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Maybe the mountain needs to shake

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Singapore has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, having seemingly learned how to eliminate crime.

Singapore at night. File picture: Action Images via Reuters

RAISE your hand and roll your eyes if you’ve heard the story of the deity that rescued a multitude of slaves from tyrrany, slavery and terror on one continent, only to lead them to the base of a mountain on another continent, where this deity with a display of lightning, thunder and earthquakes terrified the recently-released band of slaves.

The people were given a law – the law of this deity – to uphold, and they soon learned that law-breaking had some pretty harsh penalties attached. One poor chap was stoned to death for gathering firewood on a certain day.

Eish. Poor guy.

Yet, it seems like an example had to be made, otherwise this rescued multitude would probably start testing the boundaries of the law to see how far they could stretch the rules. Yet to me it seems like the deity needed the nation of liberated slaves to be his ambassadors, so he wanted them to be open to His leadership in the midst of a very dangerous world in a very dangerous time.

Look, the penalty probably seems both harsh and cruel, but let’s consider a more modern example of something similar that happened back in 2006.

There was a report on National Public Radio in the USA by John Hendren who was trying to get to the bottom of why so many Iraqi civilians were dying in the war zone; was it war-related or due to other factors, he wondered.

His investigation led him to the discovery that though the US administrators set steep fines for certain offences, people were still transgressing the laws. What he learned later, however, was astonishing.

Hendren writes, “A grocer and three others were shot to death and the store was firebombed because he suggestively arranged his vegetables.”

Suggestive vegetables?

He continues: “… an Iraqi colleague explained matter-of-factly that Shiite clerics had recently distributed a flyer directing groceries how to display their food. Standing up a celery stalk near a couple of tomatoes in a way that might – to the profoundly repressed – suggest an aroused male, is now a capital offence.”

He also learned that shepherds in the rural neighbourhood of Gazalea were murdered for failing to diaper their goats. Apparently the sexual tension is so high in regions where Sheikhs take a draconian view of Shariah law, that they feel the sight of naked goats poses an unacceptable temptation.

On the other end of the spectrum, I recently learned that Singapore has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, having seemingly learned how to eliminate crime.

Imagine a run of 250 days in a row without an incident of common crime. That’s what happened recently; eight months without a bag snatched, a cellphone stolen, a house broken into in the entire city-state! Imagine that.

The reasons for the low crime rate, according to one source, is threefold; firstly, honesty and fairness is a big part of the culture in Singapore. Yes, people respect each other and cheating is not in their DNA.

Secondly, basic needs are met so people may not feel that they need to resort to crime. Singapore’s economy and government make it so that most people in the country live pretty well. Apparently, there is no homelessness in the 710 square kilometre city-state home to around five million people.

But the third reason made me nod rather vigorously … You see, the third reason for the puny crime rate is surveillance. All over Singapore there are cameras. They are everywhere and the consequences for being caught on camera committing a crime is pretty harsh.

For example, from the old faithful Wikipedia, we learn that “Common offences that warrant a public caning include smoking, alcohol consumption, drug- or gang-related activities, fighting, vandalism, arson, extortion, theft and any case involving the Police.”

For more serious crimes, things escalate. The sentence for robbery is two to 10 years’ imprisonment and a minimum of six lashes of the cane. If the crime is committed between 7pm and 7am, the sentence could be anywhere from three to 14 years’ imprisonment, with at least 12 lashes.

But it’s not only Singapore where there’s order. A friend of mine who worked in Seoul, South Korea says that when you do a ‘number two’, even in your own home in that city, all you get to flush down the toilet is the waste matter that plopped from your body. Not even the toilet paper gets flushed; there’s a receptacle for that. Oh, and if you decide not to comply, you could be in deep … let’s say ‘trouble’.

However, you may have noticed that things are pretty random over here in good old South Africa. Here we not merely skirt the laws, we shatter them, and then dare anyone to challenge our ‘rights’. And this attitude goes pretty high up.

Just recently there was a report of a ‘controversial’ MP who threatened a newspaper editor with “assassination” if he didn’t “stop writing stories about a certain president’s adviser”.

Am I saying that we should start caning people publicly in South Africa to bring the crime rate down and restore order? Though many people would be nodding themselves dizzy right now, this is not what I am saying.

But what I am saying is that if there is no culture of respect between people in our country – which there doesn’t seem to be; if there is no plan to uplift the poor – which still seems too far off; and if the criminals in this country can brazenly carry out their nefarious plans, seemingly at will, without any real fear of being disciplined, then I fear that we had better check and recheck our security measures around our homes, families and possessions as the festive season draws closer.

Oh, by the way, that deity I was speaking about earlier … I learned that he needed to – not because of who He was, but because of who the people were at the time – scare them into obedience. He needed to reach them where they were, treat them like hooligans for a while, until He could lift them to what they could be.

After all, this is the same deity whose most precious gift to His people was, according to Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of self-control.

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