Monday, October 24, 2016

How is he my Enemy?

You have to hand it to the Americans but nobody else does showmanship the way they can. As an example of the American ability to put on a good show, one need look further than the current presidential election, where the two most reviled presidential candidates of all time have managed to make this the most watched election of all time. It’s an election where a wooden and uninspiring candidate in the shape of former first lady, Hillary Clinton has managed to have every one of her reported sins ignored by the media because her opponent is far more effective at getting free publicity.

Donald Trump, the property developer, reality TV host and now Republican Party presidential candidate has a magical ability to compel journalist to write down everything he says. His magic comes from his ability to make being downright unpleasant into something that’s almost trendy. He’s done so by stoking the fears of a group that once took being at the top of the social tree for granted (white men) by attacking everyone else, namely women, the educated and migrants.

Mr. Trump has been very good at stirring up the worst in a decent people. He’s used lies and made up facts and turned it into a jingoistic call of the average working man. The Economist described Mr. Trump as having made fact and fact checking him a form of snobbery. Mr. Trump has unfortunately been particularly successful at winding up people against one particular group – Migrants, whether they be Mexican (bunch of rapist) and Muslims (ban the lot from entering the USA).

Unfortunately, Mr. Trump is merely a very successful jingoistic charlatan who has plays of the fears of the unknown. Europe (the half of the West) as seeing a rise of Far-Right Nationalist like the National Front in France. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor and arguably the most powerful woman in the world has recently taken a beating in the polls because she decided to open the country up to migrants from Syria. The Japanese in the mean-time struggle with an aging population and stagnation because it seems better than opening up the country to migrants.

The arguments against migrants is simple – we’ve heard the lot before. You have things like, migrants come over here and steal jobs from hard working local people and sponge of us the hard-working tax payers. Migrants are accused of committing crimes; they’ll robe and rape you the moment you give them a chance. If a migrant works in the shit, our natives will inevitably turn up their noses and tell you that its inevitably better than what they came from. If the migrants happen to be Muslim, they’ll tell you that letting them in is like welcoming Al-Qaeda through the back door.

I hear these arguments and I shudder. I worry when friends of mine give these arguments credence. In a funny way, I should be a champion for people like Mr. Trump and his global brethren. Statistically, I match Mr. Trump’s audience. I am the Singaporean version of a white male displaced by globalization in America and Europe. I am the only Singaporean Chinese man with a graduate degree waiting tables in my 40s when people my age from elsewhere are taking up “plum” and glamorous jobs. I should be angry at the Indians and Pinoys who have marched in here to take the jobs that were supposed to be mine.

Yet, I don’t feel angry. I can’t bring myself to feel anger against the Filipino customer service officer at the bank or the Indian IT programmer. I can’t bring myself to feel angry at them – if anything, I get angry with the natives to speak with righteous anger against them.

I look at my blue-collar persona and the people who have made up my world in that sphere. I’ve had the usual human interactions with my Pinoy waiters and Indian cooks. I know these guys. We go through a restaurant seating together and we then have a good laugh after work is done. In some cases, I get to know their families as well.

I ask myself, how is it that people like Mr. Trump have figured out that the people like my work colleagues in my night job are the enemy? They put in their sweat and toil to ensure that people like Mr. Trump and his followers have a good meal when they come into the restaurant. They mind their own business after the service is over. I want to understand how my colleagues and friends are “my enemy.”

It extends beyond my collar persona too. I think of the days when I was a free-lancer. My clients, namely the people who were willing to take a chance on me, where inevitably from elsewhere. I ask myself, how is the Indian National Banker my enemy? If anything, the presence of the Indian National banker provided me with a business opportunity that might never have existed. The message of people like Mr. Trump fails to resonate with me because I keep looking at the people I know in my daily life and I keep asking myself, “What is it about these people that makes them my enemy?”
Let’s look on the national scale. How are Mexican immigrants picking fruit in California the enemy of local Americans? While I don’t deny Mexicans in America or Algerians in France or Turks in Germany or PRC Chinese in Singapore and Hong Kong commit crimes, anyone will tell you that on the whole, the migrants are law abiding and hard working. They perform a necessary role in comfortable society by doing the uncomfortable. 

Whenever someone looks at me and tells me that migrants are the enemy, I am tempted to grab hold of them and to get them to point to random bloke in the street who happens to look foreign and ask them how that person is my enemy.

Mr. Trump and his brethren around the world can make good speeches by talking about how certain communities are the enemy. I have yet to hear one of them point at people like my work colleagues and explain to me how they are the enemy in a compelling and sane way.