You ever get in a cab with a driver that is really eager to chat? What choice do you have? You’re sort of a captive audience. Sometimes I try to deter them by giving short answers, but this guy seemed really excited about sharing his point of view. The conversation started out with a brief ‘how are you’, ‘where you from’, ‘what do you do’ introduction. That was followed by the typical ‘Singapore is so safe and clean’ and ‘the weather is so nice’ dialogue. Then he started laying out his ideas, dreams and visions for Singapore.
Nothing he said was really new to me. I’d seen it all before on various Singapore politics websites, like Temasek Review for instance, or on some Straits Times articles. Still, it was interesting to hear a guy going apeshit about politics to me, when the policies in question don’t really affect me all that much. Maybe he just wanted an opinion from someone who wasn’t all that biased.
His main complaints were about foreigners in Singapore. He stated that they were causing too many problems for locals and that it wasn’t fair that foreigners often received better treatment than native born Singaporeans. He mentioned the problem with first generation PRs not doing National Service. He mentioned how Singaporean youth have to compete with foreigners for jobs, and how he feels that the foreigners coming into the country are no longer supporting the country, but rather are taking it over.
As he reached the climax of his venting he nearly clipped a curb. I’m glad I had my seatbelt on! The topic was serious but I was really entertained by this old man’s passion for his country. The last thing he mentioned is that he felt that all the foreigners coming into the country and staying were changing the culture and he wasn’t sure it was for the best. He said that foreigners are raised in a different environment and it’s not the same as how Singaporeans are raised, and that they’ll pass that on to their kids, which may cause problems.
Then he asked me what I thought about it. Hmm… how to respond?
Instead of discussing such a sensitive issue with him, I instead tried to relate it to something that I do have a good grasp of and that’s the illegal immigration issue in the US. So, I mentioned to him how there’s a similar problem in the US, with illegal immigrants entering the country, putting their kids in schools without paying taxes, getting health care, etc, etc.
Just about then we arrived at my destination and I was spared from having to dance around the subject any more.
Singapore provides a lot of opportunity to foreigners looking for work, but the policy also causes a lot of displeasure among locals. I’ll leave it at that, but feel free to leave your opinion in the comment section, as long as it’s tactful and doesn’t contain racial slurs.