Stella Kon's blog

Saturday, September 6, 2008

foreign worker in the dust

I googled on the name of the Japanese mother, and found that the incident happened in March this year, not recently. I went to the newspaper's webpage and sent them an inquiry, asking for the boy's address.

There's been a few reports in the papers about Singaporeans' prejudices against foreign workers. One letter reported how a woman didn't like the way the foreign sweeper, having covered his face with a cloth against the dust, would peer at her and her daughter over the masking cloth. Looked sort of sinister, I guess! So they complained to the supervisor. Henceforth, the worker removed his cloth, and when the women passed he would turn aside and avert his eyes.

I'm touched by the docility and humility of the foreign worker. Does it suggest low self- image? Is it reminiscent of Jim Crow days in the South when a black man was expected to step off the path to make way for a white? I wonder whether the woman felt abashed every time she saw this man lowering his eyes before her. I wonder whether she might take the time to smile at him and say "good morning" -- to show that she doesn't regard him as less than human.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A child tortured by guilt

I read it in the paper today. I feel so much pain for a child I never met - a child who will grow up tortured by guilt, for something which was not his fault.

Straits Times, pg A18 - In Tokyo, a mother left the six-year-old child in charge of the two-year old twins and went away to party and enjoy herself for 11 days. One baby died of thirst and starvation, the other found severely dehydrated in a crib covered in garbage and faeces. Mother was jailed for six years. The six-year old boy said “It’s all my fault.” “You are responsible,” the mother said when she found the dead baby, and slapped his face.

I think of the six-year-old boy’s plight. It is a nightmare of guilt and powerlessness. He was trapped for eleven days with the crying babies and he had no idea how to look after them, how to feed them or keep them clean. The report says, he called his mother several dozen times a day but was largely ignored. Think of his desperation. The feelings of guilt and anxiety. Of being helpless, powerless, ignored.

The babies suffered, the babies died. It is terrible. But the six-year old child will be emotionally scarred for life. I wish there would be someone to counsel him, to tell him that he was not at fault, he should not have been asked to bear an impossible burden, he was a victim too. Is there anything we can do to help this boy?