'Night Flight reprise', from the self-produced album, Blue Jazz.
composed, produced, by, ed

Ah Tiong vs Ah Tan




So this is a new term i’ve come across.  Ah Tiong.  About a week or so ago.  Perhaps it’s been in usage for a while, and now, an increase in frequency.  Oh, and the Chinese have produced a term for Indians from India as well - ah neh (which is also used to refer to local ‘native-born’ Indians as well...says a lot about how they actually view local indians as well).  Of course, the literal translation of the term ‘ah nei’ is ‘big brother’ in Tamil.  However, considering the derogatory context within which it is used, we can know that the meaning is anything but respectful but just another instance of deeming all non-chinese/english words as laughable, and hence, able to be used as a derogatory term.  Typical.

People who engage in a face-value appreciation of reality frequently fail to appreciate the details that comprise or distinguish similar others and hence just end up producing terms to categorise and distinguish an the entire other.I wonder why the chinese have to produce words to encapsulate an entire other so quickly.  Well, i don’t have to wonder about it actually.  People who engage in a face-value appreciation of reality frequently fail to appreciate the details that comprise or distinguish similar others and hence just end up producing terms to categorise and distinguish an the entire other.  People whom are open to new ideas, peoples and cultures rarely do so, or if they do, such terms are not frequently or as pervasively used as it is in singapore.  That is why, in foreign climes, like in the UK, it is generally those whom are viewed by the general public as racists whom do so.  But what is deemed racist in the UK, in the confucianised singapore of today, is common lingo.

I’ve said, after observations over more than a decade, and experiences spanning more than 3 decades, that the chinese tend to make sense of reality after discounting all information they can’t immediately understand,   information that contradicts their existing and commonly (racially) shared beliefs, and information that requires further thought - unless it obviously serves their interest.  Hence, unlike any other race in singapore, they tend to resort to more categorical terming and name-calling (mama, ah tiong, or lang, gandhi, black ghost, foreign trash, etc, and in china in the past, terms like ‘foreign devil’, amongst others, all of which used with hilarity or negative feelings, or at best, deeming it normal to refer to difference in such contradistinguishing ways). 

But it’s not a race-thing. 

It’s not because of the chinese penchant for soy sauce and bland-tasting food, it’s not because they were ‘born that way’, and it’s certainly not, as one indian once shocked me by suggesting that it’s because they are ‘racially inbred’.  If you put anyone of any race through a traditionalist, authoritarian, top-managed scheme of things, the people are going to move from empathetic and independent thinking to going by set customs and conventions so that they can move on to acting quickly for the purpose of making life within such a scheme of things as pleasant as possible.  Hence, as a corollary, we see their thus-nurtured aversion to difference at all levels of society and all manner of social relationships. 


The Social Context

That is why in singapore for example, there isn’t much reasoning behind rules.  It’s set and people don’t question after the logic behind the rules but simply state, ‘if you know the punishment and you still do it, then you deserve the punishment.’  Precious few question after the punishment being reasonable for the behaviour.  And this sort of thinking also serves as the foundation upon which people can be arrested for using metaphors that are taken literally.

I’m sometimes inclined to think that there are only two sorts of ‘native-born’ chinese in the singapore of today, those whom are racist and xenophobic, and those whom have no problem with it. How else can we explain such quick production of pigeon-holing and derogatory terms and it being commonly used with impunity.  Within such a status quo, we have the chinese producing statements like, ‘Talk so much for what?  Just do!’, or, ‘Think so much for what? Just do!’; or, justifying their not bothering about social evils with, ‘It’s like that one lah!’, or, ‘Everywhere also like that one lah!’; or, in the face of persistent questioners and thinkers, terming them, ‘troublemakers’, ‘word-twisters’, ‘arrogant’, etc.  Everything is superficially accepted and appreciated, as well as depreciated, without question.  Even in language usage, it is simple and abbreviated, as illustrated by the national colloquial language of ‘singlish’ - which is an amalgamation of mainly malay and chinese languages but which bespeaks a superficial or face-value appreciation of reality.

Even in social relationships, the chinese do not respond if you talk about what they are not accustomed to; if you present perspectives on what they are talking about which they are not accustomed to; if you attempt to talk about any issue, be it trivial or significant, beyond the superficial level.  In other words, it is the familiar that is prized.  Hence, it is not surprising that people who conduct themselves in such a self-absorbed manner in social relationships also exhibit racist and xenophobic tendencies, and come up with terms to group and pigeon-hole different others without first considering their uniqueness and appreciating their commonalities.


