Anton Casey and Wealth in Singapore


by Mark Schreiber, guest contributor

Had Anton Casey castigated Bangladeshi construction workers or Filipina maids he would be just another wealthy expat banker revving his Porsche on Orchard Road, taking his ex-Miss Singapore wife shopping at Cartier, teaching his young progeny how to hit a boast on the squash court.

But instead he is famous – infamous – literally overnight, the latest cultural villain not only in Singapore, but in Britain and the United States as well, having been written up in The Guardian and dressed down on CNBC. He’s even received death threats. And for what? For smuggling banned substances? For driving drunk and causing a fatal crash? No, for calling us – us! – poor.

We who have uncallused hands, who went to university, who think nothing of flying to Sydney or Paris for vacation. He called us poor. Just because we take the train.

And he’s British. Had he been PRC we might have been able to wave it off. Just another rude millionaire from the Mainland. But the British class system still casts a shadow over us. We like to think we’re a meritocracy, that wealth is a reflection of hard work, moderation and prudence. But it only takes one idiot with a broken Porsche to erase seven decades of post-Colonialism.

What’s wrong with taking the train?

It’s human nature to compare ourselves with those above us on the social ladder rather than with those below. Oh no, we’re not that well off, we’re not successful. We send our kids to public schools and fly economy. The Tan’s on the fortieth floor, now they’re rich. But lo and behold an outsider tells us we’re poor and we’re ready to call the firing squad.

But may we suggest, amid all the opprobrium directed at Mr. Casey, that we are, unfortunately, more like him than either he or we think? For who among us has not wondered how those Bangaledeshi workers can labor in the heat, or live in shacks, or let their kids run barefoot, or walk to work instead of taking the train?

Maybe his social crime was simply that he voiced this sentiment aloud, and about us.



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  1. Singaporeans actually need to get on because while the rest of us had some sympathy for you guys, it’s actually turned into a witch hunt and that, is equally vile.

  2. S’poreans don’t need sympathy. That’d be better reserved for wussies like Mr anton. If he’s got the guts to insult, then be prepared to receive insults as well. It is only fair game to be such, otherwise there’d be a lot of similar idiots making insults every other day with impugnity.

    Nobody’s ever harmed in S’pore for making comments, other than from those brainless youth street gangs, the most dangerous encounters in this country are from the hell cyclists on pedestrian paths and madcap drivers on the roads. If he were in other countries, there might be real physical risks, from petrol bombs being hurled into his house etc.

    So he’s as useless as he’s cowardly, making stupid videos and posting brainless remarks complete with photos in this social media era, instead of contributing meaningfully with his spare time. And getting a PR firm to announce his apologies instead of doing it himself. So who’s now the “sheltered and childish” ??

    If he’d stood his ground, he might have earned an ounce of respect but he’s fled like a wuss, so good riddance!

  3. If you are a guest in someone else’s house, you respect the host and abide by his rules. Likewise, a guest in our country should respect the locals. Anton Casey acted like a Baboon and broke this very basic courtesy rule.

  4. I think what the writer says is true.

    Just look at the comments whenever a LGBT coverage article pops up on Yahoo! Singapore website. All the bigotry rains down on them.

    We tend to point our finger at others, but we Singaporeans ourself cannot accept other locals who are different form us.

  5. Thank you, Mark, for speaking your mind honestly and clearly about this.

    Indeed, I’ve found that consistently throughout the years, even close ones dislike being told honestly about things, and react particularly badly to those who most resemble their own negative behaviour.

    There is this natural tendency towards ‘holier than thou’ behaviour, “I’m certainly better than this other person”, and of course “they’re all wrong (implying we’re almost always in the right)”.

    Others can be condemned out of existence for being so wrong, but our own wrongs must be concealed, and we must always look proudly superior.

    I can understand this cognitive dissonance: people don’t like to be made uncomfortable, especially when the truth is they themselves are far from perfect, and actually quite flawed and culpable.

    I’ve tried to be honest with myself first, so that I can be honest with others.

    As a result, I live an uncomfortable existence, first from being unable to be proud of my imperfections, second from others simply not willing to admit that they could better themselves anyway.

    Or as our late mother once put it to me in exasperation, “I know you speak the truth, but must you be so direct? Can’t you for once say something nice and lie to me?”

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