Thursday, April 02, 2009

Chip on my shoulder

Anyone remember the delightful, "divalicious" creature named Malu Fernandez? Yeah, I wish I could forget too. But it's hard to wipe such muck from my memory when more unsavory scum like Hong Kong journalist Chip Tsao surface from the depths of their bogs and remind me that horrible human beings walk amongst us.

In case you haven't heard, Mr. Chip Tsao writes a column for HK Magazine, and in his March 27 piece called "The War at Home", he refers to the Philippines as "a nation of servants", and describes how he delivered a "harsh lecture" to his "domestic assistant" Louisa over the Philippines' audacious claim over the Spratly Islands.

I sternly warned her that if she wants her wages increased next year, she had better tell everyone of her compatriots in Statue Square on Sunday that the entirety of the Spratly Islands belongs to China.

Grimly, I told her that if war breaks out between the Philippines and China, I would have to end her employment and send her straight home, because I would not risk the crime of treason for sponsoring an enemy of the state by paying her to wash my toilet and clean my windows 16 hours a day. With that money, she would pay taxes to her Government, and they would fund a navy to invade our motherland and deeply hurt my feelings.

You can imagine the outraged furor this offensive passage ignited, not only among Filipinos in Hong Kong, but here at home. The online copy of Tsao's article has had to be removed from HK Magazine's website due to the deluge of angry reactions being posted, and the Bureau of Immigration has barred Mr. Tsao from entering the country. There have been TV news interviews of incensed Filipino labor leaders in Hong Kong, as well as statements given by irate Philippine legislators.
Yesterday's news reports say Tsao has already issued an apology for his politically incorrect piece, but the sizeable Filipino community in HK is still organizing a protest rally this Sunday.

My brother has already blogged about this issue, and my comments to his blog post reflect my views on the matter. To quote myself (with edits):

The fact that our country's biggest export is human labor says a lot about us as a nation, both negative and positive. Seen from one perspective, there is some truth (no matter how sordid) to what Chip Tsao wrote, we are indeed "a nation of servants". The term "servant" stings so much because of the stigma attached to it: implications of lowly menial labor, even vestiges of slavery. For a country with a long, painful history of being colonialized by 3 different countries, being labelled "a nation of servants" will definitely rankle.

But if everyone were to regard honest work, no matter how lowly or menial, with the respect it deserves (for there is dignity and value in all honest work), then they would realize being "a nation of servants" is not as bad as it sounds.

I'm not defending Chip Tsao here. Far from it-- I think he's an arrogant, imperialist, racist SOB. When he called us "a nation of servants" he undoubtedly meant to convey condescension, and the whole tone of his article
was patently discriminatory, derogatory and debasing. However, I think the reaction to Tsao shouldn't be "we're not a nation of servants, you asshole!!", it should be "what's wrong with being a nation of servants, you asshole?!" We serve not because you're better than us. We serve because we can, and we're better at it than you. Asshole.

And then it would be awesome if all the domestic helpers in Hong Kong went on strike for a couple of days just so everyone sees how indispensable Filipino "servants" are. Hah.

There's political incorrectness, there's insensitivity, and then there's outright indecency. The kind of blatant bigotry demonstrated by Chip Tsao should not only offend our sensibilities as Filipinos, but as decent human beings who recognize the intrinsic worth of our fellow man regardless of race, nationality, social status, and occupation. To harangue and humiliate another person-- and insult an entire nation in the process-- just to make a point about some tired old dispute over a bunch of islands is a sorry display of superiority by someone whose contribution to society is churning out journalistic crap. No wonder his toilet takes 16 hours to clean.


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