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It’s pathetic to note that while everyone is quick to appreciate supposed-exemplary deeds, especially in the work place, when one thinks about it, some of these deeds are actually expected of us all in the first place. Nothing out of the ordinary about them even. I once heard of someone who prided himself as having won the “most punctual award” in their office for five months running. I wanted to ask, don’t the rest of your workmates ever come on time then? At some universities, I still cannot get over the giving out of the year-end ‘Best Thesis’ awards. Does that imply the rest are so-so? Woe to the graduates.

I wonder if all these perhaps infer that, even with incentives in place for any task that is well done, mediocrity is still largely tolerated. I’ve witnessed people and institutions mouth off sayings like ‘strive for excellence’ or mastery even. When the end-result comes, it’s always honoring only the winners while the rest are all but forgotten. As a lesson in sports even, it’s as if we’re even reared not to remember who came second or third.

When I was a young boy, I remember a cartoon depiction of a donkey with a stick tied to its head and in front of it, just enough not to be reached by the poor animal, was strung a lone carrot, for the animal to be enticed into moving forward. Alas, I have seen this trick in life and one can still see it done in the even in the most ordinary situations. One early lesson is, what does one do in order to stop a tot from crying? Give it a cookie perhaps, a pacifier or a toy. Or a tablet filled with games just to get them out of our hair. That early, what we’re taught is that incentives come in many forms. Even when my youngest graduated from kindergarten (and that was more than 20 years ago), I was surprised at the number of ribbons each child had hanging on their necks.

Frowned upon as this often is, there must be a flaw somewhere when we only look out for the shiniest object always, leaving the rest as nothing but a sea of blur. Yet accept this or not, that’s exactly how we’re being brought up. The culture of ‘looking out for number one’ has always been with us and by the looks of it, will be for a long time.

The expression which means only look out for yourself and don’t mind the others, is a rich source for bias and apathy. The ironic thing is, come evening, when one has become weary thinking about all these, one gives up for the night. To decide, it’s much better just to let sleeping dogs lie.


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