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Fellow Singaporeans, wake up your idea!

Posted on 27 March 2012

We love to bitch about them, don't we?

2 March 2012, 1530 hours. My anxiety level was approaching infinity. Best friend collected her slip and walked away. With my handphone squeezed between my head and left shoulder, I tried to converse with my cousin while manoeuvering my right hand, without dropping anything.

From behind, best friend shouted: “5 As!” From the handset, I heard cousin say: “5 As! How about you?”

I stared at the piece of paper that would determine my future. “3 As, 1 B for my H2s. GP, C. Cannot get scholarship!” My crutches wobbled as I burst into a flood of tears.

Hours later, at my house, cousin and I were feasting on Maggi mee when he hugged me. Then it was his turn to cry. “Monday must book in!”

Cousin has epilepsy and ADHD. He lives with my parents because his abused him. Although a clerk, he enthusiastically contributes to the defence of Singapore, volunteering to handle the most intellectually challenging tasks.

Unfortunately, several ITE gangsters from his unit know the causes of his fits and have made a sadistic game out of triggering them. According to him, if he is discharged, NUS would not accept him, so what can he do, except do his best to put up with the bullying?

I finally found a part-time job, but first found out that most employers would not consider a girl who cannot walk without crutches, even for jobs that are more intellectual than physical. They fail to look beyond my disabilities and hence do not see my abilities. Losing jobs to foreigners? No, I am losing jobs to less qualified, less capable, but physically fit, fellow Singaporeans!

Treated as an alien by fellow Singaporean colleagues, I mix mainly with a few foreigners, who are also shunned by our Singaporean colleagues. These foreigners are generally more accepting towards me, capable and hardworking. Most bonuses and rewards go to them (and me, the best performing Singaporean, repaying boss for giving me a chance).

How do many Singaporeans react to being outdone by other Singaporeans and even foreigners? By complaining about elitism, while refusing to acknowledge and address their own flaws. By blaming the government and expecting the impossible. By hating the foreigners, often to the extent of racism.

Ironically, many Singaporeans refuse to support local football or movies, preferring the English Premier League and Hollywood blockbusters. Why? The local offerings are of a low standard.

Fellow Singaporeans, if you are not hired because you are not good enough, buck up! Unlike me, you can walk. Unlike cousin, you do not have frequent fits. Nobody owes you a living and nobody owes me a living either. Without a scholarship to pay my university expenses, my parents would collapse under the mountain of my hefty medical bills.

But I am willing and able to work to pay off everything. Cousin and I have learnt to live with our disabilities and conquer the endless challenges thrown at us. Like best friend, a foreign student who could barely speak English when she came here. She studied ten hours per day for years and her effort paid off.

Stop telling me to stop looking down on ITE students. I refuse to associate with neighbours and secondary schoolmates who went to ITE. They call me names, pelt me with small objects, even steal my crutches and money. Never did I face such bullying on a JC campus. Thanks, JC friends, for accepting and supporting me throughout my JC years, the best period of my life.

Stop asking cousin to consider donating to local ADHD and epilepsy charities. He refuses to associate with such associations, for they have forsaken him. A few years ago, he was referred to one of the organisations for therapy, but they only had services for children and the most severe cases. Why should he donate to these groups?

Complaining does not solve problems. Complaints that are illogical, with no substance, create problems. If you want to denounce our government, unless you have a pass in A Level Economics and have valid arguments with supporting evidence, shut up. If you want higher salaries and lower prices without increasing your productivity, stop dreaming. If you think running a country is easy, try running a country.

When a foreigner is featured on STOMP for inconsiderate behaviour on public transport, most replies are vitriol against foreigners, unrelated to the inconsiderate behaviour. That is racism. When TRE published an article about prejudice against autistic Singaporeans, most comments focus on government policies. Hardly any were about how Singaporeans treat fellow Singaporeans with physical disabilities or special needs.

Everyone has the right to form and air opinions, but please use this right wisely. There are government policies that I disagree with. There are legitimate concerns, such as foreign service staff who cannot speak English and male Singaporeans being disadvantaged by reservist training. Rational discussion about these issues is most welcome.

In addition, consider the good that our government and the foreigners have done. Most importantly, take responsibility and play your part. I face a future of uncertainty but will continue preparing for my dream career. To the hardworking fellow Singaporeans out there, especially those who have physical disabilities or special needs, I sincerely wish you all the best.

The writer has a severe physical disability and just graduated from a top junior college. She wishes that Singaporeans would be more hardworking, as well as more accepting towards people with physical disabilities and special needs. She does not wish to disclose additional details about herself or her cousin.

Photo: kodomut

This post was written by:

- who has written 268 posts on New Nation.

Joey is an intern at New Nation. He hopes to be as funny as Belmont one day and get laid at least twice a month.

