Thursday, October 06, 2011

There are Foreigners and there are Foreigners

For anyone hanging around Singapore’s chattering class and surfing the internet, it’s easy to get the impression that there is a large gap between the rulers and the ruled in Singapore. This is especially so when it comes to the very touchy issue of foreigners. As far as the chattering classes are concerned, foreigners are the source of every social ill. Why are houses in Singapore so expensive? The answer is because the foreigners have made it so. Why can’t I get a job? The foreigners have taken them. Why are public service standards declining? The foreigners have made public transport unusable.

The rulers on the other hand, have been trying desperately to remind us that Singapore has a very precious commodity – economic growth. The only reason why we have this precious commodity is because we have “foreigners” to drive it for us. Why is Singapore prosperous? That’s because we are open to foreign investment and talent.

With two extreme views being thrown around, what’s the reality when it comes to foreigners in Singapore? Well, the answer is probably both and the reality is that the difference in view between the powers-that-be and the chattering classes is in fact not that great when it comes to issue of foreigners. The reason for this is simple. As far as the nation is concerned, there are foreigners and there are foreigners. The government has divided the two different groups into neat little categories called “foreign TALENT” and “foreign LABOUR.” What do these labels mean?

The official reasons are this – “To be a ‘TALENT’ means that you have a ‘professional’ skill of sorts. Chances are, you have a degree from a recognised university and chances are you work at middle-management level at the very least. If you are known as ‘LABOUR,’ you merely here to do manual work and you are most likely to have barely completed high-school.” What does this mean in “real-speak?” As far the officials are concerned, “TALENT” is a necessity and therefore something we have to go all out to woo, while “LABOUR” is what we grudgingly accept from our Asian neighbours. Funnily enough, there’s very little disagreement between the rulers and the ruled on this matter.

As far as the ruled are concerned, the “Talent” happen to be the type of people that we want to accommodate. Put any pale skin in front of any particular Singaporean, you’ll find them trying to change their accent to “fit-in” with the “welcomed” guest. However, when you put a Chinaman in front of a Singaporean, you’ll find that even the half educated, who can barely string a sentence of English together, wills start complaining that the Chinaman has failed to “integrate” into Singapore society by failing to learn English.

So, funnily enough, the rulers and the ruled seem to agree on the two different classes of foreigners who are inhibiting Singapore. You could say a part of this is due to history. The foreigners who came from places where the natives were slightly pink tended to come as the “overlords,” whether they were Colonial Administrators in the 1800s or Senior Managers in the 2000s. As Lee Kuan Yew our Founding Prime Minister says, “The Superiority of the White Man was a fact of life.”

On the other hand, the foreigners who are dark skinned, came in and are still coming in to shovel our shit. You can’t blame the foreigners for doing what they do. The “dark” skinned people are coming to Singapore because – hey, they make more money shovelling our shit in one day than their folks make on the farm in a year.

You can’t blame pink and blotchy people for coming here either. Would you rather be in a place where you’re just one of the plebs or in a place where the natives will kill themselves just to clean your shit-stained arse with their tongues? If only people would do this for fat and bald men? The reason for pink-blotchy and dark foreigners coming here is obvious and if one were in their position, one would probably be doing the same thing – finding a way to get into this little island that welcomes people from all over the world.

You also have to give credit to the foreigners for doing lots of good. The dark foreigners do things like keep Singapore’s streets clean and they look after our kids. The pink-blotchy ones have also done credit to us. Where would the Singapore advertising industry be without the likes of Neil French, former Global Creative Head of the WPP Group? What needs to be questioned is the Singaporean attitude towards both groups of foreigners.

Its become a serious enough issue in the sense that Singaporeans seem to be allowing their personal views to ruin some of the very things that make Singapore so good – a place where there is something called “justice, equality and fairness.”

