We get it Mr. ChipTsao, but we ain't laughin'

To Mr. Tsao. Because it's from you. Had it been from a fellow Pinoy, different story. Nay, there'd be no story at all.

The War at Home

March 27th, 2009
Chip Tsao

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 Spratly Islands, 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 Philippines and China, 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.

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. Now, now Mr. Tsao I hope you realize that you may have started a war of “attrition” which you may end up losing. First off, while Louisa moonlights as your international politics consultant (unpaid of course) you have to make sure that the food she serves you does not taste a little strange.


It happens

"Time is never wasted when you're wasted all the time."
-Catherine Zandonella


Purple Haze

I've been putting off writing some deep shit. I'm afraid I'd lose it if I did. Break down. Snap.

There's a constant pounding in my chest, inhabited by a drumline, incessant, unrelenting, seething along with the burning staccato of this throbbing fistful of flesh, my heart, scathed.

See, I should stop.


The Bahraini Resistance

Scenes like these are commonplace in some parts in the Bahrain burbs and even, at times, in the heart of Manama. Happening almost everyday, and more notably in certain parts, these so-called riots have become sort of a daily occurrence, a natural day-to-day disturbance of the otherwise dreary existence of this sandy gulf island.

I hear the most stupid remarks, supposals of people around me, mostly from big-mouthed Pinoy ignoramuses, brushing these issues as such and such, blah-blah-blah, blaming the rioters basically - that I didn't buy a bit. I mean there must be serious reasons for all these anti-establishment, anti-government actions and for them to just downplay it, belittle it even, that's BS.

And so I set out to learn what these protests are for. And there's serious stuff that I found. I knew that Bahrain has a Shia majority. But the thing is, it's rulers are Sunni, a powerful family whose government supposedly has instituted a systematic discrimination to Shia citizens especially in civil service. A case of class struggle. But then there are other issues. And there's more to learn. Makes for a better understanding for this kingdom-country and its people.

This is a clip from a Reuters news article Bahrain: Socio-Political Issues, dated 14th Oct 2008:

If left unresolved, discriminatory practices in Bahrain could threaten local harmony, with repercussions felt throughout the region and beyond. The U.S., which has a naval base in Bahrain, cannot afford overlooking challenges facing an allied nation.

On Sunday, October 19th, King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa inaugurates the third session of 2006-2010 parliament. However, the country faces numerous challenges and opportunities that require contributions from members of parliament, local civil societies and international establishments supporting democracy and justice.

The biggest challenge relates to systematic discriminatory practices against the majority Shia population. As of mid-October 2008, Shia merely assumed 10 percent of cabinet-level ministers. According to a study conducted by Al Wefaq (the largest opposition group in terms of members and parliamentary representation), Shia control 13 percent of decision-making positions in governmental departments. Worse, the authorities largely deny Shia entry at security establishments, in turn regarded as key sources of employment by virtue of receiving about 30 percent of budgetary recurrent expenditures.

Denial of jobs at security apparatuses is a primary reason behind unemployment amongst Shia. True unemployment rate is not an exact science in Bahrain, but believed to be running anywhere between 4 to 8 percent. The utmost majority of unemployed happen to be Shia, reflecting either a careless or a carefully planned governmental policy.

Reforming election districts is another priority. Now, election districts do not reflect population density, echoing a determined governmental policy to influence parliamentary voting. For instance, the southern governorate boosted about 6 per cent of total electorate but granted 15 per cent of parliamentary seats. Unfair representation is deterring the legislative branch from fulfilling its duties towards the citizens.

Yet, Bahrain encounters serious economic challenges that require contributions from all concerned parties. The petroleum sector continues to play a dominant role in the economy despite all talks of economic diversification. The sector contributed 80 percent of real treasury income in 2007. Concurrently, Bahrain is facing growing rivalry from regional economies, with Dubai, Doha and Riyadh and more recently Kuwait vying to become regional hub for financial services.