[ Note from Noel : Just making sure, but the person pictured above (RWC quarter final watchers, take a wild guess?) has nothing to do with the story of the person below, although the venue above and below are one and the same. Hope you don’t mind if I use the Old Testament quote again (thank you Lord), it seems apropos for almost every migrant story we have.]
When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt, I am the Lord your God. – Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV
KIWIS AND other locals based on personal experience (what other kind is there?) are among the most compassionate and politically correct on the planet, the two by the way are not always synonymous, the New Zealand government vies to be the first to send peacekeeping troops in places that need them most; send humanitarian aid posthaste to quake-ravaged and tsunami-inundated countries; and NGOs based here do not dilly-dally when it comes to making official condemnations of archaic and barbaric practices like female circumcision and bridal burning that have survived the advent of human rights and gender equality.
However, when it comes to man-on-the-street opinions on topics like migration, labor issues like wages and unemployment, and race stereotypes, it’s not at all uncommon to encounter narrow worldviews, intolerant perspectives, and simplistic arguments to complex global issues. In short, easy targets like your accidental migrant, in this day and age of collapsing PIGS and environmental disasters, move about in multicultural milieux at their own peril.
Sorry for the longwinded intro. A funny thing happened at the office day before yesterday. Not my office, but Mahal’s. They were happily and busily rolling sushi rolls for the early morning takeaway crowd just before mall opened, and almost didn’t hear a Kiwi lady in her early 30s muttering something shortly after she was handed her receipt by Mahal’s fellow Pinoy sushi roller.
Luckily he (the kabayan) was just within earshot, so he caught the last word of the Kiwi lady, which happened to be that famous four-letter word used for human (and animal) waste. Oh what the hey, I won’t be censored in my own blog, the word was shit. Despite being taken aback, he decided to pretend he didn’t hear, and so that would’ve been the end of it had the lady not repeated herself.
“Shit. You’re all shit,” was her clearer statement after the questioning look given by our kabayan, and the second utterance this time was loud enough for their supervisor (also a Pinay) to hear, and she had to retort, “is there a problem?” still giving the customer the benefit of the doubt.
“You know what I mean. You’re all criminals,” she clarified, this time leaving no room for doubt. For good measure, she added, “the police will be coming for you soon.”
This was no bag lady with gray hair lugging around a suitcase full of her earthly belongings ( apologies to all bag ladies, the subject of this story gives you a bad name ) but a smartly dressed, ready-for-CBD office girl who was totally from left field.
Likewise, it was quite unfortunate that for that particular morning shift, three of the four Pinoys working in Mahal’s workplace were present, and happened to be working on the front line (either cashiering or serving diners/buyers). So it was quite natural that they would take offense.
And this was exactly what their bisor did, straight from Pangasinan, who let loose in her best imitation Kiwi-English her own barrage of verbal counter-attacks, without once using a curse word or abuse similar to those Kiwi Lady used.
Obviously Kiwi Lady wasn’t prepared for the retaliation / defense unhesitatingly done by Pinay Manager, my respect for whom rose several notches after this story. She began stepping back and headed briskly for the mall exit nearby, without however letting up on her verbal assault on everyone behind the sushi counter (and probably anyone in front of it, as well).
“You’re all criminals, and the police are coming for you,” she repeated, but only half-heartedly this time, as people were beginning to stare at her, some with amusement.
“Hey where are you going??? You’re the one they’re coming for, and they’re bringing you back to the asylum, where you belong !!!” shouted Pinay Manager, and this time Kiwi Lady threw in the towel and scurried outside, but not before quite a few bystanders gave Pinay Manager the thumbs-up sign. Clearly, someone had been put in her place.
But barely had the heady euphoria of short-lived triumph died down when Mahal and her colleagues found themselves asking the following questions :
If Kiwi Lady was really pissed off (sorry for the French) with the establishment and its servers, why was she buying its wares?
Was their any particular reason for her unprovoked outburst ( The general reason, on its face being race and their being, well, Asian) ?
There will never be a conclusive answer , as you have already guessed, but Mahal and her tight group came up with quite a few theories. Kiwi Lady had maybe kept it (her emotions) bottled up for some time now, but seeing an entire team of Pinoys serving her favorite food was probably too much for her bigoted sensibilities to bear, and she had to say something.
Setting aside for a moment all judgments and side-comments that you might come up with, we have to remind everyone that NZ has gone through one of its most stressful periods dealing with earthquakes, accidents and man-made disasters, probably as stressful as any period in its history. At the same time, Kiwis are well-known for welcoming all sorts of people regardless of race, color or creed, to their verdant shores.
This is why more or less despite our blogging it here, we feel this is an isolated incident that nevertheless serves as a cautionary tale to remind us that in our United Colors of Benetton world, their will always be a clash of opinions, interpretations, and yes, a clash of colors.
Another mabuhay for Pinay Manager, and thanks for reading !