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  • allthatjazz

    BRAVO. keep it up.

    however, i must tell you that i am one of those who is of the opinion that your sitn is the govt’s fault. you see, they don’t believe that those with a handicap can perform. hence your cousin’s sitn with societies, your sitn with jobs. hell, they wont even give you guys a discount on public transport.

    a member of my family is a rather good graphic artist and an even better dramatist, but he cant earn the bucks. for him, getting a job is difficult – because he is deaf.  

  • t.

    ‘Why should he donate to these groups?’

    to help ‘children and the most extreme cases’ of course. that’s why we donate to charitable organisations – not because we think the money will come back to help us or people like us. but to help *other* people. the sense of bitterness (which i think is not unjustified) i get from this question (and the article in general) undermines your call for ‘rational discussion’.

    ‘Stop telling me to stop looking down on ITE students. I refuse to associate with neighbours and secondary schoolmates who went to ITE. They call me names, pelt me with small objects, even steal my crutches and money.’

    vicious circle there. they’re not right in any way, but that doesn’t give you the right to look down on them. these ite students might behave the way they do because they feel looked down on by people like you. tit for tat. besides, i know many ite students who don’t look down on disabled people etc. don’t generalise. they’re wrong, but so is your elitist arrogance.

    ‘Complaints that are illogical, with no substance, create problems. If you want to denounce our government, unless you have a pass in A Level Economics and have valid arguments with supporting evidence, shut up.’

    unfortunately, that’s how democracy works. it’s not a dictatorship of the intelligentsia. i’m not saying democracy is a better system than a dictatorship of the intelligentsia (and perhaps singapore *is* in fact currently a dictatorship of the intelligentsia, or at least of the technocrats) but if you believe in democracy then that is the way it operates – the people have an inalienable right to decide how government works (not a right that is earned by intelligence/education). if you don’t believe in democracy, then i have no objection to this statement except for its unnecessarily hostile tone.

    you seem intelligent, and you’ve clearly been through a lot in life. your hatred for racism in singapore is admirable. but you’re prejudiced in some ways you may not have realised. i’m not trying to offend you, but hope you’ll reconsider your rather sweeping generalisations of people who complain and of ite students, as well as your disdain for charitable organisations. your opinions might not change, but hopefully they will be more nuanced, more well-defined and you will be more convinced of them.

  • Terry Xu

    I can only say, I had the same mindset when i was young in polytechnic. thinking all was right by what the government had done for its people and the people who complain about the government was simply trying to be difficult. Therefore I would not blame her for her own thoughts.

    But after going into army, and meeting up with people from various works of life, seeing people struggling in life and people waggling in their horde of riches. I saw for myself how this country is developing into and it is not the country that I want to see for myself and for the future generations. that is why people complain , not to ask for more benefits for themselves but for those who do not know of their own plight and ability to voice out their share of unfairness. Productivity, progress, higher pay for less work, all these are boogie men thought of by the establishment to justify their policies and why have they not done some stuffs. A phd in economics does not mean you can run a country or know how to. Look at the past great leaders which have brought their people forward in their country. Could the writer name any who have actually got a Phd in economics? Like what the commenter before me had state, this writer may has her own form of prejudice and arrogance in her without knowing it.

    • I admire this girl!

      Dr Goh Keng Swee is a great leader with a PhD in Economics.Reality is brutal. Hardships teach hard work. Words cannot describe the effort she must have put in. To overcome her disability. To excel in her A Levels. To handle her part time job well.She really inspires me. Share this article with people you know. People with physical disabilities and special needs. So they will be inspired too.Go, girl! The cousin too. May you two achieve your dreams. Maybe your success will help people be more accepting?

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  • Shahnawaz A Hamid

    No wonder you got a C for GP.

    • Cousin

      So? Did you get an A? Why insult her? Because she cannot walk? Why not address her points about physical disabilities, special needs, racism and hard work? Like she said, everyone has the right to form and air opinions, but please use this right wisely.  Did you read that she does disagree with some government policies and there are legitimate concerns?

      In person, she is actually very quiet, but very nice to the few who get to know her. Although we both feel neglected by the system and society, this article is the first and last time that she complains. We will fight our own battles and any support we get is a bonus.

      • Cousin

        And yes, I am really her biological cousin. The other person who posted as “Cousin” in reply to Terry, is not. People with physical disabilities and special needs sometimes call each other cousins.

        • Guest

          Do you happen to be the same cousin as in the article?

          I happen to read from a book called Come into my World. There is an anonymous guy with special needs who contributed his life story in the book and he is mentioned running a learning disability club  that seeks to support each other. Not sure if you are interested

          He can be contacted at bigcat86 at live .com

          • Cousin

            Yes, I am the cousin in the article. Thanks for telling us about the learning disability club; I will contact him. I wonder how he defines “learning disability” and whether his club would exclude us, like the charities.

