Clubhouse for maids a space to call their own

From ‘Clubhouse for maids a good move, but charity leader’s remarks irksome’, 17 March 2014, Voices, Today

(Mannat Johal):…I am heartened to read about the clubhouse, which will provide facilities such as a computer lab and library, as well as various courses, for only S$4 a year. This will greatly benefit domestic helpers and make their experience working in Singapore a lot better. They will have something to look forward to each week, knowing that they can enhance their skills and spend time fruitfully at the clubhouse.

What irked me, though, was the statement by the President of the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST). He said: “We want (the workers) to go to a place where they can be among themselves, where they will not be disturbing the owners of the building or residents of the area.”

This gives the impression that domestic helpers generally cause owners and residents annoyance by simply patronising places such as tourist attractions. No such problems are said to exist when Singaporeans and tourists patronise these areas. Are domestic helpers that different? Should they not be allowed to enjoy these areas as we do? Are they that much of a nuisance compared with tourists, who are possibly more unfamiliar with Singaporean culture and etiquette?

Also, why does FAST want domestic helpers to be among themselves? Singapore is a multiracial society where harmony between people of different races, religions and backgrounds is a significant feature.

In 2001, Sri Lankan maid Sanda Perumal, along with her employer Angie Monksfield were given the boot out of Singapore Cricket Club because having maids in the premises was against internal club policy. As recently as 2011, some condos were still banning maids from using swimming pools.  Having a clubhouse just for maids would seem like an apologetic gesture for years of discrimination bordering on colonialism, a place where FDWs may benefit from the enrichment activities that such centres can offer rather than doing wild stuff like turning a stretch of Orchard Road into a street party . The other unspoken purpose here is to keep foreign workers out of sight, out of trouble, though you can’t stop them from murdering their rich employers. It’s like how people are uncomfortable with having workers’ dorms just down the road, treating the living quarters of others like a concentration or leprosy camp. The next question then: What about having a club for workers from Little India? One which holds a masterclass on anger management perhaps? A place where they can bond over some Darjeeling tea instead of Tiger beer?

Ethnic enclaves form all over the world as part of natural urban progression, and some even serve as tourist attractions, classic examples being Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam. What FAST is concerned with here is gatherings of FDWs disrupting business, but one can think of some iconic commercial spaces that may have benefited instead from foreign workers milling about, never mind the occasional drunken brawl, sleaze or spontaneous mass dancing.

1) Lucky Plaza

Though initially viewed as an ‘image’ problem, Lucky Plaza remains till this day Orchard Road’s premier maid hangout, and some businesses have learned to adapt to capitalise on the loyal throngs, from fast food chains like Jollibee to IDD sellers and remittance. It’s also the first place I would think of if I have a sudden craving for Pinoy fare like sisig and pata.

2) Golden Mile Complex

Earning its title as ‘Little Thailand’, Golden Mile is renown as a foodie destination if you’re looking for authentic, homely cuisine. Some Thais refer to the Beach Road complex as their ‘second home’. Locals looking for some alternative entertainment to Bangkok barhopping can boogie all night long at places like ‘Pure Thai Disco’.

3) Peninsula Plaza

A lesser known enclave, this place is our very own ‘Little Myanmar’. Not all’s rosy in terms of local business though, with some lamenting that Peninsula has turned from a ‘classy mall’ into a ‘Myanmar market’. It has also become a collection centre for Cyclone Nargis donations and a place to congregate and discuss politics. In my youth, it was a place to get rare records and band merchandise. Yes, those were the days when it was cool to wear a cap with your favourite band’s logo on it. Backwards.

4) City Plaza and Joo Chiat

The newest enclave on the block, City Plaza is turning out to be ‘Little Indonesia’, and would have been a ghost town if not for maids flocking there on weekends. For obvious reasons, it attracts Bangladeshi workers too. Joo Chiat, with its string of bars and restaurants, is close to becoming ‘Little Vietnam’. Now you know where to go if you’re in the mood for pho or Ayam Penyet. Or some intimate Vietnamese hospitality, if you know what I mean.

