anotherlongshot (anotherlongshot) wrote,

Immigration and Intolerance.

I read with amused interest this article in the Temasek Review and the comments that followed.

See, last night I got very agitated when I found myself stuck at Novena and not knowing where to take a bus that would take me to the Singapore Labour Foundation building, where Wei Chuen was playing squash. After being directed to the bus stop by the dude on duty that the MRT control station, I quickly crossed the overhead bridge. Just as I was walking down the stairs to the bus stop, I saw my bus pulling up.

Without even making sure if I was absolutely at the right place, I got onto the bus and asked the bus driver, "Is this the bus to the Singapore Labour Foundation building?"

Bus Driver - tanned-skinned Chinese man - looked at me blankly and replied in a language that I didn't understand. It was supposed to be English but I didn't understand a word he said - and I suspect he didn't really understand me either. It sounded like absolute gibberish to my ears. I tried "Singapore Polo Club" and I still received gibberish back. This back-and-forth went on for a minute more - mind you, I was holding up the bus - until I decided to switch to Mandarin.

Even then, I couldn't freaking think of that "Singapore Labour Foundation" was in Chinese fast enough. Finally Bus Driver asked, "Jing cha ju?" (I.e. police cantonment) I remembered Wei Chuen saying that it was near the police complex, so I said yes. Bus Driver passed me the pamphlet detailing the bus routes, but of course, I didn't freaking understand it; I was looking for my bus stop number (which I copied down from the online street directory before I left) on the left column, which also happened to be the wrong direction. But I didn't know it then.

When we ascertained that I was indeed on the right bus, I walked to the centre of the bus to take a seat. Five stops later Bus Driver called out to me in Mandarin, "Miss, we're at the police station. Is this where you want to alight?"

I was all, Huh what's going on, I'm confused; walked up to Bus Driver, who had stopped at the bus stop despite the fact that no one was getting off, and said, "Uh, I don't know."

He asked, "Have you been there before?"

I answered in the negative. And it was then that I finally found a rough translation for "Singapore Labour Foundation". I said, "Xin jia po lao gong ju?"

He vaguely knew what I was talking about. He said that I had to alight further down the road. Along the way he asked me to look out for the building; and two stops later I saw the sign pointing to the building on my right.

When I first sat down I was already forming in my mind a blog entry about how we shouldn't bloody hire PRC drivers who can't speak English because it was a huge bloody nuisance. But now...

Don't get me wrong - I still stand by my conviction that PRCs who want to work in Singapore in some sort of service-oriented industry should be able to speak English. If you're a bus driver, you should know the names of roads and places in English and I should be able to understand you when you speak to me in English.

But because the driver was so helpful, it erased my annoyance and highlighted a crucial, actually simple, but often-forgotten (as evidenced by the comments following the TR aricle) point: Not all PRCs are the same. There are nasty ones in spades, but there are also nice ones. Broad generalisations tend to be unfair, and they foster intolerance, which leads to discrimination.

When I read in Time magazine about the UK's upcoming elections and how the popular party - the British National Party - is anti-immigration, I was alarmed by the prospect of the BNP winning the elections over the liberal Labour party. Any suggestion that an ang moh political party is anti-immigration immediately means, in my mind, that it's racist.

Why should it be different in Singapore? It actually shouldn't. But it's a little bit harder to draw the analogy perfectly because of the perception that the influx of PRCs is diluting the fragile identity that Singapore has built up for itself as a multi-racial society. THIS is what differentiates us from China, and why I'd happily spit in the face of a PRC and ask him/her to go to hell if he/she suggested that Singapore should be a part of China. With more and more Chinese people here, the majority of whom can't speak English, we risk marginalising our minority races, people born and bred here, with more of a stake in the country than someone who comes here to work. I'm sorry, but any suggestion that Malays and Indians should learn Mandarin to communicate with PRC bus drivers or service staff is absolutely ludicrous and disingenuous, and no politician that is truly invested in this country would ever, ever suggest that.

Does it mean, though, that we have to be hostile? It was very recently that I felt justified in holding on to my hostility against these foreigners whom I perceived to be invading my country. But it doesn't make sense, and it's intellectually lazy - and I might be accused of being racist or xenophobic. Whichever way I look at it, racism and xenophobia do not fit anywhere in my leftist values system.

Boyfriend and I had a huge fight about this once (and I think I blogged about it too). He said it wasn't their fault, and if anything the fault lies with government policies. I think it's true, now: with tighter immigration control and perhaps an English proficiency test, we wouldn't be facing this problem as much. I'm sure it'd still exist in some form, but perhaps it wouldn't be this bad.

Having said that, if this is indeed true, I take issues with LKY's comment that PRCs are welcomed in Singapore because they work harder than Singaporeans. Again, I reiterate a point I made a while ago about how I'm not apologetic about the fact that I grew up in relative comfort. If anything, shouldn't that point to Singapore's success viz. the People's Republic of China? That we don't have to starve? If that is wrong, then I don't want to be right.


On another note, Wei Chuen got raped by his opponent last night and received the squash equivalent of a tennis bagel in the final set. Poor thing. He was still sexy though, even though he lost.

I was watching the strokes and it occurred to me that playing squash might help me improve my tennis slice. Okay, what improve - that implies I have some command of the slice. I don't. Assuming that comes around, squash might help, I think. Wei Chuen slices a tennis ball WAY better than me. I can't even get the ball to make it past the service line.


There was something else I wanted to say but I forgot what it was.

Yeah, still can't remember.

Oh yes, Andy Roddick won in Miami. YAY! I watched the first set until he broke for 6-5, by which time it was 2 a.m. Monday morning which meant I was supposed to be asleep a long time ago, so I went to bed. I'm really happy for him; he works harder than anyone else on the tour. This is an exaggeration, but yeah, he works really hard and he's maintained his top 10 ranking for so long. He's the second-oldest player in the top 10 after Roger, and he's just one year younger than Roger. He really deserved the win.

Better luck next time, Tomas! He needs to work on his nerves. A double-fault in the first set at deuce gave Andy break point, AFTER saving break point, and Tomas gave the game away with a forehand error. Ouch, right? I know.

Tomas is kind of cute in a weird way. I watched the awards thing last night just to hear him talk and he sounded like a typical dumb European hahaha.

Okay, time to watch Lost! My mom rented the Season 5 DVD after we got fed up with waiting one week for a new old episode on AXN. Much better on DVD! I love the show - it makes no sense all the time and it's so exciting. I love it!

Tags: andy roddick, commentary, current affairs, lost, singapore, tomas berdych, wei chuen

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