Frustrated by their violations of rules and disorderly conduct that led to disturbances, a homeowners association banned mainland Chinese people from leasing residential houses within a posh village in the southern suburbs of Manila.
Majority of the homeowners cheered the resolution released by the board of governors of the village. A very few who raised concern about racial profiling were told to shut up or “get some balls.” Most homeowners hoped that the resolution once and for all would rid the village of undesirable groups of people from mainland China who don’t follow traffic rules, cause unrelenting noise, and get into fights with neighbours.
But will singling out an ethnicity or a national identity of people really solve the problem?
On one hand, yes.
The village’s tally of violations showed most, if not all, incidents involved mainland Chinese nationals who were leasing homes as dormitories for online gambling businesses, otherwise known as POGOs (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators). Tenants would number by the dozens in one house. They would throw litter everywhere, make noise throughout the day and night, and disobey traffic rules which led to numerous mishaps and automobile collisions.
The mainland Chinese tenants continuously ignored the village’s notices to desist their disruptive practices until finally after several years, the village’s board had enough. The board released the resolution banning people of mainland Chinese citizenship from leasing homes within the village.
The resolution is logical in the sense that it bans outright most of the violating culprits from the village. There is no doubt that violations will drop as soon as the offending Chinese residents end their leases and get out.
But on the other hand, it won’t solve the real problem.
Getting rid of the mainland Chinese may finally bring back the peace and order the village wants. It doesn’t, however, answer the question: why was the village’s authorities unable to enforce rules and regulations in the first place?
Laying blame on an entire race of people (especially from a country that makes up at least a fifth of the global population) is a sweeping solution to the village’s frustrations. But it doesn’t address how in the first place the village’s association wasn’t able to enforce its rules. Why couldn’t it?
When a village, a community, or even a country makes laws, we’d expect that the laws will have provisions for enforcement. Otherwise, the laws would be useless. Why make laws that can’t be enforced?
The village will no doubt dodge criticisms about racism. Homeowners who cherish their village’s peace and order will be relieved the mainland Chinese culprits would be begone and rid of.
But when a violation happens again, albeit maybe not as frequently or as seriously, maybe by another defiant resident who is not Chinese, will the village’s authorities be able to enforce their rules?
Blame is a game politicians and executives have used when they don’t bother to solve a problem. Adolf Hitler blamed the Jews for Germany’s woes in the 1930’s. Some Americans in the United States blame minority ethnic groups such as African-Americans, Asians, and Hispanics for high crime rates. Mainland Chinese officials single out ethnic Uyghurs and Tibetans in drives against cultural differences which are deemed a threat. There are executives in Manila who blame Indians and Koreans for promoting bad business practices.
It’s easy to blame other people for problems and we can even claim there’ll be outright improvement when we do so.
But even if as it may alleviate the effects of a crisis, it does not really solve whatever problem that brought the blame in the first place. Blame is more a mechanism to deflect problems than it is to solve them.
We don’t realise that solutions to problems are hard to come by not because there are not many options to choose from but because we didn’t define it right the first time. We therefore become frustrated and we resort to the blaming, just as what the homeowners’ village did towards mainland Chinese people.
The homeowners of the village did not really address the root issue: its inability to enforce the rules effectively.
And there are the trade-offs which blame brings. The posh village now adopts a reputation that it will profile ethnic Chinese people. When a Chinese-looking person enters the village, homeowners will be prejudging his or her appearance against that stereotype of what they experienced as undesirable. Prejudice on the basis of race will be a norm. It sows the seed of racism that will linger and grow malignantly.
And that would emerge as a much bigger problem in the future even as the village’s residents probably won’t care for now.