So, with or without these club facilities, our FDWs already have a place to mingle (sometimes with other foreign nationalities) and be seen, even if it means moonlighting on the fly or simply fooling around. The fact that places like Lucky Plaza and Golden Mile have hardly changed at all means that the authorities are silently aware of their social (and economic) significance.  It is, however, unrealistic to expect migrant workers to integrate with Singaporeans on weekends, when they already spend almost their entire working lives dealing with us. In some situations, in fact, we’d rather they leave us the hell alone.

Let’s not forget the many other ‘enclaves’ and invisible boundaries that we draw around us every single day. Christians have their mega-churches, Muslims their mosques. Billionaires have their fancy clubs, golf courses, Iggy’s and Nassim Road. Women have Ladies’ Night and entire shopping mall levels dedicated to them. Hipsters have arty-farty cafes, expats Robertson Quay, and even seniors have ‘retirement villages’. What’s the big deal about a clubhouse for maids?

We’re a motley nation, not an orientation camp where everybody sits around the campfire singing ‘That’s What Friends Are For’, and by all means let FDWs have places to ‘call their own’ as long as they abide by our laws and don’t have mass orgies in public. A artificial enclosure like a clubhouse may be a place for maids to be ‘among themselves’, but without the flavours of home and the calming familiarity that Lucky Plaza brings, it’s unlikely to be a place to ‘belong’.

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Singapore is misery city with a massive compassion deficit

From ‘Massive compassion deficit in Singapore?’, 16 March 2014, article by Maryam Mokhtar, Sunday Times

FREELANCE writer and self-described food lover Charlotte Ashton jumped at the chance to relocate from London to Singapore last year, she says in the biography section of her website. The Oxford University graduate and former BBC reporter and her husband were happy here until one day, in her 10th week of pregnancy, she felt nauseous while taking the train to work and ended up crouching for 15 minutes because no one offered her a seat.

“For the first time, Singapore had made me feel unhappy. I had been vulnerable – completely reliant on the kindness of strangers. Singaporeans, I felt, had let me down,” she wrote. Recounting the incident in a BBC Viewpoint piece, she concluded that Singapore suffers from a “massive compassion deficit”.

One Singaporean friend told her it was because “we measure everything in dollar bills – personal identity, self-respect, happiness, your sense of worth”.

In the original BBC article, Charlotte Ashton was singing praises about our country’s cheap, delicious noodles and pineapple juice. She also described Starhub’s ‘Happiness everywhere’ campaign as ‘full of smiling Singaporeans dancing to PLINKY PLONKY music’, an ad with no ‘deficit’ of goosebumps or cheesiness whatsoever.

Then things changed abruptly for the worse following the train incident. Disappointed by how she felt let down by her Singaporean hosts, she quoted some guy called ‘Marcus’ who blamed our apathy on money and that we’re ‘programmed to think only of ourselves’. This obsession with money is too simplistic a root cause of our ‘compassion deficit’, and the only way to prove Marcus’ theory right is for us to reward altruistic behaviour, like winning a week’s worth of free train rides if you’re the first one to surrender your seat, though no one would conduct such an experiment without being branded for cheapening basic human courtesy as we know it. Marcus is desperately trying to flee to Canada as we speak, and I can’t imagine how that would be accomplished smoothly if one didn’t at some point think deeply about the money involved, you know, like the rest of us miserly penny pinchers.

Someone should tell Ashton what happened to us that drove Singa the Lion to quit his courtesy job altogether. Was it because we don’t give a shit about anything anymore, whether it’s a pregnant woman puking her guts out, or a butt-naked man lying in the middle of the carriage? To be fair, I’ve seen more people giving up seats than what public complaints of isolated incidents suggest. Was her baby bump obvious at 10 weeks? That it’s possible that people did not REALISE that she was pregnant? In any case, Ashton needed HELP regardless, and nobody responded. If it were that bad, why didn’t she just ASK for a seat? Or were the people sitting nearby too caught up in an important Whatsapp business conference chat, or too busy faking sleep to be disturbed? You’re very unlikely to get rejected if you’re pregnant and ask someone, especially from the priority seat, to get off their Ugly Singaporean ass pronto. In a nice polite way, of course.

