Of Satires, Hypocrisy, and Caliban
A Hong Kong columnist, Chip Tsao, whose column is aptly named Politically Incorrect, writes a satire about the Philippines titled The War at Home, and the Philippine politicians rise up in arms, filing a senate resolution condemning the satire, banning Tsao from entering the Philippines, considering filing a diplomatic protest, and demanding a public apology.
This is not in defense of Tsao. This is in defense of satire and a reminder of Caliban.
Having lived in Hong Kong for more than a decade, I have seen racial discrimination in one form or another, yet despite this discrimination, the Hong Kong government and the general population of Hong Kong treat their Filipina domestic helpers way much better than the Philippine government and the general population do.
Hong Kong people are near in the bottom of my list of nice people but their anti-corruption mentality puts them at the top of my list on a worldwide basis, probably tying with Singapore.
Tsao’s column has a sting to it but then all satires sting. David Letterman, Jay Leno, and many satirists and comedians in the U.S. have made fun and called their Presidents worse names without a whimper from the latter.
Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal is just an example of a brilliant satire. Are the Filipinos supposed to hang him for proposing that the street children in Manila be rounded up, cooked and sold as lechon?
Their own helpers in the Philippines are paid with very low "slavery" wages, and serving an extended family of five to ten people.
The typical Hong Kong family has two children given the small flats they are forced to live in.
And you can bet, that those Filipinos calling for Tsao's head are giving their own helpers in the Philippines slavery wages for their servants.
Doesn't this qualify the Philippines as a nation of servants?
Teachers are exported by the Philippines as servants, not only to Hong Kong but to Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and other Middle Eastern countries, Gaza, Israel, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, UK, Ireland, Italy and other countries who accept servants.
Do they not, on the whole, illustrate the fact that the Philippines is a nation of servants, or more accurately, a nation exporting servants as a government political and economic policy?
And bear in mind, those teachers exported as servants to Israel are also forced to hire their own servants way back in the Philippines.
The irony of it all. Servants hiring servants. What does this tell you about the Philippines and its policies? A nation of masters?
How many American homes have servants? How many Canadian homes have servants?
There are servants in almost every home in the Philippines, doesn't this qualify the country as a nation of servants?
And they are paid only P2,000 per month on the average. That's only US$42 per month for a 20-hour day, 7 days a week slavery work. (Some helpers have no days off).
Is this a nation of servants or a nation of slaves?
There is no minimum wage law in Hong Kong, subject to the exception mentioned below. A company may choose to give only a P1,000 (US$20) per month to its sales clerk. Or it may give only P5,000 (US$103) to their supervisors. Or it may give only P1,000 (US$20) per month to their domestic helpers, who is usually a Filipina.
Being non-citizens of Hong Kong, why should the Hong Kong government protect and worry about the Filipina domestic helpers? After all, the Philippine government does not even protect Filipina helpers working in the Philippines, not even a protection in the form of a decent wage. And the government does not even include them under the minimum wage law. (Strictly speaking, Hong Kong citizens are citizens of China, but the distinction is too complicated, so we stick to citizens of Hong Kong, for convenience.)
If the Hong Kong government decides that Filipinas be paid only P5,000 (US$103) per month, given the fact that there is no minimum wage law in Hong Kong, they would still be treating Filipinas better than our government does.
And the irony is that even with P5,000 (US$103) per month, still more than a million Filipinas would be willing to go to Hong Kong as maids. It would be like going on a paid tour of Hong Kong. Nobody in the Philippines will give them P5,000 (US$103) per month as wages as domestic helpers, subject to the proverbial exception.
And these helpers are working in aircon flats, with elevators, microwave ovens, gas range, electric floor polishers, and washing machines. All the conveniences of modern life.
Thus, even a helper in Hong Kong getting P5,000 (US$103) per month will have a quality of life better than a helper in the Philippines getting the same wages.
In the Philippines, the helpers have no contracts and are not protected by a minimum wage law.
