From Today Online.
Benjamin James Saram
I remember watching the excellent television miniseries, Hitler: The Rise of Evil, which screened last year. It examines that dark period when millions were killed in the name of racial purification and nationalistic ambition.
One particularly powerful scene showed a young Adolf Hitler, homeless after being rejected by the Academy of Visual Arts in Vienna, huddled against the winter cold in an alley with other beggars. His companion rails against the perceived imbalance of wealth in Europe, as Jewish aristocrats walk past in their fur coats and top hats. Hitler takes this all in, and with the Anti-Semitic speeches of Karl Lueger, then Mayor of Vienna, it forms the basis of his beliefs. The rest, as they say, is history.
I've been reminded of The Rise of Evil twice by events that took place right here over the course of 2005.
The first was the case of Gan Huai Shi, better known as Racist Blogger No 3, who was hauled before a judge to answer charges under the Sedition Act for writing a blog — incidentally called "The Second Holocaust", which preached hatred against Muslims. It was revealed during his trial that the seeds of racism were planted when he was a child as the result of a traumatic incident.
The second event happened over the holiday period. Apparently during the countdown festivities on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve along Orchard Road, several men took advantage of the packed crowds to spray women with canned foam and molest them while they were incapacitated.
According to several anecdotal accounts, a lot of these perpetrators were foreign workers. Police later clarified that the eight men apprehended were a mix of Singaporeans and foreigners.
Of all the opinions offered on the issue, the one that caught my attention was written by popular blogger Wendy Cheng (aka "Xiaxue"), who espoused banning the sale of aerosol foam and/or foreign workers from street parties in Singapore.
One particularly acrid remark posted on Dec 27 read: "I heard Orchard road was full of them (foreign workers), molesting and spraying our girls!! Why are we sharing Orchard road with them?!"
She also applauded the new dance club in town, the Ministry of Sound, for its exclusivity, asking rhetorically, "would you like to party with Foreign Workers?"
At the height of her tirade, she questioned why foreign workers are allowed at public events, stating that they terrorize girls, and "don't contribute to shopping centre sales". She drew a variety of reactions from readers, many of whom supported her views. But perhaps sensing that her posts may have become too offensive, she toned down her rhetoric and backpedalled by saying that "they (foreign workers) aren't all bad".
Ironically, it is this "toned down" final post on the subject that I find most chilling. She had written, on Jan 3: "Realise that we practice discrimination every single day. We discriminate (sic) looks, education, intellect, dressing, and a lot more.
"Modelling agencies do not employ the ugly … Mensa does not welcome people with low IQ … Platinum card owners do not allow the poor to join their ranks … SIA does not employ short girls …
"Is it really ok to discriminate these other things and not race? Food for thought."
That a tertiary-educated 22-year-old (supposedly with an IQ in the top 2 per cent of the population) would be capable of such xenophobic views does not scare me. What does chill me is that she thinks her views are comparable to how corporations select their staff and how banks apply demographic segmentation for marketing reasons.
(And for the record, Mensa does not reject people who get a low score on the IQ test. All aspirants who don't make the 98 per cent percentile cut for full membership may join as associates, which allows them access to all activities.)
What makes all this even scarier is that her blog boasts a hit rate of roughly 70,000 daily, and she has won several blog popularity awards over the years. When enough people tune in to one person's view and start feeling an affinity with that person, should we as Singaporeans not be worried? What if some misguided young person reads this stuff and it shapes his attitude towards foreign workers? What if he grows up to be a policy maker?
Ms Cheng's convictions, like Gan's, were not formed overnight. On her blog, she alludes to being molested, and witnessing people being molested, by foreign workers and other assorted louts since childhood.
However, just like Gan needs to learn that a long-ago act he felt wronged his family is not representative of the entire racial community, Miss Cheng needs to learn that migrant workers are not responsible for all, or even a majority of, sexual crimes here.
Of greater worry, according to 2004 statistics on the Singapore Police Force website, is the increase in molest cases reported in nightspots, the very places which Miss Cheng says are "safe" because foreign workers are generally excluded from them (economically, at least).
I do not dispute that a number of women during the street parties were accosted by foreigners. I believe the judiciary will come down hard on the perverts (Singaporeans included) caught, and rightly so. Perhaps legislation should be introduced to make penalties for outrage of modesty harsher if committed at large public events. The authorities should also look into ramping up security at such events.
The bottom line is, there are several ways to combat the scourge of sexual crime. Pinpointing specific nationalities or races as convenient suspects, however, is not one of them.
Especially if your blog readership consists of younger persons who may not have the maturity to handle anecdotal information with objectivity.
You do not want to be the one who inspires another Hitler.
This was contributed by a reader