and conscious choice that these ‘Shenton Way’ people make, towards the cram in the bus?

The aloofness quality of being in a crammed space seem to have been borne out of somewhere, replicated and reproduced so many times, such that it is now the ‘accepted’ attitude to adopt towards being in a crammed space. Then, could we actually call this a Culture? If Culture can be defined as ‘learnt and shared knowledge’(Lee Cronk), then perhaps this could be a Culture in the making. If Culture can be defined as, “ idea, a concept that enables people to re-imagine themselves in relation to their environment” (Lee Cronk), then perhaps too this could be a problem in mindsets.

The reduction in private spaces has invariably resulted in the shrinking of one’s internal capacity for tolerance and graciousness in the fast-paced world that we live in today. However, I still maintain that this is more of a Shenton Way ‘culture’ instead of a “Shenton Way Culture’ primarily because on a few rare occasions, I was still fortunate enough to have witnessed a kind act or two; such as the lady who gave up her seat to an elderly seconds after she barely sat down, or the middle-aged uncle who always look around for spaces to move into for the convenience of accommodating another passenger in the bus. More importantly, these people are poignant reminders that culture is what we make out of it, and that as long as there are variances or deviations from the “norm”, culture will always be adapting – and I hope that it will be adapted towards a more gracious one in this case.

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