Anton Casey has come to symbolise everything we hate about our society. Perhaps it is now time for our rage to abate and for us to look for the silver lining? If anything, this whole saga has led to the crystallisation of all things we abhor. From arrogance to the perceived inequality of wealth to race, Mr Casey has certainly been the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I do not wish to flog a dead horse and go into the details of what Mr Casey should or should not have said. What I do wish to do however, is to evaluate the issues that this unfortunate incident has raised.
When the Anton Casey story first broke, the immediate response was anger. Anger at his sheer arrogance and anger at the audacity of his sweeping ignorance. These are all very understandable reactions. Mr Casey is after all, for all I can see, a (pardon my language) twat. That being said, were we already ripe to erupt at the slightest thing? Were we not already sensitive to the high and mighty in their ivory towers? Certainly Singaporeans have been feeling that the government has lost touch with reality and are deaf to the concerns of the average Singaporean. Mr Casey’s ill-conceived remarks simply ignited the fuel that was already ready to combust.
The mood is volatile and the government will need to manage this with wisdom and foresight – not with a heavy hand because this will simply rear its ugly head under a different guise. The government will need to not just adjust its outward stance but rethink its entire hardware altogether. This anger and resentment felt by Singaporeans is way past salvageable by cosmetic changes and PR tactics. People want actions and not words, deed and not tactics. People will also have to be convinced by sustained actions of the government and not short term measures to tide over a difficult period.
What we should not do, is to tar all foreigners with the same brush and resort to racist cheap digs. Apart from fanning the flames of racial intolerance, I cannot see what other purpose these puerile remarks I have seen on the internet serve. Mr Casey is a bigoted fool in his own right. His race, the fact that his wife is Singaporean or how his kid looks has absolutely nothing to do with his actions whatsoever. Mr Casey is not the cause of our anger, he is simply the catalyst and we should be mindful of that.
Singapore is a country built on the backbone of determined immigrants with a shared belief in hard work and grit. Lest, we forget, we are a country of immigrants. Our grouse is therefore not against immigration per se but against policies of unsustainable immigration. Mr Casey should not be taken to be representative of the many contributing foreigners that we have in our midst.
It is also important to note that Mr Casey’s comments were classist as opposed to racist and we should not be so quick to jump onto the racist band wagon for this only highlights our own fixation with race.
Logically, I do not think that Casey is racist. His wife is Singaporean and by virtue of that, his son is half Singaporean – would a man as egotistical as he seems slate his own kin and offspring? I highly doubt it. He is a snob but he isn’t racist and by bringing race into the picture, we are highlighting our own racial generalisations and stereotypes. Perhaps this is food for thought for all of us and this incident should highlight the failings in our own society before we point the “racist” finger.
The global economic downturn has thrown the entire structure of wealth and how it is apportioned into question. This is not a solely Singaporean question. Movements such as occupy Wall Street have questioned capitalism and the very foundation on which the global economy is run.
Singapore is very much capitalist but we are going through our own mini reflection. Issues such as how we treat our foreign low wage labourers, to minimum wages for cleaners to more help for the needy are reflections of how we are trying to create a more egalitarian society for all.
Anton Casey’s thoughtless comments serve as a reminder of the process that we are undergoing and are uncomfortable precisely because of that. His high handed “above all that” posts show clearly the existence of people amongst us who feel that they are entitled to look down and pour scorn on others for being poorer. But did Casey create the system or did the system create Casey?
Are we against people making money or are we frustrated by our own inabilities to make the perceived staggering millions that Casey has made? Many have taken the opportunity to slate the rich but it is not a crime to be rich. Nor should we assume that Casey does not deserve the money that he has made. Remember, how good Casey is at his job is not dictated by how nice he is as a person. Rightly or wrongly, this is not how the system we work in operates. We don’t know how hard he has worked and so, that is beside the point. What we should focus on is how we can create more opportunities for all who work hard.
However deplorable Casey is, it is important to note that society has exploded at his comments because these issues of social justice and income distribution are already on the fore front.
Unfortunate as this incident may be, perhaps it can serve as a means for us to refocus on the prescient matters:
1. A more engaged and accountable government
2. A more structured and sustained policy for immigration
3. A focus on common values as opposed to a fixation on race
4. Eradication of elitism though the constant re-evaluation of aid versus motivation to ensure that a balance is maintained and opportunities are ever-present
Casey bashing is yesterday’s news. Let’s turn a page and deal with the issues he has flushed out.