Since the video is over 22 minutes long, I won’t be saying much in text. This is the first part of a discussion that was held on Sunday 24 June 2012 in a tiny room next door to a video arcade! Throughout the discussion, the pings and pongs of videogame machines played in the background. That you can hear our voices as clearly as you do in the video is testimony to the remarkable skills of the video and audio team, organised by publichouse.sg
The topic was xenophobia, and as you can see, I was perhaps taking a more forthright position than my friends. I felt very uncomfortable with suggestions that “rational” hatred of foreigners might be acceptable, or that “scapegoating” could be a healthy response.
To me, it’s very simple. Even if we feel there are too many foreigners in Singapore, it really isn’t the foreigners’ fault. It’s the policy-makers’ fault. There is no basis for taking it out on those who didn’t design the policy. If you feel crowded on the train, if you feel hot competition for your job, or if you believe the open-door policy has put downward pressure on your salary, focus your displeasure on those who created those conditions in the first place. If this was what my fellow panellists considered “reasonable” and “understandable” xenophobia, then I must disagree in no uncertain terms. The misdirection of one’s frustration onto innocent parties is never reasonable or understandable.
Someone somewhere will surely bring up cases of individual foreigners who were arrogant, loud-mouthed, or in some other way offensive. This still does not justify hatred of foreigners as an entire class, or the kinds of offensive language we too often see being used on the internet. One can take issue with the individual, but there is still no justification for stereotyping of and hostility towards the entire group. After all, if one Malay Singaporean behaved badly, no one is going to agree that it would be acceptable for you to tar all Malays with the same brush and take your frustration out on the entire community.
As for “scapegoating”, while indeed it may be cathartic for the frustrated individual, how would you like to be the target individual? It’s totally unfair to anyone to be made into a scapegoat for something he’s not responsible for. So, again, I disagree with my friends.
My position is very simple: there is no basis for being hostile to entire groups of people on the basis of some shared characteristic that is not the source of any direct injury to you, whether the characteristic is their skin colour, national origin, sexuality, gender, linguistic identification or religious belief.
As I said in the video segment above: “I’m not comfortable with us taking the position that this is not an anti-xenophobia forum. I find it very strange that we’re even going to leave open the door that we can be pro-xenophobia. How can that be possible?”