Let’s start with the pink-blotchy people. Generally, many of them do come from countries where certain skill sets in certain industries are more developed. As such, a good portion of them end up as senior managers in the big companies that employ the majority of Singaporeans. Neil French former global head of the WPP Group comes to mind as does my stepfather, Lee Smith, a former creative coordinator of what was then known as Lintas. Many of them have also started small enterprises, which have benefited Singaporeans.

From my personal and family circle, the name that comes to mind is Hans Hofer, the founder of Appa Guides. His story is well known. Mr Hofer came to Singapore in the 70s after a stint in Bali. The man came up with the idea of adding colour photos to guide books and somehow managed to produce a publishing empire. Years later, he sold out to the German Publishing Giant Langenscheidt. Mr Hofer employed Singaporeans and made Singapore a place to visit for people in the publishing industry. The likes of Mr French and Mr Hofer are rightly revered. If you look at their achievements, they’d be heroes even if they didn’t spend a good portion of their time in Singapore. These men are genuine talents. Unfortunately, the pink-blotchy community has a few duds.

In the advertising industry there is a chap called Alan Ardy, who has reinvented himself as the industry eccentric. Mr Ardy’s claim to fame was seducing my stepfather’s Thai maid and when that couldn’t get him the attention he sought, his wife accused my mother of stealing a cross-stitch book – a fact that is insulting not only on the account that it insinuated my mother was a thief but also the fact that she would stoop to steal a book on cross-stitching (something my old-lady has never been known to like).

Mr Ardy is a sorry excuse of an old queen who was jealous of the fact my stepfather ended up with my mother instead of him. If this was any other country, Mr Ardy would probably be left to wallow away his days in the Admiral Duncan in Soho (Gay Pub that got bombed while I still lived there). However, this is Asia and Mr Ardy has had the good fortune to be born the right colour. Go to any industry function and you’ll find Mr Ardy holding court as if he were king of the world. Mr Ardy has proudly offered to show me the number of women begging to for him to get into their panties and he’s always done this as he leers at me.

The nicest thing you can say about Mr Ardy is that he’s harmless. If the talented Asians in the industry want to have a laugh with him, so be it. If there are any women dying for him to get into their panties, I think they’ll be disappointed. In fairness to Mr Ardy, he tried to make a living in advertising and he didn’t swindle people.

Things become less pleasant when you start talking about the charlatans who actively promote theft and in some cases – genocide. I start with the likes of Fred Seaward, Pastor of Elim Church – Gina’s pastor. When you first meet Fred, he’s actually quite nice. He always seems happy to see you and his warmth is dare I say it, quite genuine. Attend one of his services and you’ll realise why he’s so keen to be your friend. What he wants is your soul.

Officially, it’s not him but Jesus. However, if you listen carefully enough, Fred hasn’t actually passed a soul to Jesus for quite sometime. Miracles come in the shape of donations – “We asked you for money to buy a car – we prayed, there was a miracle – we raised enough money for a five-door car instead of a four-door one. Praise the Lord.” Fred isn’t ashamed to say that the car he’s collecting for is for – his wife. You could say that if working-graduate-professionals are stupid enough to contribute to Fred’s coffers, you should let them. He never held a gun to their head and they just donated.

Where I take issue with Fred is in his active promotion of his version of Christianity of common sense and decency. He was smart and kept his views to “Isn’t it wonderful, we’re claiming one back from Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism etc.” However, my ex-wife had a way of repeating what he taught – “Those people in Indonesia and Thailand – they sin and they sin – you know what they’re religion is – that’s why God sent the Tsunami to punish them.” I don’t know about you but for me that borders of the promotion of genocide and the stirring-up of religious hatred – both are serious crimes in Singapore. Yet, nobody seems to complain about this. Singaporeans of all colours seem quite content to listen to Fred talk about “The Chosen People,” and their steal land is to be encouraged. It seems quite acceptable to talk about how people of different faiths deserve to be wiped out on mass because they had the good sense not to contribute to Pastors coffers. This is not acceptable by most decent people’s standards. Yet Fred remains untouched by the powers-that-be.