There is no minimum wage law in Hong Kong, but there is just one exception. The government imposes that a contract for domestic helpers must state a salary of HK$3,580 = PhP22,346 (US$462) to protect our Filipina teachers who are working in Hong Kong as toilet cleaners which is one of the duties of a domestic helper.
The Hong Kong government says to the Hong Kong employers, "Give the Filipina P23,000 (US$462) per month plus international airline tickets, plus days off, plus free medical care, plus extra pay for washing your car. Take it or leave it. If you cannot afford it, then do not hire helpers. The US, Canada, German, Japan and Switzerland homes do not have helpers anyway. Why should you?"
This is a quirk in Hong Kong's labor law: The Hong Kong companies cannot be prosecuted for giving Hong Kong citizens only P1,000 (US$20) per month as salaries for working as sales clerks, but the Hong Kong families will be prosecuted and jailed for not giving a minimum of P23,000 (US$462) per month to a foreigner, a non-citizen, the Filipina domestic helper.
The Hong Kong government does not offer a minimum wage protection to its own citizens but offers a wage protection to servant foreigners. And yes, the laborers of Hong Kong has been clamoring for a minimum wage for decades but the Hong Kong government, the most laissez-faire territory in the world, refuses enact a minimum wage ordinance.
Think about that.
And remember, almost all of the helpers are non-citizens (foreigners) of Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government treats Filipinas better than the Philippine government does.
It is a common joke in Hong Kong that they would not be surprised that their Filipina helpers have PhDs in Physics. After all, teachers in the Philippines get less than half the wages of the servants in Hong Kong.
The column of Chip Tsao was obviously a satire. And it is so amusing the satire is lost on the Philippine politicians including one who won via a statistical impossibility and one who was caught on tape demanding for the a million more votes.
The column should be read as it was designed to be - a satire - and recognize the essence of the essay.
1. The Russians sank a Hong Kong Freighter and the Japanese planted a flag on Diaoyu Island and the Filipinos claimed the Spratly Islands. These are facts but the author satirically put this in a perspective that could be called literary brilliance.
Yes, indeed, Lenin and Stalin are ideological mentors, and yes, it is a fact that the Hong Kong people are suckers for Japanese telenovelas and fashion. And yes, the Philippines exports servants to Hong Kong. This is segment is a satire against the Chinese who have and still continue to venerate communist Russians. This is also a satire against the Hong Kong people who, for unknown reasons, idolize the Japanese TV and movie artists, forgetting the Japanese soldiers brutally killed many Hong Kong and British soldiers. The Filipinos are not singled out in this segment.
This is a snipe at the Chinese people and government who sheepishly borrowed their mental prowess from not-so-benevolent dictators and mass murderers from Russia.
This is a snipe at the Hong Kong people, who despite their so-called independence from their conquerors, both politically and financially, they are still slaves to the fashion and art of modern Japan.
Can't you see the satire? This is not a satire against the Philippine government but also against the Chinese, and Hong Kong people.
2. And the truth is our military force is weak against China, and satirically, this is illustrated in the column about a nation of servants flexing its muscle.
3. Yes, we are a nation who exports servants, and writing it as a ‘nation of servants’ is a satirical illustration of the truth. Is the Philippine government going to deny this exportation of servants? And is the government ready to change this export policy or will it continue to expand this policy?
4. The phrase ‘you don’t flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter,’ is a satirical illustration that the exporter of servants is economically dependent on Hong Kong for the 130,000 Filipinas and their respective five dependents being fed and sent to college using Hong Kong wealth.
The percentage of remittance money coming from Hong Kong is not relevant. This is a satire. And Hong Kong isn't the only country who have Filipinas as servants.
You have to combine all those countries, and the truth will dawn upon you that the Philippines is the world's greatest exporter of servants. Doesn't that qualify the country as a nation of servants?
