Thursday, May 8, 2008

Taxi Philosopher & The Blame Game

The other day I left our home to go to the airport and eventually to our apartment in Bangkok where I am now bivouacked for several weeks to tend to business here. We called a car service that we use regularly for the transport to the airport. The usual driver is a hearty pleasant fellow and we have referred him to friends and colleagues looking for a similar door to door service to and from the airport. I suspect we aren't the only ones to have referred clients and his business has grown to the point that he is not always the one who picks me up anymore. Occasionally his older brother is the designated driver and the day I left it was he that appeared at our driveway. Now this fellow is not quite as cheerful on the exterior as his younger brother but he is talkative and inevitably the talk turns to what is wrong in the world today. He likes to complain about the imported labor in Malaysia. You see, Malaysia, for whatever reason, cannot supply enough skilled or semi skilled labor to the factories here. So through various schemes, the labor pool is supplemented by thousands and thousands of Indonesians, Bangladeshis, Burmese, Cambodian, and Philippine people. These are countries where wages are extremely low and job availability lower still. People from these Third (and a half) world countries are quite literally forced by their circumstances to seek jobs elsewhere in hopes of supporting family back home. It is a subject that I am learning more about, as some of the larger manufacturers in my industry use this imported labor on a large scale. They have to. There are not enough local people that are willing (or able) to do the work. Some of the work I am doing presently is designed to spread the adoption of a corporate code of conduct that would lead to policies that protect the rights and fair treatment of all workers here, (as well as enhance the corporate's citizenship record). Some of the things we are learning about how these imported laborers are treated by recruiters in their country, by the labor companies here,and even by their own embassies, is scandalous but it isn't my purpose to write about that here. What I do want to mention is the vehemence of my driver and wannabe philosopher when talking about these imported workers.
From his view they are the source of most of the ills in Malaysia, including crime, littering, and a threat to the "Malay" way of life. He was especially emphatic to note that one reason we see a lot of trash in the streets of K.L. was due to the bahavior of these laborers from other places. "They act like pigs" he said, a strong statement from a Muslim man, whereby pigs are a pariah. Recognizing that particularly dangerous form of ignorance that is spiced with stubborn anger, I quieted down and let the conversation fizzle out. I chose not to tell him about the Malaysian woman sitting in the back seat of a $200K Mercedes parked at a highway rest stop that I happened to see. She was apparently changing the diaper of a child and opened the window of the big gleaming car to drop the used diaper out on to the parking lot. The fact is, you can walk all around Kuala Lumpur without seeing a single public rubbish bin. In my own upper middle class neighborhood people dump their trash at the side of the main entrance road. They do so late at night. How about all those new cars on the new highways here? I could not keep count of the times I have seen occupants toss trash out their windows. The fact is that there is little enforcement of existing littering laws here, and there is little inculcation of citizenship, or appeals to the citizenry to clean up.
Getting back to his remarks, what a common and repeated theme, I thought. Blame the outsiders for every social ill you can imagine, and in so focusing, avoid the responsibility of curing your own trangressions.
Seems that everybody these days wants somebody to blame. I suspect that if you were to root into the causes of each hot spot on this map you would discover a similar type of thinking.

1 comment:

Boleh said...

mate, u should talk to my new limo driver. he is a PAS supporter n he is so humble, cautious, law abiding n god fearing. I dumped my previous mamak driver when I found he was over charging me....n I had tipped him generously. this new driver doesn't take big tips but i insisted n may hv spoilt him., now I've settled on a reasonable amt which he is comfortable about accepting.