Some attribute this coldness to us being a ‘reserved’ lot, that we refuse to budge when a stranger is in clear distress because it’s in our nature to mind our own business, an argument shot down by victims of the ‘bystander effect’ who retort that this ‘shyness’ is an excuse for ‘selfish and cowardly’ behaviour. I’m also not sure if there’s a correlation between being miserable and being a callous, unfeeling twat. The greatest feats of altruism, after all, are often displayed during the darkest periods of humanity. We were all miserable during last year’s haze, for example, but there were still kind souls who went around distributing N95 masks to the needy. If we were all suffering from a ‘massive’ compassion deficit, we wouldn’t queue like civil beings for those things, and would be looting Chinese medical halls for ‘cooling teas’ if we had the chance. Incidentally, the most ‘positive’ country based on a survey cited by Ashton was Panama. I’d be impressed if the country also holds the record for fastest return of a lost wallet.

A consultant psychologist once claimed in 2000 that Singaporeans are mostly ‘intrinsically kind’, that most of us DO want to help, but are either afraid of ending up being redundant, seen as trying to ‘act like a hero’, or making things worse. The more skeptical don’t want to let the Good Samaritan get the better of us, in case the ‘victim’ is really a con artist preying on the naive altruism of others, who ends up swindling money from you for doing what you thought was the ‘right thing’. But that’s as rare as finding a gracious Singaporean at a buffet with a 60 minute time limit. A case of spirit willing but flesh weak, perhaps?

Some group psychology studies have shown that this isn’t a malady of Singaporeans alone; the more people around a victim, the less likely someone will step forward to assist. The fact that using ‘eye power’ and waiting for someone else to take action is a universal trait, however, shouldn’t excuse us from exercising compassion when it’s so close to us that we could touch it. Ashton mentioned that the train was ‘packed’, and it’s baffling that you could have a pregnant woman ‘crouching’ next to you and you ignore her totally. That wouldn’t be a mere ‘deficit’ in graces or anything to do with being caught up in the ‘ratrace’, it would be a mental disorder, where the part of the brain that’s responsible for empathy has completely degenerated, possibly from playing too much handphone games like Flappy Bird. In fact, some psychiatry circles have coined the term EDD, or ‘empathy deficit disorder’, though that could apply to anyone from the engrossed teen thumbing his phone to death to a psycho killer charging at random people with a chainsaw.

Let’s hope Ashton’s case is a one-off affair, and may she continue to enjoy the affordable tropical delights that our little city has to offer, a tasty consolation I might add, even if we do suffer from a pathological lack of social graces, a disease that no one, not the Government, not the Church, not Singa the Lion or Dim Sum Dollies can do anything about. Synchronised dancing on an escalator, especially, isn’t going to help one bit. In fact, from the kindness campaign video below, it’s obviously a bloody waste of time.

Singapore is the most expensive city (for expats only)

From ‘Singapore budget 2014: Expatriate living costs survey does not reflect locals’ costs: Tharman’, 5 March 2014, article by Janice Heng, ST

Cost-of-living reports, such as the Economist Intelligence Unit one that has just ranked Singapore the priciest city in the world, are aimed at comparing costs of living for expatriates and thus do not reflect the cost of living for a local resident, Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said in his wrap-up speech on the Budget debate on Wednesday.

There are thus two important differences between what such reports measure and what affects the living costs of Singaporeans, he added. One is currency. “An important reason why we’ve become expensive for expatriates is that the Singapore dollar has strengthened,” said Mr Tharman. That makes things pricier for an expatriate who is paid in a foreign currency. But it improves Singaporeans’ purchasing power, both at home when buying imported goods, and abroad.

The second important difference is the goods and services whose prices are being measured, which are “quite different from the goods and services consumed by ordinary Singaporeans.” Mr Tharman listed some of the things included in the EIU consumption basket: imported cheese, fillet mignon, “Burberry-type raincoats”, the four best seats in a theatre, and three-course dinners in high-end restaurants for four people.

In addition, when it comes to transport, these expatriate cost-of-living surveys only take into account the cost of cars and taxis, not public transport. Cars here are indeed more expensive than in other cities because Singapore is a small country but its public transport and taxi fares are cheaper than in many other hubs, noted Mr Tharman.

“It’s not that these surveys are wrong, it’s not that they are misguided. They’re measuring something quite different from the cost of living for an ordinary local.”