5. The ‘cheap labor’ of HK$3,580= PhP22,346 (US$462) is numerically correct. Being the lowest paid labor in Hong Kong, the P22,346 (US$462) monthly salary is actually cheap labor in Hong Kong, and yet, the Philippine government allows the maltreatment of domestic helpers in the Philippines with wages of only P2,000 (US$41).
Who is protecting the Filipina better? Recall that there is no minimum wage law in Hong Kong but despite this, the Hong Kong government imposes a protection wage in favor of the Filipina.
Don't you wish the Philippine government does even half of what the Hong Kong government does? The Hong Kong government is actually forcing and imposing its own Hong Kong homes and master against the latter's will. Pay the Filipinas a good pay or else...
6. "I summoned Louisa, my domestic assistant who holds a degree in international politics from the University of Manila, hung a map on the wall, and gave her a harsh lecture."
This is obviously a satire and it is laughable our consulate in Hong Kong and politicians are taking this seriously. The author does not even know if there is a University of Manila; he was just satirically shooting in the dark that a there would be a university named after the capital city. Hong Kong executives are familiar with European, American and Canadian universities not Philippine universities. I tell you, they don’t even know our expensive schools like the Asian Institute of Management.
This is actually a snipe at the Hong Kong masters - that they are less educated than their servants. This is a praise for the servant, not the masters.
Hello, are you there? Can't you see the satire?
7. It is also unthinkable that our politicians believe that it is true that Louisa has a degree in International Politics. Come on, guys, it’s a satire. It’s probably embarrassing for you not to recognize the satire.
This is a satire against the lack of education of the Hong Kong masters and the overeducated Filipina. Do you accept that drivel from the Philippine government saying that education is our way out of poverty? Rubbish.
The Philippines has one of the most educated workforces in the world, and yet, they are still poor. How can a college graduate get out of poverty if it is paid at wages that hardly enough for food and travel daily? In the Philippines, janitors are second-year college, and the baggers in the grocery stores are college graduates, and the bank tellers are CPA's. Don't forget the security guards who are also college graduates.
8. It is also unthinkable that our politicians believe that the author really had a heart to heart talk with Louisa. Satire, my friend, satire.
(And later, after I wrote this article, this was confirmed by Luisa to ABS-CBN News; Luisa is not an employee of Tsao and doesn't work in Tsao's home. Tsao has Indonesian helpers. She didn't even know what was written in Tsao's column, and she has served her master - Tsao's father, who lives separately - for over 14 years. It would be illegal for Luisa to work in both Tsao and his father's homes; one contract, one home. She wouldn't have stayed that long if she was not treated well; each contract is good only for 24 months. She has no plans of leaving her employer, and as expected she doesn't have a degree in International Politics, and did not graduate from the University of Manila. And Luisa is not the only one exported as a servant by the Philippines, and Hong Kong is not the only country to where the Filipinos and Filipinas are exported as servants, and the Philippine government is very much active in expanding this exportation, even considering war- torn Iraq. Isn't it embarrassing that the Philippine government officials and many Filipinos who over reacted to Tsao's column, really believed Luisa has a degree in International Politics? Hypocrisy.)
9. The satire about sending Louisa home because the author may be charged with treason is a classic.
And yes, paying helpers ‘to wash toilets and clean windows 16 hours a day’ is a satirical illustration of what the Philippine government has done – export our teachers to work as servants abroad.
By the way, as a protection against helpers, their contracts contain the maximum work hours per day. I think it is lesser than 16 hours. Also, ‘car washing’ is not considered part of the helper’s work, and is usually paid additionally.
10. ‘With that money, she would pay taxes to her government, and they would fund a navy to invade our motherland and deeply hurt my feelings.’
This is a satirical illustration that the Hong Kong government, or any other foreign country, pays our exported servants a huge amount of money that helps the Philippines economically. The actual amount does not matter. But you must combine all the incomes from all countries where Filipinas are accepted as servants, and total will tell you whether it is true that the Philippines is a nation of servant, or an exporter of servants.
