Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Trouble in the diaspora

A malicious and hideous blog that goes by the title of Blood Stained Singapore has become the bane of the Filipino diaspora in the prosperous and sovereign city-state and island nation in Southeast Asia.
Catching fire in blogger traffic, the sensationalist post has been viewed 529,301 times and shared in social media platforms. The original blog post dated May 24 encourages Singaporeans to show displeasure and intolerance for Filipinos. For a while it has appeared to be taken down, but was republished on Monday, June 16.
A sharp rise in the foreign population of Singapore has ratcheted up racial
tensions. Photo by Reuters/Edgar Su.
The aforementioned Singapore blogger has proposed a five-point guide for Singaporeans to show they do not tolerate the presence of Filipinos whom he has described as having infested the island nation. Here are the five ways the blogger recommended showing displeasure to Filipinos:
1. When you encounter a Pinoy waiter/waitress or customer service officer, reject and ask for a replacement by telling this: “Could you kindly ask a Singaporean staff to speak to me? Your standard of English – there is much left to be desired.” If the idiot continues rambling on, tell him/her with a smile: “Your English sucks, capisce? Get the fuck out of my uncaring face and find me someone else, pronto.”
2. When the Peenoise become rowdy or do not deserve basic social decorum, a little “nudge” in the right direction won’t harm. Just make it look accidental. Pump your fist in victory later when they are out of your sight. We understand sometimes they just don’t get it, so a little more force must be employed. Like what this unsung hero did: “This morning at Bishan Circle Line MRT I pushed a Pinoy out of the train before door closes.”
3. When dining at Jollibee or any other Filipino themed restaurant, toss food into your mouth, chew thoroughly, and then spit it out. Bite another morsel and repeat. Do this till your plate is a masterpiece of regurgitated nastiness. Ask for the bill (pay in cash), scribble “Pinoy food fucking tastes like shit” on the receipt and remember to leave that piece of paper behind.
4. Never render help when Filipinos are involved in serious traffic accidents. Do not call the ambulance. But you have our permission to take photographs so they can be tweeted later with the caption: Hopefully another Pinoy has breathed his last on the little red dot. RIP.NOT.
5. Pray for a flood of biblical proportions to descend upon Orchard Road on 8 June (Filipinos have cancelled a parade to celebrate Philippine Independence Day because of public order and safety concerns). Go to the nearest church and pray. Pray hard for divine intervention aloud. Make sure God (and the Pinoy sitting next to you on the same bench) hears every word.
6. The Singapore blogger added #6 to his anti-Filipino guide as a bonus point. If you see a Pinoy cashier at NTUC, Cold Storage or Giant, throw a can of Baygon into your shopping before approaching him/her to make payment. When the cashier picks up the insecticide spray ready to do a barcode scan, ask him/her wryly: “Is this effective against Filipinos? Sorry, I meant cockroaches.”
On its face, the blog appears very juvenile and immature. It has created a groundswell of infuriated comments on the web from both Filipinos and Singaporeans alike. It also caught the attention of civil society organizations in Singapore which put out a statement condemning racist and xenophobic rhetoric and behaviour in Singapore that threatens the human rights of all (especially migrants) and the health of political discourse.
On the other hand, the blog could just be a troll which in Internet slang is someone who posts inflammatory statements with the intent to upset and provoke readers into an emotional response. The goal of the troll is to draw blog traffic towards his or her site, which the Singapore blogger has obviously achieved in attracting more than half a million viewers.
But not to Marc Titus Cebreros, chief of the Philippines’ Human Rights Information and Communication Division, who considers the Singaporean blog as “a black and white case of hate speech and hate mongering that deserves to be condemned and penalized.” Rightfully so, because such hate speech and mongering is penalized in many jurisdictions in the world today. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also condemned the “thuggish behavior” of people who harassed the organizers of the Philippine Independence Day celebration, calling them a “disgrace to Singapore.”

