Dialogue in the Dark: Changing Perceptions
Discuss about the Dark Social Business Concept.
Recently I had the good fortune of meeting with two of the most disadvantaged groups in Singapore - visually impaired people group, Dialogue in the Dark, and migrant workers group, Migrant Workers’ Centre. I say "good fortune" as I feel that I was blind and at a disadvantage before I met with them. I was unaware and ignorant about how discriminatory and biased our actions and behaviour are towards such people. The experience opened my eyes, and I wish everyone gets a taste of this situation at least once in life and understand what I am today.Dialogue in the Dark is a social business concept that employs visually impaired people to guide regular people in experiencing daily chores and activities conveyed in the way blind people experience things. On the other hand, Migrant Workers' Centre works with migrant labourers to champion fair employment practices.
I had little experience or knowledge about interacting with differently able people. I had heard a lot of stories about such individuals in the confines of a room, never getting to see for myself the impossible feats they perform. I appreciated the opportunity I received of interacting with them, but was sceptical about how it would turn out or how I would fare. Our general perception about blind people is set - they should be pitied; they are dependent, helpless and can't take part in or contribute anything in the society. I thought in the same way. However, five minutes in the meeting with the team of visually impaired guides at Dialogue in the Dark (DID), and my whole outlook changed. I visited the centre for one of their exhibition tour and my life changed, literally. We live in our conscious mind, subduing the subconscious. We interact with our surroundings with the help of one or two sense at the time, while the other senses remain at rest in the background. Our sight is our key sense, and withdrawal of that handicaps us. However, a tour with the DID team challenges this perception and showed me that there is more to life than sight. Our daily petty actions and environments received a different dimension altogether on the tour. I understood that without our sight also we can perceive our surroundings and experience the changes that happen.
In terms of DID's contributions to the society and the visually impaired community, they do a pretty good job. The blind guides were so optimistic and straight forward about their life and imperfections. The founder Andreas Heinecke had this concept that taking away the light from regular people for a while would make them more aware and appreciative about the amazing things a blind person can experience and be capable of. The exhibitions, workshops and other cultural activities all progress with the idea that a blind person can experience life just like anyone else. They are not different and they have the potential to grow into an accomplished individual. The interactions at the exhibition were real, as if I am a part of my real world only, listening to the honking of cars, chattering of people, chirping of birds, the smell of smoke, baked goods wafting in with the cool autumn breeze, while I'm walking on a pebbles street. I never imagined the interaction to be this real.
Migrant Workers' Centre: Changing Misconceptions
One thing I understood very clearly. These people are at a disadvantage, and are discriminated against in every way possible. Prejudice and discrimination against blind people is pretty widespread, and we all are the perpetrators. They do not get equal access to every facility existent, like education, job market opportunities and so on. Even I thought the same that visually impaired people cannot contribute anything to the society and they need constant backing. Our society and elements in it follow some rules. However, none for the differently-abled. In addition, the rules are not even Bender or adjusted at times and the person has to face discomfort. Not protesting against that made me ashamed of myself. Our education, right to express and other basic human rights are applicable to all, still discrimination happens, we do it. Not providing education is a heinous act - it's a fundamental need. By not getting access to that such people are unaware of their society and surroundings, ignorant of what is out there in the world - and they have a right two know.
Before I went to MWC (Migrant Workers' Centre), I used to think it was easy for the migrants to come in to our country and get a job easily. I was in a misconception that they received huge amounts of wages because of their skills and are a burden on the economy because of their generation of low income taxes. Like everyone else I had the misconception that migrant workers live off the tax payed by the citizens. I even thought that they had no I intention of accepting the rules and culture of the countries where they migrate to. It is also widely believed that migrant workers take away the creamy later of the job market, leaving locals to take up menial jobs. The visit to MWC changed this perception of mine.
Migrant workers are not disposal tools. They are a part of our economy, contribute to it and they deserve the recognition. They are responsible for filling in the declining sectors of the economy and bringing in revenue. They contribute enormously to labour market flexibility, taxes and other social contributions. Their contributions can be seen in the boost on working age population and the skills they bring in as human capital for the host country. These workers allow the government to invest into positive and productive endeavours. As an example we can consider a clerk, who takes care of the paperwork for a doctor, in turn freeing the doctor to attend to more patients. Thus, an economic value is created from the joint efforts of both the clerk and the doctor. Child care providers free working mothers, construction labourers freeing up engineers to attend to more projects and similar contributions substantially help in the development of the economy overall. They perform jobs locals would not. They put in effort to mix with the society and learn the practices existent. Giving them residency would bring in more sales, in turn creating larger economies of scale. It brings in more positive aspects for the consumer and economic benefits for the society. They are the base on which we all depend.
Understanding Migrant Workers' Struggles
Migrant workers are the victims of less wage, false promises of jobs and slavery. Some even commit suicide due the debts they incurred for getting the work permits. They are threatened, abused and forced into slavery by showing them the fear of deportation. They receive no entitlement to residency, and are dealt with the feeling of being in a place where they are not supposed to be. They pay all kinds of taxes, income, sales tax, payroll tax and sometimes even the brunt of those taxes aimed at the effluent. Companies compensate the brunt if higher taxes by reducing wages and increasing prices. It has a disproportionate impact on the migrants and lower investments take place, in turn reducing number of jobs and slow salary increment. These workers pay a huge amount of corporate taxes because their loss wages account for a significant amount of corporate tax payment by their employers. Big economies hurt the poor migrant labourers the most. However, their significant contribution to the economy is overlooked or superfluously treated. The funny thing is, some corporate offices pay good-for-nothing people to do nothing, instead of employing a migrant, who would be willing to do it and get the job done, because of misconceptions about their lot. Some low-paid migrant labourers from MWC said they are housed in stuffed condominium, illicitly I should include, with rather unsanitary conditions in view of the shortage of reasonable rental lodging in Singapore, which is a result of the administration’s deliberate arrangement of advancing lodging possession, and lodging as a venture resource. Lawful requirement against such lodging code infringement, might I say, has not been extremely vivacious. They have a low pay in light of the fact that there is an oversupply of labourers and in the event that they need to gripe, they will be kicked on the grounds that foreign workers are effectively replaceable.
From these two experiences, I have understood that both these groups need improvement in their treatment from the society. For the disabled, they need recognition as human beings, fair treatment and respect, unbiased evaluation and promotions. They must be offered customized trainings so that they know what’s happening and don’t get treated in a demotivating way. They need a support channel of their own, that can cater to the issues they might face. They need more projects that support their cause, at the same time encouraging, identifying and collaborating with them in every way possible. For the migrant workers, strict protection laws must be implemented so that they don’t get exploited or maltreated. They require equal treatment and opportunities, safe working environment, memberships, social security, accommodation and other legal benefits. After all, they are a part of the developing economy.
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