It’s not just imported cheese and fillet mignon that ‘ordinary Singaporeans’ can’t seem to afford according to our DPM. We also don’t dress up as well as our far more dapper expats, who go for $4000 Giorgo Armani men’s suits and drink Moet and Chandon. Surely there are more Singaporeans driving cars than expats, which doesn’t explain how the price comparison for cars is ‘measuring something quite different’. You’d only need to find an equal if not SMALLER country than Singapore in the list with cheaper cars to counter our minister’s weak justification for the sky high prices. Just rating the stuff paupers live off day-to-day is also a misrepresentation of the ‘costliness’ of living, living for most of us involving some form of occasional enjoyment and splurging other than the core human functions of eating, sleeping and shitting. Yes, that includes 3 course dinners in ‘high end’ restaurants with fillet mignon as the main.

The EIU report says nothing about their data being exclusive to expats, and Tharman’s assumption is challenged by the fact that the list includes not so expat ‘friendly’ cities like Damascus, Algiers and Karachi (all among the cheapest cities to live in). Somewhere in the report also talks about the price of something as basic as a 1kg LOAF of BREAD. In Singapore it’s $3.36 vs $1.21 in Mumbai. Contrary to Tharman’s expat hypothesis, locals do eat sliced bread. I suppose Tharman’s version of expats go to artisan boulangeries and eat their dough with foie gras or steak tartare instead of spreading upon it  the disgusting green goo we penniless locals call kaya.

The rich foreigners love it here, a good proportion of them reportedly earning more than $200K a year, and with that kind of money it doesn’t matter if Singapore is the most ‘expensive city’ in the world or not since they live off the finest things in life anyway. That is, until they piss us off and bugger off to Perth. We’ll need to see the complete results to believe that the survey is expat-centric instead of taking Tharman’s word for it hook, line and sinker. This preview chart already shows you how the price of cigarettes and unleaded petrol here fare against the rest of the top 10 cities, stuff that people need, whether you’re expat, local or PRC.

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 10.10.34 PM

No surprise here, but we probably have the most EXPENSIVE bottle of table wine in the world, and this $25.04 on average may be even an underestimate given the recent tax hike. Thank God Singaporeans can at least still buy a plate of chicken rice with the same amount you pay for a 1kg loaf of bread. I wonder if the survey rates the cost of something as mundane as raising a child, which according to sgasianparents, is $340,000, just about the price of a Mercedes Benz E-class with COE. Singaporeans, don’t even think about it.

There are flaws in this survey, no doubt, but brushing it aside as one targetting just expats without a fair definition of ‘expat’ and making it a defensive ‘us vs them’ exercise is a typical symptom of blame-shifting instead of self-reflection. Singapore is the most expensive place to buy some things, maybe imported cheese and lobster mee pok included, but you can still get a cup of coffee for less than a dollar, a haircut under 10 bucks or go swimming for less than $2 in some places. Perhaps our leaders should angle their perspective that way rather than making tenuous assumptions that don’t hold water (which won’t stay ‘cheap’ for long judging by the way this drought is going).

Police running out of an ambulance like cowards

From ‘Two cops, two different reactions from COI’, 28 Feb 2014, article by Lim Yan Liang, Walter Sim, ST

ONE young officer was praised, a seasoned veteran chastised. Such were the contrasting reactions from the Committee of Inquiry (COI) on day seven of the hearing into the Little India riot on Dec 8 last year.

Even as Sergeant Fadli Shaifuddin Mohamed Sani was commended by the committee for confronting the violent mob with only a baton in hand, Senior Station Inspector Muhammad Adil Lawi had to defend his actions, which were recorded on video. The clip, which showed a group of auxiliary police and Home Team officers, including SSI Adil, running out of an ambulance, was circulated widely on the Internet after the incident.

The same footage was played during the inquiry while SSI Adil was on the witness stand yesterday. “You were the law, and you were running away, how does that reflect on the police force?” former NTUC president John De Payva asked the Traffic Police officer.

…When asked by the COI if his decision to retreat was an “act of cowardice“, SSI Adil disagreed and said: “At no time was I afraid.”

See how they run

See how they run

Former Police Commissioner Tee Tua Ba also blamed the fleeing cops for ‘allowing’ the rioters to take control, despite the vehicle bursting into flames soon after. I wonder what an ex police chief would have done in that situation. There’s nothing wrong with being afraid when you’re clearly outnumbered by a homicidal mob, and you need heroes to live to fight another day when the odds of survival seem low, rather than embark on a suicide mission and put the whole team in jeopardy, especially when our officers have admitted that they weren’t trained for a ‘full scale riot’. They even needed the help of some Good Samaritan workers to dash out of the ambulance in one piece. All that’s missing from the clip is some Benny Hill music.

