Sunday 26 October 2008

Not in my neighbourhood: Forget foreign workers, Singapore is going to the dogs

I came across this reader's letter in My Paper last week:

"I refer to the letter, 'Ban foreign workers from HDB'. I empathise with the writer when he related his bad experiences with foreign workers.

"However, I was greatly disappointed that the letter called for a ban on foreign workers in HDB flats. I do not think it is fair to call for a ban on foreign workers in flats based on a few bad experiences with foreign workers.

"The correct approach, if one feels that foreign workers are creating a disturbance or dirtying the neighbourhood, would be to speak to the foreign workers.

"Foreign workers should not be tarred with the same brush because of the few black sheep who are unable to discipline themselves.

"Tolerance and kindness help in the building of a gracious society. It is time for us to exhibit some of these qualities when it comes to our treatment of foreign workers."

Wow, what a great letter. The writer basically articulated everything I want to say about this whole "I don't want foreign workers living in my neighbourhood" issue.

Except I cheated. The actual letter wasn't about foreign workers. It was about dogs.

The writer was responding to an earlier letter that wanted the authorities to ban HDB residents from owning dogs.

All I did was simply replace a few words like "dogs", "dog owners" and "animals" with "foreign workers", and voila - a level-headed plea for graciousness and compassion for our fellow human beings, rather than pets.

It's ironic that someone could write so persuasively to defend the rights of dogs, the same rights that some Singaporeans don't even see fit to grant our foreign workers.

If you think it's inappropriate for me to equate dogs with foreign workers, b-b-baby, you you ain't seen nothin' yet.

The HDB dog ban debate has moved online to the AsiaOne forum where it took a bizarre turn when one poster reasoned that if dogs were to be banned, then children should be banned as well since children are as much a nuisance as dogs.

Yes, someone actually equated dogs with children.

He or she could be in show business because there's an old showbiz maxim that goes, "Never work with animals and children." (Thank you, W C Fields.)

All I can say is some people must really really really love their dogs - and hate kids.

If only foreign workers can be put on a leash. After all, we already have leashes for kids.

- Published in The New Paper, 26 October 2008