Sunday, 05 August 2012
There are good reasons to celebrate Feng Tianwei's bronze medal at the Olympics, as much as not celebrating it. But for anyone to shame their detractors with the comment in the picture shown here, it will only strengthen the resolve of those who felt no pride to not support foreign-born Singaporean sportsmen. It does nothing to reconcile and unify us, other than to continue to tears us apart.
To the person who said this, please don't forget a lot of Singaporean males gave 2 years of their valuable life to serve National Service, even though I have read on Facebook the comment of a certain Balaji Narasimhan - if I am not wrong, a second generation immigrant - who considered that as nothing but a walk in the park. It begs the question, has the person who made this comment (in the picture) done something spectacular to put Singapore on the world map and make Singapore proud? If he was just another who did fairly much "nothing", then who the hell is he to berate us when he is the same? Shame on this self-righteous hypocrite who has taken shamelessness to a even higher level.
Back to the matter of feeling no pride over Feng's win. In my case, there is no reason for me not to cheer for her win. Beyond the politics, it was a personal achievement - one that her own hard work has paid off. I wouldn't deny I would have felt a lot more pride had a local-born Singaporean won. An old primary school classmate and I had a discussion separately on this matter, and one of things that came up during the discussion was that a lot of Singaporeans had no reason to feel pride in her win because they felt Feng does not represent us. He has a good point, and from a certain perspective I agree because I also felt Feng does not represent the Singapore that I grew up in - i.e. the Singapore where we have our emotional attachment as our place of birth. Above that, it is the Singapore that we grow up in it and one we felt grew up together with us. When we feel proud of the person we grow up into, we also feel proud of Singapore. Feng Tianwei, unfortunately, cannot and will never be able to represent that emotional Singapore - the one in our hearts is very different from the one we lived in. She represented a Singapore that we could no longer feel emotionally attached to. In a certain sense, Singapore and many Singaporeans are now like two friends who has grown up together and yet become alienated. It is a matter of national identity and not so much an objection to Feng's foreign-born status.
Fellow blogger Darryl Kang (more well known as DK) mentioned in his comment on one of my status, he would have felt better had Feng only discovered her talent after coming to Singapore instead of being "cradle-snatched from China" (in my words). His comment reminded me of another reasons by those who felt no pride - that Feng could leave Singapore and return to China at the first sign of trouble. Meanwhile, there is of course the question of priority, as some felt we have more pressing concerns than winning an Olympic medal. Thus, there is the question of who really desired an Olympic medal - is it Singaporeans, or just the People's Action Party [PAP] government which has generally nothing to show for their mediocrity?
All of these are good and valid reasons. Something that the PAP leaders have obviously chosen to overlook as now they come out full force to try and vindicate their so-called "foreign talent" policies. The PAP tries so hard to vindicate it that they lumped them together into one homogeneous group. When Goh Chok Tong was confronted with the question, he replied with the comment "Who's going to build your HDB flat?" When Ng Eng Hen talked about it recently, he said "... for example in essential services, we need people to build our homes, man our hospitals, so on and so forth."
It is utmost insulting that the PAP continues to try and befuddle the people. A lot of people I talked to, have a clear idea the difference between the foreign investor, the foreign migrant worker and then the so-called "foreign talent" competing with Singaporeans on the PMET level. It is shameful and appalling that those who claimed to the top talents and cream of the crop of this country failed to see that even while the people could. Singaporeans do appreciate the foreign migrant worker building our homes, keeping our estates and food courts clean. We also welcome foreign investments and in particular tourists who will be a boon to our country. But it is on the PMET level that we Singaporeans have been asking all along whether Singapore has failed to produce the numbers to fill the jobs that have been created, and whether truly that all of these filling PMET roles are truly the talent they claimed to be. Except for the unreasonable, Singaporeans can understand that if 10000 jobs are created and we can only fill 8000, then 2000 foreigners are needed to make an investor set up shop here. When Singaporeans see that 6 out of 10 jobs are going to foreigners, then Singaporeans have a right to question the policies because the facts obviously doesn't match what we have been told. Is that so hard for the Men-In-White to understand? Using Feng Tianwei to say that "Foreign Talents is the way to go" is not only an insult to Singaporeans, it betrays the contempt the PAP leaders have towards native-born Singaporeans. That, is yet another reason why some of us rejected Feng Tianwei, even when it is probably of no fault of her own for those to dislike her. Native-born Singaporeans felt aggrieved because of this blatant unequal treatment coming from those who claimed they have been elected to serve. But who, and what, are the PAP politicians really serving?