11. ‘We have a hostage in each of our homes in the Mid-Levels or higher’ is another classic. We don’t fully realize it but we have a Filipina in almost all of their homes especially those in the rich areas like the Mid-Levels district.
12. ‘Their maids have been made to shout “China, Madam/Sir” loudly whenever they hear the word “Spratly.”’ This obviously is not happening and it would be embarrassing for Philippine politicians not to recognize this satire.
But the following are not satires:
1. A voice that sounds very much like a national leader is caught on tape discussing vote padding and election fraud.
2. The World Bank has implicated the First Gentleman, a Senator and Cabinet members in corrupt practices in World Bank projects.
3. A middle bureaucrat and his unnamed political patrons being investigated regarding the fertilizer scam. Did a billion pesos go out of the Department of Budget at the behest of a mere undersecretary without the blessing of Malacanang?
4. The former Speaker of Congress’s son implicates the First Gentleman and Chairman of the Comelec in the ZTE broadband corruption investigation and the Speaker himself said he was kicked out because of this issue.
5. Supranational organizations names the Philippines as one of the most corrupt in the world.
6. Former President Estrada was convicted of a crime related to corruption and pardoned without serving a single day in jail and without issuing even a mere apology for what he has done.
7. A Department of Justice prosecutor deposits to his personal account more than a million pesos on the day he signed a resolution preventing the filing of a drug case with the courts.
8. Hundreds of Filipinas are abused and raped working in foreign countries.
9. And ten of thousands of cases filed before the Ombudsman against government officials buying the most overpriced firetrucks, the most overpriced computers, the most overpriced highways, the most overpriced pencils etc.
So given the satires and the non-satires, what are the respective actions of the politicians and the enforcers of the law? Did the government officials, and even the so-called patriotic Filipinos now meaning to lynch Tsao, do something to enforce justice against the corrupt perpertrators mentioned above? Or are they just grandstanding suddenly concerned about the country?
The statement that the Philippines is “a nation of servants” was a satire but its political leaders chose to take offense. How about a “nation exporting servants”? Would they take offense?
And given the fact that more than 70% of our workers are receiving less than the wages of a domestic helper in Hong Kong which is P23,000 (US$462) per month, would they take offense if the country is called “a nation of people receiving less than a servant’s wages”?
According to the latest data from the National Statistics Office, 90% of the families (not individuals) in the Philippines earn less than P24,000 (US$495) per month. What an irony. The Hong Kong government is protecting non-citizens of Hong Kong by ensuring these servant foreigners earn individual salaries higher than the family incomes of 90% of the Filipinos. And Filipinos take offense at an obviously satirical column?
How about “a nation of corrupt public officials?”
And lately, a book named the Philippines as "A Country of Cannibals." Why isn't anybody angry at this racial slur? Is it because the author is a Filipino? Double standard? Such hypocrisy.
Which one is acceptable to the Filipinos and the Philippine government?
A nation of servants?
A nation keeping servants in their own homes?
A nation keeping servants at slavery wages?
A nation of slaves but using the euphemism "servants?"
A nation of servants hiring servants?
A nation exporting servants to every country who accepts servants?
A nation being the world's biggest exporter of servants?
A nation of professionals earning less than a servant's wages?
A nation of corrupt politicians and government officials?
A nation of cannibals?
The hypocrisy of them all. A satire is a satire.
Politically, it is an expression of freedom of speech.
Literarily, it one of the summits of man’s intellectual achievements.
Socially, it is one of the best forms of entertainment.
In reality, it is like Caliban seeing its own face in the mirror.
In the Preface of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray:
"The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.
The nineteenth century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass."
And don't forget that the reason there are no Filipina domestic servants in the US, Canada, Germany, Japan, Switzerland and similar First World countries, is not because the Philippines does not want to export its servants there but because they do not accept Filipinas as servants.
