To be honest, I didn’t really pay attention to the whole scandal till way after the “WANKER Special” photo made its rounds on Twitter. And then I maybe only looked at it once or twice or listened while people were making loud noises about “the bloody ang moh”. So he has been fired from his firm, and won himself even more attention over several pages in the Straits Times: 2,3 and 35 (screenshot of the digital version featured below.)
But why are we “all” Anton Casey? Every now and then, we let slip a remark that is utterly insensitive to another group of people. Sometimes we mean it, sometimes it’s just a poorly-considered knee-jerk reaction. Either way, we may have to regret it later on.
It’s nice to be able to get all angry and defend “our country” against an “arrogant twerp” but to me, this is really cause for reflection: when we have privilege and power over others, how do we act?
On the way to work one morning, I saw a Chinese man (presumably local) board the bus I was on. It was crowded, as buses in the morning tend to be. He managed to find his way through to the back, which involved navigating a maze of standing passengers clinging on for dear life to their poles and grips to avoid joining the bus at take-off. One of these standing passengers was an Indian man – it really doesn’t matter whether he was an expat, but for bonus points I will assume he was – who was holding on to a hand-grip. The poor man had been standing since before I boarded, and as that Chinese man walked past, he winced and covered his nose with the back of his palm until he was parked somewhere near the back of the bus, about one or two metres away.
Did that Chinese man stop to think about whether the Indian man would be offended by that action? Nope. I can hear the protest now, “Like that where got privilege?” or “That wasn’t on Facebook for everyone to see!”
If I even need to point out that we Chinese enjoy being in the majority in Singapore and subjecting even our fellow Singaporeans to insensitive and ignorant behaviour, well… I just did. We also have the genetic (or cultural) accident of smelling different from our friends from the Indian minority. Plus, if the Indian was an expat and the Chinese was a local, we get bonus irony points. And OK, that wasn’t on social media for people to share and get angry about. But it was a brief moment in a public bus in front of other people, including myself, and sometimes I feel bad for not having spoken up – though what does one say in that situation?
Let’s not even talk about the reactions when people on bus 67 pass through a crowded Little India on Sunday evenings, or have to try to board a vehicle packed to the brim.
I raise these cases from personal experience, though I’m sure you will have stories of your own if you think about it hard enough. One lesson we all can draw from this is – in case we’d forgotten the Amy Cheong affair in October 2012 – people can be the backlash of their own lack of love (sorry Sara Bareilles) and we should all think a little harder before we act. We all have the capacity to offend and to forgive, so let’s do more of the latter and try to reduce the former if we can.
On another note, Sunday Times, how did “arrogant twerp” come into the headline of an opinion piece supposedly about forgiveness and tolerance? And yes, Mr. O’ Brien, of course Anton Casey is not “every expat”. Neither are you, so if you are attempting to use your integration in defence of other expats, that’s the opposite side of the same coin you’re telling the readers of the Sunday Times not to use.
(Oddly enough, both have the initials A.C., are just under 40 and have fled to Perth… anyone get a 4D number out of this? 😉 Just saying…)