This post is a personal opinion article by Muhammad Mus’ab Yusof, a member of the Trust Me I’m No Stranger Campaign launched by SDI Academy. SDI Academy is a social enterprise that empowers migrant workers with refugees with language and vocational skills. Find out more about our latest campaign, here https://give.asia/movement/im_no_stranger.
As one floats around the streets of Singapore, the problem our campaign wants to eradicate (lack of social integration of Foreign Workers) does not seem so pervasive. While there is much hustle and bustle, clinking and clattering, there isn’t much dissension in the air. Everyone is minding their own business, laser focused on completing the objectives that have been set at the start of the day. Perhaps the problem is less tangible, and more incorporeal.
The problem could be in the utter nonchalance at which we go about dealing with the presence of these individuals. It is not in what we do, and more in what we choose not to do. And as we often lament in our tragically romantic relationships, it is the little things that add up. Be it not courteously and excessively thanking them when they hold the door open for us, or even not taking the initiative to help them out when an obvious language barrier exists between them and the coffee shop uncle. All the things we probably would have done if the person we were dealing with were carrying that pink NRIC in their wallets.
Perhaps, our inactivity is a result of our innate and deep dark desire that they not be here at all. Many will find that arguments against the influx of foreign workers normally form its roots in strong feelings for nationalism. The narrative that is pushed often revolves around the possibility that amongst the tidal wave of cultures and practices brought in by the foreigners, a country’s own unique flavors and essence is washed away and watered down into one diluted mess.
Of course there is no use in hiding behind a false pretense that people from completely different parts of the world could share values perfectly soluble with those of our own. But I have found that Singaporeans have always prided themselves on our diversity. In fact, we are known worldwide as the melting pot of cultures, a model for an almost utopian like multiracial harmony. So why must we suddenly be selective in our celebration of diversity. Are we merely knee deep in our commitment towards inclusiveness?
Or perhaps we are merely perturbed by the physical discomforts their presence poses. The overcrowded peak hour public transports, the strong smell of sweat as cool conditioned air brushes past your face.
However, these are problems we assume to exist as a result of Foreign Workers. As if the trains weren’t already packed back in 2003, as if modern Singaporeans after a hard day of work smell like fresh flowers at Gardens by the Bay.
The writer would however like to humbly admit that he is unsure if his compilation of thoughts amount to only sweet nothings or whether it adds any real value in this particular discourse. So if anything he hopes this piece serves as a reminder or perhaps a plea. A plea, if not for equality, then at the very least empathy. If history had panned out differently, their destiny could have easily been ours, navigating through daunting and foreign lands in search of a better life, and maybe, just maybe the luxury of acceptance.
Find out more about the campaign I’m helping out with below! Every t-shirt bought is an English guidebook gifted to a foreign worker.
Have an amazing day friends.