If these countries were to allow servants, the Philippine government would immediately send 50 politicians and bureaucrats, including the President, to beg these countries to give hiring preference to Filipinas.
After all, the Philippines is a nation keeping servants in their homes, and a nation exporting servants to almost all countries in the world who accept servants.
The world's greatest exporter of servants.
Chip Tsao is a mirror. Maybe a distorted mirror, but a mirror nonetheless. Don't destroy the mirror. Reform the face of Caliban. Reform the face of Philippine society. Reform the face of the Filipino.
Begin with the government imposing a decent wage - and giving purchasing power - to the lowliest worker in the Philippines - the lowly servant.
Finally, I am a Filipino, I love satire, and I hate hypocrisy.
originally written April 1, 2009
I have received many requests for:
1. Why Filipinos Are Not Rich
2. Hyperwage Theory .
Hence this notice. Get the PDF files for free. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I know you are now a new "patriot", and before you react to this essay:
1. Now, you find it fashionable to defend the Filipina servant. This is the flavor of the month. Before you were so fired up in your "patriotic" defense of the Filipina servants in Hong Kong upon reading Tsao's satire, what have you done to improve the lot of these servants abroad?
Assuming you find it hard to "do" something concrete, what have you written or advocated in the last five years in their support, even in your own blogs or emails?
2. In your own home in the Philippines, how many servants do you have? And what is the salary you are giving them?
3. Before Tsao's satire, did you ever think or do something about the plight of your own servants at home?
4. How long have you had these servants?
And for that period of time, have you done something or even written something to help them rise about their station in life?
Or have they remained servants over the years since you were a small child?
5. Have you rewarded their loyalty to you as servants with another five years of perpetuating their servanthood in your home?
6. Have you done something to bring these servants out of their servanthood, or have you perpetuated their servanthood with your so-called benevolence?
7. Have you actively blogged, emailed, and insulted the authorities to fight for the plight of your own servants at home?
Or did you even think about your own servant's plight at all?
8. Did Tsao's satire make you a better master of your own servant at home that you and your family are now going to rally in the streets of Manila to force the government to improve the well-being and the wealth of your own servant at home?
9. Going forward, with your new sense of patriotism, are you going to rally under the heat of the sun to specifically petition the government to give P20,000 (US$413) minimum wage to your domestic servant at home? If not P20,000 (US$413) how much do you think they deserve?
Or did you even think in the last five years that you are going to fight for your own servant's wage increase?
10. Before you felt "patriotic" because of Tsao's satire, did you ever support, fight, shout invectives against other Filipinos and the government itself, argue in the streets to adopt Hyperwage Theory in the Philippines?
11. Or suddenly, you are just being patriotic because of a satire, but has never really thought about the plight of your own domestic helpers in the Philippines?
Do you need Tsao to write another satire about your own servant at home before you are going to fight for their rights inside your own home?
12. Isn't this hypocrisy?
13. Did you spend 10 years conducting research and studying the history of economic thought specifically on how to rationalize, justify, and weave a theory that will support the raising of the wages of our own domestic helpers in the Philippines to a higher amount, say, P20,000 (US$413) per month?
14. Did you spend months writing down these ideas when nobody else was supporting the servants with a theory that calls for their P20,000-a-month purchasing power (US$413) ?
15. Did you expose yourself to intellectual ridicule for coming out with such a perspective of thought as Hyperwage Theory?
16. Did you take every available opportunity to direct everybody's attention to a theory that is focusing on the improvement of the wages of the servants in your own homes?
17. Have felt the insult from the doctors of economics, the ridicule of the intelligentsia, the mockery of the Filipinos themselves upon proposing that increasing the purchasing power of the servants at home is the single greatest key to bringing the Philippines out of this Third World quagmire?
18. And now you call me names for accepting the satire as a satire, as a mirror of our condition as the world's greatest exporter of servants, a situation I have been wanting to rectify for over 10 years now by proposing Hyperwage Theory?
