Friday, May 20, 2016

The Hungry and the Full

I just survived a dinner session with Daddy and the other half. This is the first time that Daddy (or any of my official and unofficial parents) had met Huong and sat down with her. Huong, to put it crudely isn't the girl respectable Singapore would expect me to have a one night stand with let alone be married to for 4-years.

Anyway, despite the language issues, my father ended up expressing an appreciation for the fact that Huong is from Vietnam and has hunger like people from Vietnam and other less developed countries. My Dad, who had once told me that sayings about the woman being true, seemed to think that I've found a woman who had the ability to kick me the correct proverbial kick up the bum whenever I needed it.

I'm glad that my Dad has seen the positive in my marriage to Huong. Most people who know me worry that the woman is using me for something or other and I'm more likely to get love, tenderness etc etc from someone with a more similar background.

Well, there's true to a certain extent. There was more cuddling with my previous wife and Joyce, the ex-girlfriend. Both were educated in the "respectable" institutions and with Joyce, she had the skills my family considered a sign of good breeding - namely the ability to play the piano and as my sister once said,"At least this one knows who Glenn Gould is."

However, neither of my respectable Singaporean Chinese girls had a sense of perspective or reality. Gina wanted me to rent a condo with her when I had no job and when I had a job, she expected me to call her and speak to her for at least two hours a day and whenever the phrase, "I am in a meeting," the reply was inevitably, "What is that supposed to mean?" Joyce was great when it came to sex but she had as much common sense as an ant stuck in a bag of M&M's. She actually thought being in debt to Citibank's credit card department was God protecting her. For some reason she had to find a way of turning everything good about our relationship we had into something that wasn't.

By contrast, Huong has ambition and like the migrants into Singapore and other developing countries, she has a way of trying to turn adversity into something good. To her credit, she's put some of my parasites to work (instead of complaining that I'm not kind enough to the parasites) and whenever I've been out of work, she's found opportunities to increase my income (although I'm working two jobs at the moment, she still encourages me to work  towards entrepreneurship.) To her mind, everyone needs to work and its also best to be independent from any particular source of income.

The lady has hunger and with hunger comes optimism. This isn't an uncommon trait in people from less developed countries who move elsewhere. Somehow, they're freed from whatever was holding them back and can't stop running. Adversity becomes a challenge.

Intelligent nations recognise this and try to be generous with migrants. America is the prime example. Waves of migrants, whether they were from Europe, Asia or Latin America have come in and revitalised areas that have been run down. It's the migrants who run small shops and make a fortune out of the things we throw away. I lived in the UK and witnessed how the "Paki" immigrants made communities function by setting up and running corner shops. An Indian banker from Citibank, who has his UK permanent residence status makes the point that England will not function without Polish migrants.

Now, I live in Singapore and I notice the same thing that I noticed in the UK. It's PRC Chinese, Malaysian Chinese, Bangladeshis and Pinoys who get things done. I think of the Bistrot, where I've been the one that customers enjoy interacting with the most. Yet, despite all that, it's Rafe, the Fillipino guy who gets things moving. He knows how to work the various systems in the restaurant and he knows where things are kept. He works for longer hours and less money per hour. Simply put, the restaurant would cease to function without him.

Despite what middle class Singaporean Chinese might think, statistics have shown that migrants tend to be more law abiding than the natives. When you operate in the shadows, you tend to want to stay away from authorities. By contrast, the natives can't get enough attention from the authorities.

Migrants make things happen because they're hungry. Their hunger is a powerful revitalising force for any area. One only has to look at how the Filipino's in Singapore revitalised Lucky Plaza.

Unfortunately, the natives usually don't see it that way. Trust you me, being kind to people like injured Bangladeshi workers won't be looked on to kindly, especially if you have the misfortune of housing them in a respectable neighbourhood.

Look at it this way, the natives get more worried about the migrants than they do about the faults among themselves. Think of public drinking laws that were imposed after the December 13 riots in Little India, because the natives got frightened that the migrant darkies were not happy about having one of their own killed. Apparently darky migrants can't hold their liquor and that might upset social order. However, nobody seems bothered when the local Mamak decides that the only way to solve the issue of being unemployed is to drink beer and then drink even more.

We. the natives have forgotten that  life requires a certain sense of dynamism and instead of being frightened by migrants, we should embrace them so that we can see the beauty in the things we take for granted. 

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