Wednesday, April 21, 2010


躬自厚而薄責於人, 則遠怨矣(論語.衛靈公篇)
(Strict on yourself yet forgiving on others will keep resentment away - a word of wisdom from Confucius)

Too often in our lives we became complacent at other people's mishaps or when things that simply don't sound right. Remember the time when you had a terrible dish at a restaurant yet when the waiter came by and asked how everything is, you told him everything's good without hesitation, because you didn't want to upset the chef? How about the time when someone in your team screwed up but you held back your criticism because that person happened to be your best friend/the nicest person on the team or you just want to avoid any embarassment to anyone? Then what happened? Well he screwed up yet again, and again, and again, because no one has told him so.

I am sure there are hundreds of reasons why we chose to be so: because we have been taught it's part of our traditional moral values; because it's the political correct thing to do; because we always want to be the peacemaker; because no one likes the awkwardness that may result when someone speak their minds. But it is a dangerous path really when we start settling for less, in big or small ways, whether to yourself or to others - complacency breeds mediocrity. And once we decided to go down to this trap of mediocrity there's no turning back: soon enough you would think it's okay for a fine-dining restaurant to serve ready meals; soon enough you would think Genki Sushi's better than Sushi Shin because they got more smiley faces in openrice (or Spaghetti House really is the best Italian restaurant in town); soon enough you would think that random Australian Pinot you got at Park N Shop can rival your treasured DRC Grands Echezeaux; soon enough you would think functional constituency can be considered as part of universal and equal suffrage. Well, hope you got the idea.

It's time for us to stop following this downward spiral - by this I am not advocating people to be hypercritical or nitpicking; I am merely saying people should just say what they truly feel without hesitation of being seen as "political incorrect", or be afraid to offend somebody. Trying to play Mr Nice Guy in a bad situation doesn't make it goes away, and by tolerating mediocrity we will eventually turn into one, when we start to think it's acceptable to be mediocre, or "average" became a new word for "good".

So let us all start by telling the waiter the food's bad when you think it is so, or letting people know that Spaghetti House is NOT an Italian restaurant; that terroir does count in making good wines, and there's no place for functional constituency in equal suffrage. Please...

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