The problem of definitions, government policy, and racism

This is a response to the horribly disgusting post here that has gone viral, about the “Filipino infestation in Singapore”. It’s a horrible post. Don’t read it. It’s racist. It’s horrible.

In my line of work, I often have to deal with the problems of definitions. My favourite resource for this problem is the English teacher’s (and student’s) best friend — the dictionary (OED and M-W are really nice to use). This may seem like an academic problem only, but the fact is that when people think about real-life problems in unclear ways, things go horribly wrong. I think it is a lack of clear thinking that has resulted in a significant chunk of Singaporeans becoming racist.

In Singapore, there is widespread dissatisfaction with government policies that used to allow liberal immigration (it’s slightly less liberal now). People complained that foreigners were competing for their jobs. In the editing industry, this is a real phenomenon. Some of the best editors I know are foreigners, and tremendously nice people to work with too. On a larger level, it is true that they have taken jobs from locals — but this is no reason to hate these foreigners. The foreign editors I know are mostly decent people, in the exact same way as the local editors. Yes, some editors I’ve met would qualify as “not so cool” types, but they come from the ranks of the locals and the foreigners.

Even though government policy made it harder for me to find a job when I graduated (ask me about it, it’s a fun story), it also allowed me to make some very good friends in the process. (HI JO!! =D) There is no reason whatsoever to be angry at the foreigners who are here, because they are the same as the rest of us — they are looking for the best ways to live their lives. They make mistakes just like the rest of us, because they are human like the rest of us.

There is no excuse to be racist. I am flabbergasted whenever I see a blogpost complaining about government policy and calling foreigners names. SEPARATE THE TWO, PLEASE. It should be clear to everyone that government policy and human beings are extremely different things.

I think it’s fine to demand policies that put locals at an advantage when it comes to jobs, housing, medical care, and so on. But mistreating foreigners just because they are not ‘local’ (what does it mean to be local, anyway?) is an act of cruelty. A civilized society would not deny aliens their livelihood or their safety.

Now someone please spread the word that Singaporeans are, by and large, nice people. Preferably in a gentler tone than I have adopted here 😛

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