People are angry.
This picture making the rounds on Facebook is one of those things that makes it all worse. The Philly police are allegedly posing for a picture after eight Hong Kong tourists and the bus hijacker, formerly a decorated police officer, were killed.
After Eight Hong Kong tourists killed in Philippine bus hijacking, come the tributes and backlash.
Never mind Apple Daily reports of Philly maid firings, we've got neighbors and colleagues who changed their mind about employing new Philly domestic helpers and local radio stations telling the public that the minority Chinese population in the Philippines is appealing to them not to go overboard for fear they will suffer backlash in their home country.
Thing is, it's not just because of anger that people are choosing not to employ Philly helpers. It's fear. Distrust. For any helper, it’s just a job. The worse you can do is send them to jail or something. But for their employers, it’s their family, their home, their life – the helper lives in their home, cooks their food, minds their children.
People working long and hard leaves the helper de facto in charge of the house. The way in which the shooting was perceived to have been handled and how backlash is responded to will affect your average Hongkie’s view of the person, the relative stranger they are giving access to their lives and all they hold dear to.
One leisurely morning in one of the small towns we recently drove thru outside Melbourne really hit this home - I was astounded that I was astounded by the number of mums and dads in the playground at 11am on a Monday. In Hong Kong it would mostly be helpers, with m-aybe almost equal parts mums on a good day. Maybe a stray, displaced dad here or there. Kings has been stopped by grandmums on the street saying it’s wonderful to see a dad out with his son (he takes the occasional day off after some week-long business trips) – that’s how much work takes many parents away from their children here.
Hong Kong is an expensive city to live in. It’s not all one-upmanship (though I don’t deny that exists too). People need to work hard to afford a halfway decent standard of living. And everyone wants to be able to afford the best for their children. Then after you work so hard, spend so much, it just makes you want your child to excel even more. Not. That. I enjoy that, I’m struggling with the speed and worrying all the time Rockstar will be left behind.
I can recall offhand at least 3 separate occasions when Hongkie ex-colleagues have told me they choose not to have kids. 2 held team-head positions in the banking industry, the 3rd also had a fairly senior position. And they felt the expenditure and responsibility could just be too much.
One ex-mentor I had immense respect for said he was a little too old (early-to-mid 40s) to now have a baby. He was, he felt, close to the peak of his (then) earning capacity and any children he had would be a heavy drain on future resources because when they were college-aged he would be approaching retirement. What about study loans, scholarships? “My father paid for everything when I went to college. If I couldn’t do the same, I’m a failure. Mind you, I’m the only one of our friends who thinks this but then they all have kids who are already 5-10 years old. And yes they complain a lot that (me and my wife) have a lot more money to spend (on vacations and stuff).”
Don’t think the average working parent enjoys watching their kids bond with a stranger while they go have fun in the office. Especially not when that stranger also identifies that if the child bonds with them, their employer has a harder time firing them. We had one helper who was intensely aggressive about making Rockstar bond with her quickly – she even took him away from me a lot ostensibly for “bedtime” at any time of night after I got home from work.
So yes, some people are angry. But the others are simply “Better Safe Than Sorry.”
I hesitated for some time about whether to write about this at all, but then I'm supposed to blog about living here, raising a child here, and I don't suppose cute pictures of my son only is an accurate description of living here thru my eyes.
So watch me open mouth insert foot. Or veer completely off topic.
Long before this happened, the (very general) consensus view from office water-cooler conversations and playground discussions was already one of distrust towards Philly helpers, more so than Indonesians. We were advised that a Philippino helper was a lot more likely to lie and abuse the employment laws protecting them. It’s not difficult for people to then form even more bias.
We then hired an Indonesian helper from our church abused maid’s shelter (complete with character recommendation) that just completely took us for a ride. (I blogged about it in Does The Help Help?)
And Kings and I have been subject to prejudices and misconceptions too. (I blogged about that in Pride and Prejudice).
So we try not to be biased, not to be too affected by things going on around us, bearing in mind we’re sometimes on the receiving end. (But really, who can honestly claim to be completely free from biases, they’re pretty much part of being human.)
Especially when lives and kids are involved.
Oh, wait – I know when people aren’t biased – it’s when nobody gives a shit.