Monday, March 28, 2005

Counsel of Two.

"No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main..."
-John Donne

"No man is an island - He's a peninsula."
- Jefferson Airplane

It gets hard to be introspective when it comes to the social aspects of your life. This is where friends help to provide the mirror in which to better understand yourself. It can be a good way to start considering the social integration aspects of migration, with the brutally frank opinions of long time friends.

Couple of conversations I had over Yahoo Messenger on separate occasions with two people who have known me for a decade or more now. Edited slightly for readability. Quoted with permission. I believe these snippets may provide insight to the part of my psychological makeup that would have me considering emigration.


[ AF on stereotypes. ]

AF: You know, one of the biggest realisations people make when they move out of a country is that it's not the country that was the problem, it's themselves. Or rather, that moving away doesn't solve anything. Nor should it make a difference.
Me: is this why you think I am emigrating? to try to run away from my problems here in singapore?
AF: I think you want to move because you think you will have more freedoms overseas, that your life will change because people will not judge you by the conventional standards here, that you can be less hindered to be who you are.
AF: But there are authority figures in various guises everywhere, and conventional social attitudes everywhere you go, and people judge and pigeonhole as a matter of course. How will you deal with a different environment of the same thing?
AF: I remember that in Canada, sometimes I'd just have to say "I'm from Singapore" and people would instantly know who I was, what my values were, and what I thought. Since I was Chinese, I would eat funny and disgusting things like chicken liver and water chestnuts (what about pate? but nevermind)

[ AF would like to clarify that this point would be irrelevant if the primary motivation for emigration was for the purpose of retirement. ]


[ Talking about the
Grace Chow book discussing migration. May contain spoilers. ]

H: Halfway through. She didn't talk much about the political situation but she gave me new insight into migrating
H: My background and her's are pretty similar
H: heartlander
Me: what insight?
H: never been much out of SG
H: made our own way through edu by our own efforts.
H: The thing is this. I'm acceptable to my current situation
H: She's finds it unacceptable to live in SG because it's too stifling
H: She studies European culture
H: Which in a way contributed to her successful integration into the local population
H: She picked up the native language
H: She married a local
H: She had a native Toni who represent her interest to the society eg the dutch language course.
H: She accepted the way how the dutch people worked ... Not too sure but she did make a big fuss in the book a ala typically Singaporean style
H: See coffee, business attics, customer service
H: All of this contributed significantly to her acceptance as a naturalize dutch.
H: She embraced the new culture , the people and became one of them.
H: Contrast:
H: PRC head who come here, fully retaining whatever identify that they had.
H: Complaining incessantly about the place, people, culture, language
H: Didn't care much about the local lingo
H: Doesn't see the need to bridge the gap or see the cultural gap in the first place.
H: Doesn't talk about integration, demands acceptance.
H: You see where i am going with this?
Me: well.. those PRCs dun plan to make this place "home". they are just here to use the heavily subsidised education, work and earn money to send home, and eventually go back to retire rich
Me: singapore inc
Me: or singapore hotel
Me: whichever analogy

[ About being Singaporean. ]

H: For you. Have you considered the practical plans of becoming an Auzzie?
H: Integration into the local population is an important aspect of migration.
H: The failures who chose to come back failed in their attempts perhaps due to insufficient mental preparation to become a citizen of another country.
H: One my new understanding is that citizenship does not change in this global mindset.
Me: nope. there will be a part of me that will always be singaporean
Me: I will never be "native" australian
Me: and since the "native" singaporean is going to be extinct (or highly diluted) by the govt import policies anyway... might as well find somewhere more livable

[ H cautions on social integration ]

Me: I know what you mean. I leave not just for economic reasons. just that I have not written about the social, political, other reasons yet in my head
H: No. Not just a social network. It's a new identity.
H: It takes time and effort and energy for people to accept you.
H: Where you are born as, it is a given.
H: Where you are inducted into, it must be earned.
H: Not asking you not too. Just asking you to plan out the social aspect

[ Doubts on my ability to integrate. ]

Me: *shrug* I have crawled from been a hokkien beng in a blue collar world, to semi-sucessfully integrate as a university graduate in white-collar work in singapore drinking wine... I'll live...
H: Nope. Base on your behavior, I don't think so.
H: highly Individualistic on a social front ie when dealing with people as a group.
H: Inability to fake being a groupie. you know you suck at it.
H: Being asked to curtail your anti-social streak for the benefit of a community
H: being in a group
H: being identified as a group
H: working together in a group.
H: The previous three has the additional condition with people that you don't like.
H: learning to like people
H: learning to live like people that you don't necessarily like.
H: remember. it's a suburban culture.
H: less people = stronger bonds with more people
H: it's not in the size of the group, its in the locality
H: the wider the area, the bigger need for people to band together to help one another.
H: If you just wanna be a PRC-IN-SG type of auzzie immigrant, it's fine
Me: nah.. if I end up as PRC-in-SG type of migrant, might as well stay in SG


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