19. If you haven't really done anything to rectify your own servants at home, not even actively and vitriolically advocating for their own wealth improvement, what gives you the right to disparage those who read satires as satires?
20. I did and am still doing my share. I was interested in the plight of the domestic helper's economic situation ten years before it was fashionable to do so. (I've been researching on Hyperwage Theory for more than 10 years). Do something. Don't just ride on the latest flavor of the month of "patriotism." Don't shoot the messenger. And don't waste your time attacking those who see Caliban's face in the mirror.
I have received many requests for:
1. Why Filipinos Are Not Rich
2. Hyperwage Theory .
Hence this notice. Get the PDF files for free. Email me at email@example.com
From ABS-CBN News:
“No knowledge of column”
According to Labor Attaché Romulo Carlos Salud, Tsao has two Indonesians domestic workers. Salud explained that the Luisa referred to by Tsao is actually employed by the Hong Kong writer’s father.
“Si Luisi is the helper ng father ni Chip Tsao,” said Salud.
The Consulate found out that Luisa has been under the employ of Tsao’s father for 14 years now.
Luisa allegedly has no plans of leaving her employer and neither has any knowledge about the column which appeared online in the HK Magazine.
“She doesn’t know anything. She doesn’t know why her name was mentioned. She doesn’t want to be interviewed,” Salud said.
Despite this, Salud said the consulate is determined to meet with Luisa and have her read the article.
Meanwhile, Tsao is set to be placed under the Consulate’s "watch list" and will be strictly monitored in case he decides to hire a Filipino maid because of his abusive tendencies.
----------- Here is Chip Tsao’s column --------------
The War At Home
March 27th, 2009 The Russians sank a Hong Kong freighter last month, killing the seven Chinese seamen on board. We can live with that—Lenin and Stalin were once the ideological mentors of all Chinese people. The Japanese planted a flag on Diàoyú Island. That’s no big problem—we Hong Kong Chinese love Japanese cartoons, Hello Kitty, and shopping in Shinjuku, let alone our round-the-clock obsession with karaoke.
But hold on—even the Filipinos? Manila has just claimed sovereignty over the scattered rocks in the South China Sea called the SpratlyIslands, complete with a blatant threat from its congress to send gunboats to the South China Sea to defend the islands from China if necessary. This is beyond reproach. The reason: there are more than 130,000 Filipina maids working as $3,580-a-month cheap labor in Hong Kong. As a nation of servants, you don’t flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter.
As a patriotic Chinese man, the news has made my blood boil. I summoned Louisa, my domestic assistant who holds a degree in international politics from the University of Manila, hung a map on the wall, and gave her a harsh lecture. I sternly warned her that if she wants her wages increased next year, she had better tell every one of her compatriots in Statue Square on Sunday that the entirety of the Spratly Islands belongs to China.
Grimly, I told her that if war breaks out between the PhilippinesChina, I would have to end her employment and send her straight home, because I would not risk the crime of treason for sponsoring an enemy of the state by paying her to wash my toilet and clean my windows 16 hours a day. With that money, she would pay taxes to her government, and they would fund a navy to invade our motherland and deeply hurt my feelings. and
Oh yes. The government of the Philippines would certainly be wrong if they think we Chinese are prepared to swallow their insult and sit back and lose a Falkland Islands War in the Far East. They may have Barack Obama and the hawkish American military behind them, but we have a hostage in each of our homes in the Mid-Levels or higher. Some of my friends told me they have already declared a state of emergency at home. Their maids have been made to shout “China, Madam/Sir” loudly whenever they hear the word “Spratly.” They say the indoctrination is working as wonderfully as when we used to shout, “Long live Chairman Mao!” at the sight of a portrait of our Great Leader during the Cultural Revolution. I’m not sure if that’s going a bit too far, at least for the time being.
Chip Tsao is a best-selling author and columnist. A former reporter for the BBC, his columns have also appeared in Apple Daily, Next Magazine and CUP Magazine, among others.