Saturday, 22 December 2018

Why can't we live and let live? Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and the Grange Heights' 40-year feud.

Why can’t we live and let live? 

No, I am not talking about 377A, but two recent events in the news today. One was about tennis and the other about easement, right of way.

Naomi Osaka (only 20) was the newly crowned US Open champion. When she beat world champion Serena Williams, 36. she was only the second Asian to win the Grand Slam singles title.

But it was not an easy win. The crowd booed at Naomi. 

Serena was a spoilt brat in the court. She got a “point penalty for a smashed racket and a game penalty for verbal abuse.” 

She lectured the umpire on “character and motherhood”. And to add salt to the wound, the announcer ignored and undermined Naomi and praised Serena even in defeat. 

But according to asst sports editor, Rohit Brijnath, Naomi was the “fashioned Japanese-Haitian steel” who kept her composure amid the provocations and boos. 

He wrote that: “(Naomi) beat the greatest women’s player in front of her fans, stopped a beloved mother on a fairy-tale comeback and overcame her idol whose posters she had on her wall. It takes spirit to tear down your hero in public.”

But despite all that extreme prejudiced treatment, Naomi apologised...for winning?

She said: “I know everyone was cheering for (Williams), I’m sorry it had to end like this.”

When she was asked why she apologised, Naomi said: “Your question is making me tear up.”

She then added: “I know that she really wanted the have the 24th Grand Slam. Everyone knows this. It’s on the commercials, it’s everywhere. Like, when I step onto the court, I feel like a different person, right? I’m not a Serena fan. I’m just a tennis player playing another tennis player. But then when I hugged her at the net...(pause) sorry.” 

It reports that at that point of the interview, Naomi stopped for 13 seconds. She couldn’t speak. 

“Anyway, when I hugged her at the net, I felt like a little kid again.” She ended with this: “Sorry”.

The second news (reported by KC Vijayan) was a 40-year feud between neighbours, Lee Tat Development and Grange Heights condo residents. 

It was to be the most expensive neighbourhood disputes that culminated to a claim for damages at $63 million. 

After more than three decade of legal wrangling since 1974, the highest court of the land in 2008 finally decided in Lee Tat’s favour that the residents have no right of way to use a strip of land as a short cut from their condo to Orchard Road. 

One resident said: -

“All we wanted as residents was a footpath, so that we could reach the street more easily instead of having to take a long route from St Thomas Walk. Given that there are 60 to 70 children in the building, the access was important to us because it made it easier for the children to get to the school in Grange Road or reach the MRT station.”

Another resident said: -

“Even though the path was...overgrown with vegetation and covered with rocks and pebbles, we still used it - even at night when the only light came firm the adjacent condominium or the street goes to show how useful it was to our daily lives.”

You would think that after such long a dispute, the matter would end in 2008 when the residents were denied the use of that strip. 

But no, Lee Tat was not happy. They used that decision as a springboard to launch their legal suit “simply becuase of “a deep sense of grievance against the MCST (of Grange Heights).””

They argued that “MCST had benefited from using the right of way from 1997 to 2008 and Lee Tat would be entitled to the hypothetical rent the MCST would have had to pay for the use of the way.”

Even appellate justice Andrew Ang commented: -

“It is ironic that a dispute bitterly fought over several decades by two parties who have nothing but ill will towards each other has engendered (for Singapore law) questions of the first importance in relation of the common law in general and tort law in particular.”

Thankfully, the recent decision in the Court of Appeal dismissed Tat Lee’s claim to the great relief of the condo residents. 

A resident for 18 years said: “Even though this is a property on prime land, many residents here are retired folks and it has been a strain over the years to defend ourselves against a company with seemingly deep pockets. Besides just the money, it was also a lot of anxiety and time spent on these cases, so, overall we are all very happy that this chapter has finally come to a close.”

Mind you, the sum spent in legal bills by the residents came up to about $2 million. 

Lesson? Alas, between Osaka and Serena and Tat Lee and the Grange Heights condo residents, there is a gap that has plagued humanity for the longest of time. 

This gap has caused wars, suffering and untold misery on the world stage. This gap also answers the question of why we can’t live and let live. In particular, it answers to a large extent why Serena acted like a child and the Tat Lee/Grange Height feud on a strip of land lasted for four decades. 

Make no mistakes, this gap is always man-made. Circumstances beyond our control may create a neutral space between two neighbours or two states, but it is always how we fill that space that either bridge our differences or widens it further. 

The Good Samaritan in us will see to it that the space created by circumstances does not degenerate into a gap of unbridgeable animosity. 

But for every Good Samaritan one encounter in this life’s treacherous pathway, you will encounter many who will act in a way that will turn the space into a gap, and before long, widens it into a chasm or a schism. 

That is why the scripture reminds us of this: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”

And in my book, Naomi was a peacemaker. 

After accepting her trophy, she turned to the crowd and Serena and said: ““I’m sorry, I know that everyone was cheering for her and I’m sorry it had to end like this. I’m really grateful I was able to play with you, Thank you.” She bowed her head to Williams. 

It reports that “Williams just took it — no reciprocation, no emotion.“

Alas, everywhere you go, you will meet with the Naomis and Serenas, one would be a bridge builder and the other a gap widener. 

The key to living a meaningful life is to always draw your inspiration, encouragement and strength from the Naomis in your life. They truly shine not only on the outside but also on the inside. Cheerz.

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