Foreigners as the convenient scapegoats

This little story by Alex reveals an underlying mindset among some Singaporeans – where reason is thrown out the door the moment a foreigner steps into the picture. (Read Alex’s article for the story.)

As if the scene was not appalling enough, I then heard a remark from a fellow passenger: “Wah lao, now you have foreigners ganging up on Singaporeans.”

It is an oft-repeated refrain I’ve heard often – that foreigners are this, or foreigners are that. They take away our jobs, push up prices of flats, impinge on our public spaces, and so on. These are, of course, not invalid complaints. Indeed, at some level in all of these instances, foreigners do these things.

But there are also instances where we tend towards the irrational, as the “fellow passenger” in Alex’s story shows. The bus driver – which I presume is a foreigner – was correct to tell the lady to get off the bus. All Singaporeans – and commuters – would know that eating is not allowed on public transport.

Yet, the accusation of foreigners (the bus driver and the “white guy”) “ganging up on Singaporeans” reveals how instinctive it is now to blame the slightest incident on foreigners. Reason goes out the window.

Yes, we are pissed with the number of foreigners here, and yes we are also pissed with the consequences of this. But lets not go to the extreme and blame everything on them. To be fair, there are 2 million foreigners here and by and large they all are friendly, helpful and generally are good people, I dare say. And I say this not from some detached place. I say this from having interacted with many of them – Americans, Brits, Australians, Bangaldeshis, Indians, Chinese, etc.

Many of them are involved in charity and philanthropic work which helps less fortunate Singaporeans too.

Of course the more crude and senseless among them should be condemned when they sprout nonsense, such as calling Singaporeans “dogs”. But lets not jump and feel like our whole world is gonna crash down on us just because we’re called some derogatory names.

We Singaporeans have more steel than that. We’re not made of paper which will melt at the slightest fiery provocation.

The lady with her two ice-cream wielding sons was wrong. The bus driver – whether he is a foreigner or not – was right. So too was the caucasian who spoke up for the driver.

It is not a matter of foreigners “ganging up” on Singaporeans.

It was a case of a Singaporean thinking that she can ignore rules just because she was “in a hurry”. That she is entitled to do as she pleased because she was “in a hurry”.

It is as simple as that.

If we want to be taken seriously on matters like immigration and foreign labour, then we must start from a position where we can distinguish between the real issues and the frivolous blaming we engage in each time a foreigner does anything, even when what he is doing is the right thing to do.

Lets not make foreigners into the convenient scapegoats, while we ourselves adopt the very behaviour which we would condemn.

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