In the secular world, you have crooks like Roger James Hamilton and Dave Rogers. Messer’s Hamilton and Rogers are the stars of a show called “Badman and Robme.” How do they make a living? They sell memberships to a club called – “I’ll Make You RICH if you give me YOUR money.” I actually went to one of his seminars. His theme was as simple as “You can get rich if you give me money and I let you meet my billionaire friends.” Erm, if you had a personal data base of billionaires, you wouldn’t sell them to the highest bidder! The scam was obvious. People fell for it. Mr Hamilton couldn’t even be bothered to hide much.

He was happily claiming that the Depak Chopra Institute was behind him even though they had sent him legal notices about it. He claimed genius status from Cambridge even though he got a third. Yet, despite peddling what is blatant fraud, our Commercial Affairs Department couldn’t find anything wrong with him and the local press had this incredible urge to be “fair” to Mr Hamilton and somehow the urge to expose the obvious fraud went as far as pork chops in a mosque.

Now, if you look at the darkies who come over to Singapore, you’d find a somewhat similar story. Just as there are good and bad pink-blotchies, there are good and bad darkies. Girls from China, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia have been known to work as prostitutes. The chaps from Bangladesh get roped into selling duty-free cigarettes on the streets of Geylang.

However, most of the darkies are hard working, decent people. If you look at Singapore hard enough, you’ll realise that it is the darkies who keep things moving. Our kids and old folks are looked after by Filipino and Indonesian maids. Our streets are kept clean by Bangladeshis. Indian, Chinese and Thai labourers build new buildings in the hot sun. Singapore’s leaders trust their lives to Ghurkha’s from Nepal. The darkies are not as refined as the pink-blotchies since most of them have barely left high school if they’ve even been to primary school in the first place.

The darkies are a little unsure of many of the social norms like volume control when chatting on the phone. Travel on a bus and the loudest voice usually belongs to a darkie chatting away with someone back home. However, when all of this is said and done, the darkies are a decent hard working community doing the jobs that Singaporeans won’t do or selling services that Singaporeans are more than happy to pay for. Nobody is forcing the local Singaporean man to head down to Geylang!

However, officialdom in Singapore doesn’t seem to take too kindly to this fact and our officials are on a mission to ensure that the darkies don’t get any funny ideas. The police will probably claim that this is necessary. I think of a Ministry of Manpower official who told me, “If they commit a crime, we can’t let them in,” after I told her that a group of darkies merely wanted to work in Singapore and pay tax – something which locals and Pink-Blotchies aren’t rushing to do. My question to her is – exactly what crimes have the darkies committed that warrants the official stamp of disapproval against them.

Let’s acknowledge that there is blatant racism against dark people in Singapore as there is in quite a few places. What’s a little frightening about the racism in Singapore is that it is actually in official policy.

I know of a White South African who couldn’t get a work permit. He’s a dental technician, the type of skilled professional we’re looking for, yet for some reason he was denied the right papers. Finally, he decided to see the people at Immigration. True enough – he got the permit. Reason was simple – they realised that despite having the word “Africa” on his passport – he is white.

You have the case of making Saudi citizens apply for visas. This was a restriction imposed on Saudi Arabia after September 11, 2001. The argument ran something like 19 of the 22 hijackers were Saudi citizens so we have to be careful. However, this argument fails when you consider the fact that nobody has considered imposing visas on Americans and British citizens in the light of the 2008 financial crisis. If you use the argument that we have to be careful because 19 Saudis were terrorists, surely the same has to apply to Americans and Brits since the financial crisis was caused by American and British Bankers (who have on the balance of things caused far more damage to the world than the hijackers could have).

Singapore isn’t exactly trying to shy away from Saudi Arabia. In fact, we’re unashamedly trying to take their money. However, our easing restrictions on visas for Saudi’s entering Singapore has been quite pitiful and we’ve been content to allow Washington and Tel Aviv dictate our views on the Middle East – which is like asking Pamela Anderson to set a good example to teenage girls in a convent.

