A sense of ownership
I was speaking to committee member Liang Tong the other day before the meeting yesterday and we were discussing matters such as feeding cats upstairs. We were discussing how this seemed to be a pretty uniquely Singaporean complaint though perhaps it did happen overseas, and we didn't know about it, but then it occurred to me that it didn't even happen as far as we knew, in condominiums here. Now granted, some of the condominiums have very fancy security and the cats would not be able to get up, but in others, it is possible for the cats to get upstairs if they wanted to. So why is it that people in condos don't feed cats upstairs? These are condos obviously where there are feeders, but if they want to feed, they tend to do so downstairs.
Liang Tong came up with a very interesting theory - that some people living in HDB estates tend not to think of the corridor and public areas as really being 'theirs'. As such, these people have no qualms about bringing cats upstairs or littering for that matter. During the occasions I've visited, condos seem to have less litter in the void decks as well which could very well validate Liang Tong's theory. I don't think they necessarily have more cleaners - I tend to see more cleaners in HDB estates. And of course some condos are quite massive projects with thousands of people living in them as well so it doesn't necessarily mean that there are fewer people living in them. Condo residents - perhaps you can share your views on whether this is true.
If this is the case, perhaps it reflects the attitude some people take to their environment -that it really isn't their home. Their own units are their homes, but not the void deck, or the public areas - and that's sad, because without a sense of ownership, littering for example will never stop. Right now it seems as if the problem is being tackled by sending in more cleaners - but not stopping people from littering. It's kind of like the community cat problem - the cats are being trapped and killed, but nothing is being done to prevent abandonment.
Granted it IS difficult - how does one make people feel like this is indeed home? Maybe by letting them take a more active role in their estates - and community cat caregivers are really at the forefront of that. Pandering to complainants for example who don't like cats by removing them doesn't make them more community minded - it makes them less so. If they were actively involved in working towards a solution with caregivers, it would not only improve neighbourly relations but give them ownership of their own estates. It might also make them realise that trapping and killing is not a solution - right now, it's done so 'efficiently' by the TCs that many complainants don't even realise the cats were removed and killed so when new cats move in because of the vacuum effect, they don't even realise something was done, nor in most cases is their problem solved. And most people I still believe, do not want cats killed - they just want the problem solved. So getting neighbours to work with other neighbours is the best way to promote neighbourliness as well as to create a true community.