          • Robert Yeo

            You also read Ms Brenda’s book regarding autism? I saw that email too. According to that guy named Anonymous, he is a mix of ADHD and Autistic traits. I think you should talk to him since he shares ADHD traits with you, Cousin.

          • Adam

            Learning disability club… Well…

            I think his club will include everyone who is willing to contribute to a community, for the acceptance of those with LDs, as what they are – so this means, we look beyond LDs, we look at how different people can be supported and accepted, while they contribute to Society.

      • Shahnawaz A Hamid

        Dear Cousin,

        For your information, I did get an A (in my time it was A2). But I’m not the one writing the article am I? What difference does it make what grade I received? Where in my short comment does it say that I am insulting her physical disability?

        No, if anything, it’s her weak argument that riles me. She arrogantly claims that she loses jobs to less-qualified Singaporeans, then tells these same Singaporeans to buck up when they do not get hired. She tells readers not to complain, yet her entire article is nothing more than a diatribe against an unforgiving made-in-Singapore meritocratic system.

        She wants to talk about racism against foreigners? I am a Singaporean citizen who has had to face racism every single day of my life as a minority in this country (and one who has had to serve his NS stint regardless). I don’t go around hoping things will change, or that I am entitled to a better life. I just stiffen up my upper lip and move along.

        If you both think Singaporeans should not feel entitled to a better life here, after all the efforts we’ve put into making this place a world-class city, then I respectfully ask that you both not feel entitled to sweet comments in this section, especially when it’s clear you both have a lot of growing up to do.

        Hayat Shah

        • Veronica

          Well said :)

        • Cousin

          Your initial comment was a one-sentence ad hominem attack that suggests you have a lot of growing up to do. Yes, we also have a lot of growing up to do; we are only 18 and have lots more battles to fight. Since your second comment includes several arguments and points, I will address them.

          Why does she tell less qualified Singaporeans who do not get hired to buck up? Because when potential employers instantly rejected her due to her disability, she bucked up! She prepared intensively for each job application and interview, developing many skills. For example, she learnt how to answer questions about her disability and politely assert that despite her disability, she was more than capable of doing the jobs. One potential employer, initially hesitant to hire a disabled girl, was impressed by how she handled the interview and decided to give her a chance. Finally, she managed to land a part-time job and is excelling in it, even getting bonuses.

          Is she complaining about our meritocratic system? She seems to be complaining about the attitudes of some Singaporeans. ITE students bullying her and me. Employers preferring less capable, but non-disabled, Singaporeans. Singaporeans who blame others and refuse to acknowledge their flaws. Racism against more capable foreigners. Charities offering no services for capable people with special needs. Are these caused by meritocracy or a lack of meritocracy?

          Some Singaporeans, like you and us, are indeed hardworking and tolerate suffering without complaining. These are the Singaporeans who have put effort into making Singapore a world-class city and deserve a better life here. Not those Singaporeans who are lazy, repeatedly complain and engage in vices. Those Singaporeans are a bigger problem than foreigners and to be honest, we would rather mix with foreigners who accept us. Racism, whether against minority Singaporeans (like you) or foreigners, should be condemned.

          Essay over. Back to fighting our own battles. All the best to you in yours.

      • anon

        I admire the author’s courage and that’s why I am posting this. While there may be people who bully her because of her physical handicap, she shouldn’t assume that everyone who bullies her is doing so because she can’t walk. EQ is an important skill to have when one goes out into the working world. If she tries to mingle with her colleagues more, they may welcome her into their cliques. You mentioned that she’s a very quiet person. Perhaps her aloofness is also a factor that deters people from befriending her? If she can open up more and be more cheerful, she will draw more friends to her side. :)

  • anon

    I appreciate the author’s candid opinion, but it’s unfortunate that she chose to single out ITE students.

    • TT

      There is no smoke without fire though. While I am an objective person, I cannot deny the fact that as a volunteer for adults with special needs. That the antagonism between ITE and high institutions also affects the special needs community.

      In fact while I empathize and admire this author’s efforts to work hard. I do want to mention that within ITE walls, there could be people with special needs as well who are attacked by the same ITE students as well. Not only that they themselves are victims of people who say that they are pie kias when most of them are not.

      They do get rather upset when a comment by a fellow special needs person decides to associate themselves with those ITE black sheep who will make no distinction between attack PDSNs outside or within ITE.

      It’s certainly not fair but perhaps given the writer’s circumstances, unavoidable.

      • TT

         * Typo
        a fellow special needs person decides to associate them with those ITE black sheep……….

  • asp

    So foreigners are more accepting of people with physical disabilities than fellow Singaporeans?

  • TT

    must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops
    of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. — Mahatma

  • Char

    Just read an article in TRE about two JC students, one autistic, one dyslexic.

    I wonder how many JC students with physical disabilities and special needs are out there, fighting their own battles. I have a visually impaired JC classmate. I am learning more about visual impairment and how to accept others who are different.

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