Feng Tianwei, and some of those "foreign talents" that we rant often about, are really different matters entirely. Feng Tianwei, does not compete with most Singaporeans for a job even while she might add on to the strain in housing and transportation. She (and in fact a lot of other foreign-born athletes) did not wake up one day and decided she wants to come to Singapore to be a sportsmen and pursue her dreams. In fact, agents from Singapore probably go to a foreign country and made some of them an offer, "Your talent can bring Singapore something that we desired. If you forsake your homeland and be one of us, you get a shot at personal glory and a better life." Offered something similar, a lot of us would have grabbed that opportunity as well. It was a chance and an offer she took, but don't forget it is not an easy decision to make. Some of us often talked about how we wouldn't hesitate to leave and work in another country if given the opportunity, but when that comes by we also turned it down because of our attachment to our family and home. What I am trying to say here, is that it is not easy for someone to make that decision.
I will stand firm on my opposition to this so-called "foreign talent" and immigrant policy which affected us the most, but that would not include the part on sports. Call me an hypocrite, but let me point out that an old friend for almost twenty years reminded me that Tan Howe Liang (the other Olympic medalist) was born in Swatow and came to Singapore at the age of 4 (refer to Wikipedia). Let us all be honest with ourselves. Would we have at the present day celebrated his win if he won his medal today when he is often cited as an example of a "true local talent"? Or would we have instead said, "Chey, born in China what!?"
That brings me to the next part of this post. Whatever anger we have at this sham of a "foreign talent" and immigrant policy, it should be directed at the policy makers. We should avoid directing at the entire community of foreigners. There are of course black sheep among them, but let us be very specific about who and what we are angry about. That is why I generally avoid the garbage that is on all flavors of those political and current affairs websites bearing the name "Temasek", or claiming to be presenting the views of "The Real Singapore". Having an opinion, and being a bigot are distinctively different matters entirely.
Back to the matter about Feng Tianwei and foreign born sportsmen. Another reason why some Singaporeans are not happy (if not upset) about her win is the prize money she has won. My colleague was helpful enough to show me the Wikipedia on her. The girl has won an impressive number of medals and this isn't the only one she won. Granted, she probably get other awards for those wins, I have to point out that an athlete is a profession that very much relies on ones youth and vigor. To put it in an analogy, just like a shooting star they often burn bright but they burn out fast. Once they are past their prime there are really very little option left for them and thus they have to make as much money as possible in that short span of time for their entire lifetime. Those who succeed may become coaches or trainers, but those who failed can only fade into obscurity. Consider again Tan Howe Liang, what else did the nation do for him?
Anyway, the colleague who sent me the Wikipedia page on Feng mentioned that Ronald Susilo also runs a small shop selling badminton equipment in her neighborhood. On looking up the Wikipedia page on him, I can see that he is at least not doing too badly. Meanwhile, I see a number foreign-borns in our national squad. So for those who are saying how Feng Tianwei are ripping us all off, consider the plight of those who may never have made it at all. They may possibly return home because they are not welcomed here, and perhaps even live with shame while their former countrymen looked upon them as traitors who paid the price for failing to make it. My plea is that we take note of that while we lash out, because it does us all no good to hurt some people who might really want to make their new home here. Frankly, why do we begrudge Feng Tianwei for the prize money she won, when very few of us would bat an eye when soccer players are paid top money to play in a foreign football club, while at times not live up to their part of the bargain?
My point is this. It maybe probably true that when Feng is past her prime, she might return to her land of birth. But it would be a self-fulfilling prophecy when we continued to treat her as the other. I am not asking anyone to embrace her simply because she has won, but to at least offer our hospitality to her so she would stay and pass on her experiences and skills to the next generation of players. Regardless of what our opinion about her is and how we felt about the thrice-damned, infernal "foreign talent" policies that has brought hardships upon us, ensuring that Feng Tianwei feels at home and remain behind maybe our best shot to fulfilling our dreams of having a native-born Olympic medalist. My opinion is, even when we don't like something, we Singaporeans have a heart big enough to accept something that has already happened and try to make the best out of it.
That said, we also need to change our mindset that there will only be a life with academic qualifications. As long as we continue to believe that the people who don't study hard will end up as road-sweepers, and that there are alternate career options in the minds of parents, then we can more or less forget about having our native-born Olympic medalist. In fact, most of us heartlanders can forget about that aspiration because it simply means only people with the money and wealth can pursue such a dream.