Therefore

Hence, being such face-value, don’t-question-the-status-quo-but-just-do-your-best-within-it, kind of thinkers, it is no wonder that they tend to produce terms such as ‘Ah Tiongs’ so quickly.  They are so logically short-sighted that they don’t even realise that the term would refer to all of their grandparents or great-grandparents given the fact that every single one of them come from China.

Of course, the ed can be accused of doing similarly by referring to the so-called ‘native-born’ chinese as Ah Tans - taken from the fact that all the recent presidential candidates were ‘Tans’.  But the fact that all the candidates can be chinese in what is supposed to be a multicultural state serves as one of the many proofs that they have quite successfully made them similar enough not to deem anything amiss with this whole thing.

You are an 'Ah Tan' by virtue of deeming others to be 'Ah Nehs' and 'Ah Tiongs' because they are not 'Ah Tans'. I'm ed by virtue of my view that appreciation of difference should come before name-calling and pigeon-holing.'This, paired with media racial and cultural bias, national racial and cultural bias, government policies, job ads, discriminatory housing and language policies, and even singapore’s msn address being  a chinese ‘xinmsn.com’ etc, etc, etc, and with the chinese taking issue with just about none of these things indicates they are are enough of a self-absorbed and culturally inward-looking people to deem nothing amiss with others being marginalised.

It also indicates that they have failed to integrate or have ignored difference to the point that it is only their culture and people whom define and head everything.  I’m sometimes inclined to think that there are only two sorts of ‘native-born’ chinese in the singapore of today, those whom are racist and xenophobic, and those whom have no problem with it.  How else can we explain such quick production of pigeon-holing and derogatory terms and it being commonly used with impunity.  Of course there are exceptions.  But the problem is that they are exceptions.

So it is within this entire context, which i’ve done my best to communicate briefly and connect logically, that we can begin to appreciate the foundations upon which the term ‘Ah Tiong’ might arise.  And in its increasingly common usage, and with just about nobody taking issue with it, we can justify our view of the ‘native-born’ chinese as similar in their nature, and hence, justify an all-encompassing term to encapsulate them.

The purpose of this observation is not to put forth a term to refer to the ‘native-born’ chinese so that we can just lump them all together and condemn them.  Rather, it is to show that in their effort to categorise and condemn or marginalise all different others, they are presenting themselves as a categorical other themselves as opposed to being individuals with significant and unique characteristics.

By the way, there is nothing wrong with categorising others with such terms if the effort is to define the distinction between us and them as a distinction between a multicultural and egalitarian ‘us’ vs. a monocultural and  self-absorbed ‘them’.  In coming up with such terms, we are demanding that the others prove that they aren’t worthy of such a term by striving for integration. Till then, you are an 'Ah Tan' by virtue of deeming others to be 'Ah Nehs' and 'Ah Tiongs' because they are not 'Ah Tans'.  I'm ed by virtue of my view that appreciation of difference should come before name-calling and pigeon-holing.'


ed

3 comments:

  1. I totally agree that the chinese are averse to details and it’s true ‘If you put anyone of any race through a traditionalist, authoritarian, top-managed scheme of things, the people are going... to go by set customs and conventions ... for the purpose of making life... as pleasant as possible’. In relationships among friends and families (based on my own experience with chinese), it’s maintained and carried out in a superficial level. During conversions, basically no further questions asked or genuine interests shown except on topics that they are familiar with, and that’s when I get an extra question or two. Even my mum, siblings and some closer chinese friends would very often tell me ‘why think so much’ or ‘its like that lah if you live in singapore’. However, if I were to mention food-related topic, then i get more than ten responses telling me where I can find good food in singapore and other parts of the world. This is just one example. So you are right, the chinese only respond if you talk about what they are accustomed to or you will get blank looks or silence from them (actually i am guilty of that some time but am making a conscious effort to change :) )

    With this trait (averse to details and appreciation on familiarity),  we see why the chinese do not appreciate the values of the Malays, Indians,..and other minorities, and simply just give names to an entire race so quickly. I heard them calling local Indians ‘blackie’ ‘kei leng kia’ amongst others more than 3 decades even till today. The chinese fail to see, understand and appreciate the differences presented to them and find it easier to just give names to suit their simple minds. Which is why they fail to reap the benefits of learning from other races which will in turn better themselves and this is probably one of the reasons why singapore need foreign talents. 

    The chinese finally demonstrated their racism and xenophobia to the world by openly reject the foreigners. Have they forgotten where their fore-fathers came from? 

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  2. I think it's rubbish for you to post this comment. You should at least present your justification like a mature person.

    ReplyDelete

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