From ‘Xenophobia row:Police report filed’ 23 Feb 2013, article by Leonard Lim and Andrea Ong, ST
NEW citizen Li Yeming, who had accused Workers’ Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang of driving a wedge between Singapore-born and new citizens, has made a police report against netizens whom he said falsely accused him of making anti-Singapore comments.
A friend had alerted him that netizens were circulating posts he supposedly made on his Weibo microblog, including one which said “I will send an army over to flatten your home (Singapore)!”, he told police yesterday.
Mr Li, 43, said in his police report he had not written the posts “stating that I scolded Singaporean(s), threatened to flatten Singapore and also commented on how lazy Singaporeans are”.
Yesterday, Mr Li told The Straits Times he hopes the police can find out who started them. He also hopes to set the record straight through the police report, so as not to affect relations between local-born and new citizens.
…On Monday, Mr Low issued a rebuttal and said he was shocked that Mr Li had accused him of “inciting xenophobia”. The systems analyst then wrote a second letter to the Chinese daily on Wednesday, saying his sentence, “inciting xenophobia is not patriotic“, was a general statement not targeted specifically at the WP. He had intended to question Mr Low’s stance in the White Paper debate as it seemed to make a distinction between native-born and new citizens, he said. Mr Low has said he made no such distinction.
As a ‘new’ citizen, Li has picked up the Singaporean trait of sending in the cops to ‘set records straight’, though this drastic action is likely to rile the ‘xenophobes’ further. Buzzword of the Day ‘Xenophobia’ isn’t new, having been freely uttered by LKY on the local sentiment against our British colonialists more than 50 years ago. Today, it is an accusation that has been tossed willy-nilly at Opposition politicians, White Paper petition organisers like Gilbert Goh and some bloke named Darryl Nihility dressed like the Sex Pistols holding up a sign saying ‘Singapore for Singaporeans’. That technically includes Li Yeming.
Li’s original letter to Zaobao used the Chinese term ‘排外’, which I think literally means to ‘cast outside’, and I’m not sure how accurate this translates to a word that seethes with fear and hatred, a word that borrows from medical terminology suggesting a form of mental illness. ‘Xenophobia’ is really the flipside of the same coin when you’re talking about extreme ‘patriotism’ or ‘national pride’. It’s like choosing to call someone ‘fussy’ instead of ‘meticulous’, ‘possessive’ instead of ‘concerned’ or ‘stupid’ instead of ‘underachieving’. Some of the most patriotic people on the planet are also the least welcoming of foreigners, the kind that put up national flags on their front porch and ask ‘What the hell do these Chinese have to move in this neighbourhood for?’ These are also the same people who use dehumanising words like ‘scum’, ‘vermin’ and ‘swine’ and have miniature gas chambers and shotguns in their backyards. Unlike the rest of Li’s public articles, this blurt about him summoning a Red Army to storm our land does sound like the rantings of someone who’s watched far too many reruns of Mulan.
The tendency to distinguish and shun members out of our social circle serves the purpose of protecting our own and preventing outsiders from leeching off our resources, and is the whole premise of civilisations demarcating territories, building defences, national service and calling ourselves ‘nations’. Humans have evolved with brains equipped with an ‘us vs them’ module, otherwise we wouldn’t tell our kids not to open the door to strangers. Foreigners are labelled with slurs like ‘gwailos’, ‘ang mors’, ‘gringos’ and ‘gaijins’ in almost any country that accepts them. Without the ability to distinguish friend from foe by which tribe they belong to, we’d be long decimated by freeloaders or psychotic barbarians. Although we have grown to be more altruistic in our treatment of strangers and discovered some social and economic magic to ‘integration’, it is perfectly normal to question the wisdom of taking the term ‘global village’ and ‘cosmopolitian’ to the level of a desperate streetwalker warming her bed for any Tom Dick and Harry. In that sense, to some who petitioned it, the White Paper was a slut manifesto. Interestingly, the White Paper translated in Chinese is 白皮书, or White Skin Book.
It is also a gut reaction to label those who choose to stay here as ‘ingrates’ for trash-talking Singaporeans, whether we’re lazy slobs, bad Mandarin speakers or just a pack of dogs, again a symptom of our national ‘pride’ where we consider Singapore our home and these guys, new citizens or not, are guests or tenants. So it seems counter-intuitive that people are preaching about preserving a Singaporean Core, yet telling us that being accepting of foreigners is what a ‘patriot’ should do. Ironically, ‘patriots’ are often associated with violence, whether they’re pistols-ablazing on a horse or decapitating people in a kilt like Mel Gibson or named after Gulf War missiles like how one names a rabid pit-bull terrier ‘Braveheart’. Anyone who yells ‘Majulah Singapura’ while charging headlong into a bunch of rowdy drunk expats will be martyred before being accused of being ‘anti-foreigner’.
The emotional motive that belies our general wariness of foreigners, whether in war or in their ‘naturalisation’, remains the same: The protection of our land, our heritage, our kids, our future against outward influences. How is that a ‘sickness’ like xenophobia is presented to be? A milder version of being ‘xenophobic’ is NIMBY (Not in my backyard). Except that those who actually OWN backyards probably can afford to move out of the country if they’re too many guests pitching tents on their lawns. The media’s use of the phrase ‘new citizen’ has exposed a grey boundary where we even need to debate over what a ‘Singaporean’ or ‘Our Home’ means anymore. ‘New’ citizens like Li will eventually become as ‘Singaporean’ as anyone of us born and bred here. The question no one can answer, not Low Thia Khiang nor Li Yeming, is: When?