Way back in the 1950’s during the Maria Hertogh riots, people were also disappointed in the police’s response to unruly mobs, namely ‘running into a five-foot-way’. Others blamed it on the ethnic makeup of the force, lauding Gurkhas while describing Malay constables with kanda sticks as ‘just looking’ on.  So why hasn’t anyone offered suggestions on how the Little India situation could have been better handled then? Should the team have taken the ambulance wheel and mow down violent rioters in GTA fashion, charge out screaming armed to the teeth with defibrillators and syringes, or scatter vials of denatured alcohol like one tossing sausages to a pack of rabid dogs?

Or should we have called THIS GUY?

How to stop a riot Bollywood style

How to stop a riot Bollywood style

Instead of accusing the police of being yellow-bellied cowards, how about considering relative INEXPERIENCE perhaps? No amount of riot simulation exercises will prepare you for the events that unfolded in Little India, it’s like aceing all the drills in NS but still refraining from shooting at a human being in an actual war. No senior officer put on the spot would admit that they were panicking and didn’t know what to do, using terms like ‘evacuation’ and ‘tactical retreat’ when what they were really doing, as most would, was running for their damn lives.

It’s easy, of course, to sit on a COI high chair and praise a lone wolf for charging at the mob risking his life while criticising others for not being badass enough while trapped in a vehicle. The members of the COI look like part of the Expendables themselves. Maybe just posing this way should be enough to make the rioters cower in fear without having to raise a weapon at all.

badassCOI

People are all ‘tulan’ with Anton Casey

From ‘We can afford to forgive this arrogant twerp’, 26 Jan 2014, article by Chua Mui Hoong, Think, Sunday Times

…To be sure, he sounded like an arrogant little twerp. But what accounts for such anger towards him? When I mentioned to a taxi driver that online reactions to Mr Casey were getting nasty, he nodded and said: “Yah, people all tulan” – a Hokkien word whose metaphorical meaning refers to being vexed beyond tolerance.

He went on to recount some of his own “Anton Casey moments”. In his case, it was expat cyclists: those who hog a lane, or two. Who expect right of way everywhere: pedestrians to make way for them on pavements, and motorists to make way for them on the road, who dart across traffic light junctions when the light isn’t in their favour, expecting cars to avoid them.

…In any case, if his latest apology is sincere – unlike the earlier one issued through a public relations company – he is having his own personal epiphany. What about us Singaporeans? Perhaps we too need to do some self-reflection.

Can we be a little less prickly when others poke fun at us? Can we learn to fight back online, without resorting to personal attacks, vulgarities or threats of harm? Do we have the grace to accept an apology and forgive?

And to say: This man, who is our guest, has returned hospitality with insult. He has done us wrong, but he has apologised and is paying the price. Enough is enough.

twerp

In 2012, PAP hottie and selfie king Baey Yam Keng had to apologise for a controversial remark he made about Singaporeans having to ‘reflect upon ourselves’ after PRC scholar Sun Xu said that ‘there are more dogs than people in Singapore’. Chua Mui Hoong is clearly living dangerously here, saying that Singaporeans can be over ‘prickly’ when foreigners mock us, and that we need to do some ‘self-reflection’. She has also jumped on the ‘spare Anton’ campaign bandwagon after SKM chairman William Wan called for tolerance and empathy, except using the less subtle approach of slamming the guy as an ‘arrogant little twerp’ (the kind of insult that Joe Pesci’s bungling burglar would use on Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone) and then calling for forgiveness later.

The strangest bit about her ‘opinion’ piece is describing Anton’s downfall as him ‘having a personal EPIPHANY’. Is he getting canonised in Perth as we speak or what? The worst thing that could happen now, with people wanting to make pandering statements by straddling the fence between condemnation and forgiveness, is if Anton Casey becomes not just a ‘poster-child’ of Singapore’s expat millionaires, as fellow expat and ST contributor Rob O’Brien put it elegantly (Anton Casey is not every expat, 26 Jan 2014, Sunday Times), but God forbid, victimised to the point of anti-hero and martyr. Enough is enough already.

