Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Singapore is Middle Earth

J.R.R. Tolkein's Middle Earth is populated not so much by characters but races where each individual Orc, Elf, Dwarf, Troll or Human has the same morals and ethics. This makes it extremely easy to follow the stories as any character can be assessed by their race. There might have been an Elf who swore but she never survived the final draft.

Singapore relies on large numbers of foreign workers to operate. I don't mean foreign like me, I mean Indonesian and Filipino maids, Chinese construction workers, Indian maintenance guys, Malay factory workers, and so on. One sees guys on push bikes with a pair of large 10-gallon, ex-paint tubs on the handlebars washing cars in the HDB lots (one is soapy, one is for rinsing): all Indians. There are scavengers of the HDB rubbish collecting cardboard, electronics, metals and aluminium drink cans (going rate +60 cans for SG$1): all Chinese.

This suggests that not only are many jobs just not done by locals, but on the other axis, jobs divide into neat racial buckets. Maybe it's because people tend to hire in their own image? Maybe it's old-boys-networks? Traditional trades? Racial stereotyping? Or just a cognitive bias such as the Halo Effect causing me to reinforce an initial perception by rejecting non-fitting data. You tell me.