Let’s Talk About It debuted its talkshow this week, where you can check this out here, shedding light on the tensions experienced by both the locals and foreigners. It’s an open forum, starring ministers, professors and other relevant parties like foreigners who have come to be “naturalized” in our common society – including athletes, authors, etc., local artistes and others. This week’s episode featured:
- Veteran actor, Lim Kay Tong;
- Minister of Culture, Youth and Community, Lawrence Wong;
- Associate Professor (sociology), Paulin Straughan;
- Mediacorp TV artiste and business owner, Mark Lee;
- British author and columnist, Neil Humphreys;
- Former national (Singapore) football player, Aleksander Duric;
- TV personality and lecturer, Sharon Ismail
It was expected to be a very amicable discussion, although there were several not-so-nice sentiments raised with regards to those that were expressed by the locals towards foreigners. These things aren’t new to us, especially over the Internet; with the Social Media being a nefarious place overwhelmed by the
prickly presence of the minority. Some of the examples that were mentioned in the discussion were:
“We’re losing jobs to the foreigners!”
“They’re causing us social problems!”
“Are Singaporeans becoming the minority in this country now?!”
“Walao, why the angmohs want to act atas?”
“They’re not here to build the nation with us. They’re using Singapore as a stepping stone to succeed somewhere else!”
“Overcrowding – the fault of these foreigners!”
It is necessary to talk about this in the open air because such tensions are always talked about behind-the-scenes but never upfront. It did bring about new perspectives to how I see this whole xenophobic situation in my homeland. The fault of who?
Very often, we see that the main problem lies, not with us, but with the structural aspect of the issue – for instance, favorable immigration policies. We might say, “We used to be OK with having (some) foreigners in our country until there were too many of them.” We could agree with the sentiments mentioned above because there might be indeed some truth to what’s being said. We could very easily adopt this “us vs. them” mindset without any questioning – being in this state of false consciousness and getting consumed by the tensions build up between us and them, without even attempting to see the situation from the latter’s perspective.
Sometimes, we may fail to see that we are the ones responsible for our attitudes and that it takes 2 hands to clap for a gracious society to work. (Disclaimer: Not a brainwashing attempt) Immigration policies aside, we see that the government is working as hard to reduce the friction between the locals and foreigners. For the foreigners themselves, it takes time and commitment to pick up the entirety of another culture when they’re not always obliged to do it, but they still do it.
While we harbor expectations for a particular party to do something about it, as cliché as it sounds, change always start with us. Is competition and overcrowding an inevitable situation over time? Competition yes, inevitable due to globalization. As a nation planted with MNCs all over the place, we wouldn’t expect them to prioritize hiring a person over another just because he/she is a citizen of the place. The principle of meritocracy would then cease to exist. Overcrowding, most likely unavoidable, especially for a nation like us with limited land space. It is clear to us that the government does play a significant role to influence the number of immigrants entering the state and eventually influencing the extent of the overcrowding situation. It is evident to all of us that the issue has to be made aware to the government, whether we like it or not. But at the same time, not outwardly channeling our tensions to the latter.
I know that it is very easy for anyone to say this without actually understanding some of these sentiments the locals have towards foreigners, like the foreigners-stealing-my-ricebowl situation because I haven’t yet enter the workforce. I know that we are generally accepting of the eclectic range of cultures we notice around us in this packed city. Therefore, these sentiments result not from the ingrained xenophobic attitude the locals have (because it’s never ever ingrained in any society) but from these problems mentioned above. An “us vs. them” mindset is human nature when two or more different groups encounter one other and we feel that our presence is threatened in the turf that
used to belong to us. Therefore, air needs to be cleared, flames of tension needs to be fanned through dialogues and discussions like these to target the problem at its root and the ideal situation is for these groups to coexist as one and acknowledge themselves as one group.
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Written by: SY
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