But reflect I shall. Not if we’re being too harsh on Anton, but rather if this backlash that could be felt all over the world would mean that netizens and online vigilantes are creating a climate of social media phobia for themselves. Fear of saying the wrong things and losing your job over it because someone started a chain reaction of Facebook ‘sharing’. Whether the brouhaha has led to some form of self-censorship, where we’re afraid to touch on matters like race, religion, or class in a non-PC way because you never know when a random post gets blown out of proportion. We may be forced into playing it TOO safe, leading to an ironic state of affairs where the government could kick back and never need to monitor hate speech because we have inadvertently stifled our ‘freedom of speech’ ourselves, more wary of Stomp and Facebook users than the actual media police. Will social media be dumbed down because of the tyranny of the mob, that we’re so careful with being ‘responsible’ that we decide it’s safer to shut up than say something remotely provocative?

Then again, there’s always Perth. Scoot managed to take the AC case to new heights of absurdity. Once vilified as scum, he’s become a running joke. And his family isn’t spared. There’s no letting up on this guy is there? Curiously, this ad reminds me of the ‘Get Lost’ ad used by STB to promote our country in Australia. And get lost he did. He must be praying that no one in Perth says the same to him.

New scoot mascot

On a separate note, I’m rather taken aback that the ST allowed the word ‘TULAN’ in a national newspaper, while other times they’ve been known to censor ‘b**th’, a** and even ‘cr*p’. Tulan is a crude Hokkien term for ‘exasperation’, or literally ‘pig’s dick’. In other words, a vulgarity, like ‘Singaporeans very TULAN cos that ang moh Anton Casey SIBEI GUAILAN (very obnoxious dick)’. Similan (what the dick)?

Dana and Stefan cooking dinner for Singaporeans

From ‘Sweet gesture hits sour note online’, 9 Sept 2013, article by Linette Lai and Walter Sim, ST

WHEN German couple Dana and Stefan invited strangers to their Singapore home for dinner last month, the response was overwhelming. Their online “open invitation” for six guests at an authentic German meal went viral, with 400 sign-ups. Netizens lauded the gesture as being “sweet” and “heartwarming”.

But all was not as it seemed. The dinner was the first of four hosted by expatriates as part of the sixth FairPrice Finest Festival, the supermarket’s annual food celebration.

And the marketing ploy has left a sour taste for some, with sign-up rates plunging after the link with FairPrice was revealed about a week after the first invite.

…Netizens speculated that the hosts were merely “paid actors” in a “staged marketing gimmick”, prompting organisers to clarify that they had “volunteered after hearing about the idea through word of mouth”.

If you see an over-friendly German couple trying their darnedest to convince complete STRANGERS to go over to their house, it calls for a healthy dose of skepticism. Personally, I wouldn’t go to a stranger’s home, expat or Singaporean, for a FREE meal without a professional taster who’s willing to sacrifice his life for me. I would expect at least a chat over coffee as a prelude to something as personal and heartfelt as home-cooking. Even then, my first instinct in a strange abode would be to spot the nearest escape route or piece of furniture to use as self-defence in case this ‘open invitation’ turns out to be a deadly cannibalistic trap. It’s either death by poison, or awkward silence.

The Singapore Kindness Movement were either in cahoots with NTUC or genuinely fooled by the video, saying that Dana and Stefan’s invitation ‘exemplifies the spirit of #bigmakan, bonding and building friendships over food’. Turns out that the couple got a nasty backlash for their hospitality which they didn’t expect coming from food-loving Singaporeans, who felt ‘cheated’ when they realised their act of ‘kindness’ was possibly sponsored by a multi-conglomerate. The follow up videos show Dana and Stefan stocking up from Fairprice Finest before cooking up a storm, though you could get fresher ingredients from the wet market or some other specialty deli. Finest does sell canned sauerkraut though, as if the reception from netizens wasn’t sour enough. I wouldn’t be surprised that some of the noisiest whiners about this ‘con-job’ were the ones who didn’t get selected to sample some Bavarian delights.