Whenever you compare the treatment that officials give to pink-blotchies and darkies, you are bound to see a scandalous contrast. Look at the police presence in Orchard Towers and Geylang – areas that offer hookers and booze.

In Orchard Towers the police presence consists of a car parked at the opposite end of the road. In the mean time you have girls actively soliciting for business (soliciting is a crime even if prostitution is not) along Singapore’s main shopping district. You have lots of alcohol, which means you get to see pink-blotchy culture at its best – the scum rises near the surface.

Whenever the boys in blue feel obliged to act, it’s always against anyone who objects to being pushed around by pink-blotchy scum.

In Geylang you have a lot less booze and the girls who are not in legal brothels tend to be standing along the ally ways. The booze drinkers usually stick to the coffee shops that sell them the booze. Yet the police are active in the area.

Darkies who sit together in a bus stop are likely to be questioned by the police. There are, needless to say far more instances of trouble in Pink-blotchy land in Orchard Towers than there are in Darkie Land in Geylang. However, the authorities look at what goes on in Orchard Towers as a bit of laddish fun while what goes on in Geylang is a crime waiting to happen.

Look at Singapore and you’ll realise that there parts where Pink-blotchy people might visit are always, without fail immaculate. There will always been a well ventilated, air-conditioned room for the pink-blotchy person and the government officials will be, without fail – attentive.

Compare that the Work Pass Division at the Ministry of Manpower. This is the division of the Manpower Ministry that deals with the foreign workers or more specifically the Darkies. Since no Pink-Blotchy is about to visit this section of the Ministry of Manpower, the ministry has invested close to nothing into ensuring that the place is halfway decent. The customers are after all Darkies and the staffs there is merely dealing with darkies. How does the system work at this section of the Ministry of Manpower?

The answer is simple. There is a small waiting room, which is fully air-conditioned. This is where the officials sit. People are processed in this room. You give them your details whenever they call you for an interview. If you are an unfortunate Darkie who has been called to this part of the Ministry of Manpower for an interview, you are processed and then told to wait outside.

It doesn’t exactly matter if it’s a hot day. Somehow, the officials there have figured out that there is a tin roof over your head and so you don’t get the full force of the sun. Since you are a darkie, as opposed to a pink-blotchie, this is considered significant shelter. You waiting time in the outdoor heat can vary. One of the standards runs merely from 10am to 6pm. Darkies are told to wait outside and they are to wait and wait and wait, until the Ministry of Manpower’s officials remember that they are supposed to deal with a bunch of darkies.

In the mean time, the darkies are supposed to sit there and endure the fact that its hot and there’s isn’t a vending machine within walk able distance. This is after all a place for Darkies. In Singapore’s official speak, I guess this is acceptable.

If I remember it correctly, the only place that had such a similar difference between pink-blotchies and darkies was South Africa. I remember they had a system called Apartheid and somehow that was wrong. I’m just looking for someone to explain to me why what we’re doing is not.


flamingskull said...

Great read...Very thought provoking article...

Maybe next time, put in some paragraphs? Would make reading so much easier.


Anonymous said...

It isn't so much a matter of skin colour per se so much as nationality and socio-economic status.

Any 'darkie' with the right sort of passport and earning the right sort of salary will get all the aircon privileges that white people get.

Just look at the immigration queue at any London airport. Some darkies, even the 'freaky' ones with full face veils, sail through the 'first-class', EU queue with no questions asked, simply because they hold EU passports.

Whereas the 'second-class' EU queue is filled with people from non-EU countries, some of whom are darkies, some of whom are yellow, and some of whom are white. But what they all have in common is that they hold second-class, non-EU passports, so have to queue for the privilege of being interrogated before being allowed to enter the country. And yes, even white non-EU people are relentlessly interrogated, sometimes humiliated by immigration officials, and deported.