By Kai Teo
Back in the days when life was simpler, Singapore was a tiny fishing village island called Temasek – just a bunch of local folks eating coconuts and playing with monkeys.
And then in 1819, some Brits on their annual Colonisation Project sailed past the island, thought it was pretty, and put their crown on it. The locals’ jungle knives were no match for the English cannons and the power of white supremacy, so they sucked it up and accepted the involuntary birth of the modern Singapore.
Within a few years, the Brits developed Singapore into a bustling port and immigrants from countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, India, and China came flocking in search of a better life.
The immigrants decided to stay in Singapore for good and made loads of babies, and one of these babies, is probably your grandma or grandpa, if you call yourself a Singaporean.
So, history lesson over. Point is, most of our ancestors were immigrants. And not many of us living in the country today can be considered “true blue Singaporeans”.
And here comes the irony, today, many of us living in this city-state are trying to do this whole “Singapore for Singaporeans” thingy, saying that the country is overcrowded and we need to limit the number of “foreign talent”.
What the fuck? We were all
immigrants to this land, and now we want to stop other immigrants from coming in?
Every construction worker from Bangladesh, every domestic helper from the Philippines, and every restaurant waitress from China is doing the exact same thing our great grandparents did for us not too long ago – paving the way for a better future for the next generations.
The home that you live in right now is probably built with the sweat and tears of a hardworking bricklayer. Let’s call him Prabu. He's from Kerala, who is earning shit money working shit hours and taking shit from his boss every shitty day, just so that he can give his family a better life.
Prabu works his Indian ass off in the day, goes back to his 20-man dorm late at night, and then repeats the same shit for 6 days a week. Shit gets built, no one complains.
But one Sunday, when Prabu goes to have a few drinks with friends, gets a little tipsy, starts complaining about his boss, and in a fit of rage, he pisses on the sidewalk (which we have all done at least once, at some point in our lives). It is his little act of rebellion, a little release of his pent-up frustrations. Because that’s all he can do, and it makes him feel a sense of freedom for about 5 minutes.
What he doesn’t know, is that some “righteous Singaporean” has been taking pictures of him pissing in public, with his new iPhone 6.
“Righteous Singaporean” promptly posts the pictures on our favourite website, Stomp, and titles his masterpiece “Indian worker gets drunk and pisses on the sidewalk. Send him back to India.”
Even the press, independent or not, doesn’t leave nationality out of their headlines. If it had been a local insurance salesman shitting himself outside a karaoke pub, it wouldn’t even make the news. But suddenly, because it’s Prabu, the whole matter blows up into an immigration issue.
We’ve all seen it, and so many are guilty of saying shit like that. “Send them back to where they came from”.
“I’m not racist, but I just think that
these Bangla workers should learn
to behave in my country.”
That is sick, very sick. Since when does Singapore belong to us? Our need to feel valued as citizens has driven us to post hateful shit on the internet, and made us feel a sense of entitlement that we didn’t earn (no, serving National Service doesn’t entitle us to more rights or privileges, it's not like we had a choice). And just because our morning train is too crowded, we think we have the right to deny someone else of a chance to earn a better living in the country?
I agree that our culture differs from that of India, or China, where many of today’s immigrants are from. We pride ourselves for being a multi-ethnic, racially harmonious country.
But there’s a fine print to this clause: Harmony doesn’t apply if you don’t follow our rules.
In every culture, there are stupid people, and there are great people. One woman from China defecating outside the train station does not make every Chinese immigrant in Singapore a bad person. She’s fucked up, and she’s responsible for her own actions. Not China. Not the whole Chinese community in Singapore.
And so we complain about the government’s immigration policy being too loose. Letting everyone in, in the name of economic progress, would dilute the Singapore culture and cause our country to be overcrowded.
Right, at the rate the world economy is going, everything’s about money and productivity. If we could hire someone competent at a lower salary, we would. Pretty simple logic. But when that someone with the same skill set as us comes from another country and is willing to work for a lower salary, we go all apeshit on the immigration policy.
When a company hires a customer service officer that can barely serve customers or a bus driver that can hardly drive, it’s not the fault of that particular person, or nationality, it’s a problem with the company’s hiring policy. In order to cut costs, they cut corners. Profit maximisation.
It’s called globalisation and capitalism. And these are the same ideas that have transformed our country to become the economic superpower it is today.
It’s not about the immigrants. It’s about greed. If a company could make more money hiring talking furry bunnies as receptionists, it just might. So let’s not channel our hate to a particular group of people. Most of the time, we’re wrongly targeting innocent, involuntary players in the game of capitalism.
And as long as money can buy us cars and diamonds, this would never change. The poor will always be at the mercy of the rich and powerful, and what we need to remember is that every construction worker, every domestic helper, every office cleaner, no matter where they come from, is just like you and me, trying to make ends meet.
So when there’s someone from another country who isn’t well assimilated into your culture and do something that doesn’t quite sit well with your beliefs, don’t get all nationalistic about shit. Most of the times, these ‘deviant’ behaviours don’t kill anyone. Shit we always complain about, such as screaming into the phone on the public transport, queue cutting, nose picking in front of you, littering, spitting, etc. Ok, the public shitting is really fucked up though, but that’s just one-off.
Call it ungracious behaviour, call it a lack of manners, call it whatever. But really, many of our immigrants have been brought up in poor families, harsh living conditions, and in order to survive, they sometimes do have to fight, literally. And when they come here in search of a better life, we’ve already set up a natural barrier against their presence: our look of disdain.
Most of us in Singapore have it pretty ok. We’re not rich enough to afford a car, but never poor enough to starve. What do we know about their struggles? Maybe they’ve never been to school, maybe they’re orphans and were never taught the ‘manners’ that you and I take for granted.
We are all humans. We all deserve a chance to fight for a better living. And if we want to make things better for everyone in Singapore, we better fucking change our attitude.
Hate only breeds more hate. And sometimes, when you live in a society that treats you like a second-class being just because of where you come from, your only way of relieve is to lash out at the rest of the country.
Maybe it’s a cry for attention, an alarm bell to tell us to start seeing them as fellow humans, and not lesser beings that are here to fuck up our country, break up our families, and take up our seats on the trains. When you see someone like an animal, how can you expect that person to behave any better than an animal?
If we want things to be better for everyone, we have to be better people. And since we think we are the ‘gracious’ citizens of a great civilisation, let us make the first move. Let’s love a little more, be more accepting and more understanding. Let us be racially blind, and let us eliminate national borders.
The concept of nations doesn’t even make sense in the first place if you really think about it. We’re all the same fucking race – the human race, so why separate us and make us hate one another because we speak different languages, fly different flags and abide by different sets of rules?
We all know the quote “Be the change you want to see in the world”. So instead of expecting others to change so that they would fit into our society, maybe we can take the easier route by changing our own attitude.
And maybe one day, some little girl in rural China would be grateful to you for letting her mother stay in your country so that she can pay for her university education.