In 2011, an insurance firm ran a similar viral marketing gimmick to toy with our emotions, presenting us with a ‘forbidden love story’ between a 20-something guy and a 47 year old woman. Netizens who were fooled into tears were appalled by the dramatic revelations that unfolded, though I believe one reason for the nastiness flung at this disastrous anticlimax was the ridiculous amount of emotional investment in the story. It was like watching a tragic movie finishing with someone waking up saying ‘Phew it was all just a dream!’. You’d probably wouldn’t react like someone ripped you off half your life savings if you just took such online drama with a pinch of salt.

At first glance, Dana and Stefan look like trustworthy folks who are not likely to strangle you with a string of bratwurst sausages. I would have believed them even if they sold their souls to the devil, though NTUC comes close, but not to the extent of falling in love with their amiableness and feeling like I’ve been dealt a slap in the face because they were doing it for Fairprice Finest. I think they had good intentions, just unlucky to face the wrath of people who want a perfect, happy ending to every story they encounter online and hate to be duped and feeling played out. Food for thought, nonetheless; How many of us even cook for our neighbours, not to mention complete strangers?

Now if only there’s a German word for ‘the disappointment of having people accuse you of being sell-outs when you invite strangers to your home for a meal out of the warmth and  goodness of your heart’.

Maid kicked in the groin over blanket on the floor

From ‘Employer gets 21 months’ jail for maid abuse; appeals against conviction and sentence’, 7 Aug 2013, article by Elena Chong, ST

A woman, who was convicted of five charges of abusing her Indonesian maid in one of the “most distressing” domestic maid abuse cases in Singapore, was sentenced to 21 months’ jail on Wednesday.

Chan Huey Fern, 32, is appealing against conviction and sentence. Bail of $20,000 pending appeal is offered. The mother of two, who has seven other similar charges pending, was found guilty last week by District Judge Low Wee Ping of causing hurt to Ms Juwarti, 25, at her Buangkok Link flat between mid-December and Dec 31, 2010.

She was convicted of punching the maid in the eye, kicking her body and private parts several times.

The court heard that she lashed out at the maid on Dec 31 that year when she found her son’s blanket on the floor in the children’s room. After kicking her repeatedly on her body, she called the maid to the kitchen where she kicked her again on the body and private parts several times, causing her to bleed.

The most sensational forms of domestic violence in Singapore isn’t between spouses, but between employers and their maids. As distressing as it is to get brutally kicked in the groin over something so trivial as a blanket, one can think of equally brutal, if not worse cases of maid abuse over the past 2 decades. Most of the senseless violence towards ‘the other woman’ of the house, startlingly, have been administered by women themselves.

Some cases of violence are utterly bizarre and border on torture-porn. In 2002, 30 year old Jennica Chow Yen Ping BIT ONE NIPPLE OFF her maid. She also tried to disfigure her face with a knife as punishment for not asking what she wanted for breakfast. Other than inflicting horrific carnage on another human being and leaving her with one nipple less, Chow spent most of the days as a HOSPITAL customer relations officer. In a less ferocious attack of the same body part, former air stewardess Aileen Khaw SQUEEZED her maid’s breast in between beatings of the eye and skull, all because the maid SCRATCHED HER HEAD while refilling an electric flask.

If you thought assaulting private parts over nothing was atrocious, how about yanking out two front teeth, as what 18 year old Nur Rizan did to her maid in 2008 while ganging up with 2 older female family members, a gruesome treatment that is as medieval as having your four limbs stretched by horses, or having your torso chewed by a pack of starving rats.  Some maids may be spared the physical battery and scarring, but are subjected to acts of extreme depravity that would even put traditional back-whipping slavery to shame.  An Indonesian maid was forced to eat DOG FAECES by a 37 year old woman and her teenage son in 1997. In 2008, Loke Phooi Ling, also 37, was slapped with a whopping 32 abuse charges, of which one was for scrubbing her maid’s mouth with STEEL WOOL and a TOILET BRUSH.

It’s sobering to realise that behind this facade of civility and grace befitting of a developed nation, despite the efforts spent on the ‘Kindness’ movement, there are still people amongst us who seem otherwise normal and treat their superiors or peers with gentle deference but would take the master and slave role-play well beyond the boundaries of morality. They would think nothing of rubbing bleach on their helpers’ wounds or dehumanising them through shocking ‘Human Centipede’ levels of degradation. These people don’t live in underground dungeons full of torture contraptions and spiked pits where they run victims through booby traps as part of some sadistic test of wills. They could very well be your next door neighbour.

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