Orchard Road in Singapore where Filipinos originally planned to celebrate
Philippine Independence Day last June 8 but was cancelled due to public order
and safety concerns. Photo by Komar/
Reading through the long thread of comments by Filipinos on the Internet about the Singaporean blog has surprisingly revealed a treasure trove of interesting and intelligent opinions, dealing with issues that range from the pleasant and innocuous behaviour of the Filipino diaspora to the various arguments on why so many Filipinos are leaving the country to work abroad. The exchange of opinions is both lively and enlightening, so unlike the social and political forum on the web I have joined which is largely peppered (pardon my lack of sense of humour) with trite and hollow postings by members who are supposedly adept in political and social issues.
Going back to the Singaporean’s xenophobic blog, this irrational fear of foreigners and their unwarranted bashing appear on the rise almost everywhere in the world. Sometimes the familiar chant of “USA, USA, USA” that we hear during sporting events strikes a diaphanous sense of superiority, a triumphal exclamation of exceptionalism, especially when we hear it in non-sporting occasions. But most of the time, this unwelcoming attitude to foreigners is unjustified.
For instance, most of the criticisms leveled against foreign migrant labour are unfounded. In Canada and other advanced economies including Singapore, this underclass of labour is generally seen as taking jobs away from the host country’s citizens. These are mostly menial and low-paying jobs that citizens usually prefer not to take and employers are willing to let others like migrants do for them at lower wages. Overseas Filipino workers are by and large overqualified for these jobs but are prepared to be underemployed rather than remain idle and jobless at home.
Thus, in Singapore, most of the Filipinos working there are domestic helpers, health care assistants, in sales and retail and other service industries. These are highly qualified workers by virtue of their education and training, but could not be absorbed by the local Philippine economy because of lack of employment opportunities.
So when Filipinos are hired to work overseas, they are being brought in to take on low-paying jobs that are not at par with their skills and training credentials. Thus, they form an underclass that is not only underpaid, but also deprived of government protections and generally without the opportunity of a pathway to permanent residence and citizenship.
When the Singaporean blogger claims of “Filipino infestation” of his island nation, he is either in denial or ignorant of the benefits of Filipino cheap labour to Singapore as a whole. And when he asks his fellow Singaporeans to follow his five-point anti-Filipino guide, he goes beyond xenophobia and commits the most disgraceful act of inhumanity against Filipinos.
In Western Europe particularly, xenophobia against new immigrants from Eastern Europe, Islamic countries and African nations is far more serious that these newcomers are regarded as an existential threat to their dominant culture. They sanitize their nativist resentment against everything foreign with irrational arguments against immigration, and sometimes stir up extreme patriotism on the pretext of national self-defence.

According to a Hong Kong local government think-tank, even Hong Kong is now afflicted with xenophobia directed against Chinese mainlanders, which it describes as an alarming trend towards narrow nativism in recent years. It cited various reasons for the conflicts between Hongkongers and mainlanders, some bend on the ridiculous — such as traders snapping up baby formula, causing a shortage for local mothers. Or some mainlanders talking loudly, behaving in a disorderly and impolite manner, or refusing to queue up, which overseas Filipinos have also been criticized for.
The Singaporean blogger’s attempt to demonize Filipinos does not add to a robust political dialogue and the promotion of the values of equality and universal human rights. Civil society organizations in Singapore have spoken and they have identified that the key to addressing the economic frustrations of many Singaporeans is to amend the economic policies and structures that cause Singapore’s worsening inequality and marginalization. They are correct in saying that these inequitable policies were not instituted by migrants and will not automatically disappear if the migrant population decreases.
Blood Stained Singapore, the blog, does not enrich this political conversation. Rather, it diminishes the humanity of Filipinos, and Singaporeans as well.

1 comment:

  1. The comparison with Israel is well made. It seems to be in the nature of things that the diaspora is more zealous than those left behind. The shortest route to Tara, after all, is through Holyhead. This is compounded when the politicians try manipulate this phenomenon. I was struck when i moved to London by the number of English people of my generation who in ILEA schools had been given a version of Irish history far greener than anything available in Ireland. I understand there are parts of the US where this is even mandated by law. Interestingly something similar seems to be happening in relation to the French Armenian community in the run up to the Presidential election.
    Labels: Filipino Diaspora foreign migrant labour generate barcode in csharp human rights political conversation