Smog It Out

Since about a week ago, we have been experiencing a hazy situation. I call it the “haze godzilla”, especially when PSI levels crossed the hazardous 400 mark two days ago, and the skies no longer look sunny and blue but a dull, sulphuric-ashy grey. As we stayed indoors to hide it out, we did not only observe the trends of the PSI and PM2.5 numerics, but also the reactions of people living in our midst. Those hours of surfing around online, at times bordering on claustrophobic insanity, did lead me to draw some rather interesting observations and thoughts.

Firstly, Facebook was both an escape as much as it was a hell-hole that bred disdain and depression. It was my primary source of communication, being able to network with friends from a variety of social circles, keep in touch with their lives (in Singapore or otherwise) and what their reactions were towards the haze situation in the region. Yet, the internet was also a space where an overload of depressing, negative talk thrived in, and Facebook was that window where we tasted that bad air.

Singaporeans are extremely reactive. I don’t mind explosive, or even bad-tempered. I mean Singaporeans react very readily to whatever is out there, almost as if the big bad haze gave us a topic to talk about, to live on, to fill our lives with. When the haze situation emerged, you started reading of PSI updates everywhere online, taking different forms. Some were screenshots of the NEA’s website, or some PSI android app, or some email or SMS update, some were complaints about the bad air condition, and some were news articles about the Indonesian fires and the nasty finger-pointing that had come out of it. Shortly after when the N95 masks came into the picture, there started to be photographs of people wearing masks (of different sorts). And then there came the complaints that there were not enough masks, that Singaporeans were buying masks from airports all over the region before returning to Singapore, and some were quick to accuse the government or individual ministers for not doing enough (or promptly enough) to help ease the burdens of the people. Wow, that was a mouthful. Not to forget the memes from 9gag about the haze. I just imagined that if it was not the haze that occurred but say, a zombie epidemic (like in World War Z, yes), how would we react? We would probably also keep ourselves locked up in our homes, huddling in safety, turning to our electronics and computers for an alternate reality indoors. Oh this is already sounding so Brave New World-The Machine Stops-ish.

I just wondered when the haze trend will pass and people move on to other things in their exciting (or lack thereof, mundane) lives.

It is also a time to assess how selfless and compassionate we are towards others we do not know. Texas Chicken called off all delivery services for the welfare of their service crew – did the rest of the delivery systems? People urged companies to take care of their workers who were labouring out in the nasty hazy weather – were they being taken care of? A maid agency near my block had their employees sit indoors behind the glass windows when previously they would make the poor girl sit outdoors. Companies gave out free N95 masks to spread goodwill among the people, while others freely offered bottles of water to those in need. Yet some others were quick to jack up the prices of the masks and other necessities, buy loads for themselves sparing little thought for others in need, and other companies capitalized on the bad weather to market their own masks (albeit of a different sort). How much thought did we spare for others these few days, when we needed to buy a meal, or when we saw someone with a similar need as ourselves? Or perhaps we were mostly out to protect and fend for ourselves. Are we constantly counting our blessings, or are we quick to fling responsibilities and accusations at other parties?

These few days of staying indoors with the windows and doors shut (almost all the time) without the air-conditioner (it stopped working a few days before the haze hit Singapore) was a nightmare. I wished I could see clear skies so I could run outside and live it up. It reminded me that we were not made for stagnancy. If you placed someone in a little room and expected him or her to be happy, he or she would never be. We were made to desire and live for personal contact, meaningful communication, socialisation and working towards progress. I am just glad this evening offered a little glimpse of hope and heaven when the temporary winds blew the smog away. God is good – giving us a timely reminder that He is in control and things will be okay. :)

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