Friday, August 17, 2007

Elite... my a$$!

I grew up with maids and my parents usually employ 2 or 3 when we were little kids. Having them at home and around me is as normal as brushing my teeth everyday and tying my shoe laces every morning before going to school. I even have a personal nanny who looked after me. There were a couple of them. A couple, yes, because no nanny could stand long with my stubborn bouts and mischievous acts. At a very young age, I developed quite a bad reputation in the town north of Cebu where my parents normally employ for house help – the little bitchy girl, beware of her.

In many developing countries where manual labor is cheap, its a customary thing for families from middle class and up to have 1, 2 or 3 maids living with them. The reason is quite simple really -- in the Philippines, there is no social system that supports child care and a labor system that encourages women to raise their children all by themselves. Working part-time in normal professional jobs, receiving child benefits, free healthcare, free or low cost quality education, etcetera (like here in the Netherlands) is unheard of. Thus in this part of the world, mom and dad have to work full-time, and in many cases, over-time.

I don’t think I grew up a bitch though, stubborn and opinionated perhaps.

Anyway, Dutchman and I were in Makati City (Manila, last July for our summer holiday) doing our last-minute shopping.

Dutchman needed new dark suits for work and he had this idea of buying them in Manila. Unfortunately most suits have thin texture as they are made for tropical climate. There were a few shops though that sell thick ones but it would be stupid to buy them in Asia when you could buy them in Europe for the same price, and moreover not having to risk it through customs and paying import tax.

Now, enough of this suit talk – after an hour of moving from one shop to another, and even though we were inside the air conditioned mall of Greenbelt, my throat dried up and was searching for fluids. A cold drink served with lots of ice would just be perfect! It was a very hot humid day outside after all, just like any other day in Manila, so the situation calls for it. Ah, a nice excuse indeed for some cold coffee reclusion just right outside the mall where I could see the green and white logo of Starbucks.

I ordered a cold latte and Dutchman a cappuccino. We sat down in these trendy bright colored Nordic-style inspired chairs facing the counter. The cold latte was gone in less than 2 minutes. Now that’s what I call real thirst!

Then, an ordinary looking woman in her 30’s wearing a short sporty style hair-cut and dressed in nothing fancy cotton t-shirt and light blue jeans passed by. Following her was a girl, probably between 18 and 21, pushing a baby prom. The girl was dressed in immaculate all-white. For the unsuspecting (such as the foreign tourists), she could easily pass for a nurse. In reality, she is a maid - in a uniform.

I have always thought employers who insist their domestic helpers dress up in uniforms (no matter how tasteful the uniforms are) and let them follow their royal lazy butts around in public are suffering severely from the following:

(a) Social status insecurity

(b) The need to prove something... eh, to who, for what purpose, why?

(c) Are obsessed with the modern day idea of slavery

(d) Have the unhealthy craving for public attention – look at me, I have a maid!

(e) Trying their best to amuse other people, like you and me.

For what it is worth, I’d like to believe its e. But, I am afraid I am very wrong.

The maid in white obediently moved to the corner of Starbucks pushing the prom as told by her lady employer. She sat down quietly in one of the stools, her eyes downcast, while her employer, the ordinary looking woman, went to the cashier to order.

Dutchman: “Did you just see that?”

Dutched Pinay: “Yes, the maid is dressed in a white uniform.”

Dutchman: “She (the employer) doesn’t look like the type who would have a maid in uniform following her around in public. She looks rather... very ordinary.”

Dutched Pinay: “I know.”

Dutchman: “This is just plain ridiculous to have a maid in a uniform following you around. This is like I am here (pointing up) and you are there (pointing down).”

Dutched Pinay: “Hah – do not underestimate the snobbish elite in the Philippines, or, *ehem* the wannabes in this country.”

I assumed (which I was right) that due to the scorching heat outside, she would order the same cold latte I had. Dutchman and I both thought (and concurred) the maid in white could also use some for herself. After all pushing the prom under the heat of the sun is not going to be an easy task.

Dutchman: “I want to see if she will order something for the maid too.”

Dutched Pinay: “I doubt it.”

Dutchman: “If she only orders for herself...”

Dutched Pinay: “Why, what are you going to do?”

Dutchman: “Well, then that is really bad of her as it will show her real character. She is only thinking of herself and not the maid who is pushing the baby carriage for her under this very hot humid weather.”

Dutched Pinay: “Well, let’s see.”

So, a few minutes passed --

Dutchman: “Gotcha! She just ordered for herself!!!”

Dutched Pinay: “I told you.”

Dutchman: *face full of disbelief* “How could she do that? How could she only order a drink for herself?”

Dutched Pinay: “Because she can.”

Dutchman: “Too bad we didn’t get to film her.”

Dutched Pinay: “Right. But I will write about her in my blog anyway because women like her should be ashamed of their haughty and selfish ways.”

Now that we have seen the heroic example above of this ordinary looking woman toting her personal maid in uniform in public, here are some engaging questions for us to ponder on:

(1) Should we fall down on our knees with awe because she is an elite - cream of the crop who had the moral fiber to parade her maid in public?

(2) Should we applaud her for buying a white uniform for her maid but deprived her a drink? You know, she could just even offer water if she thinks Starbucks was inappropriate for her maid.

(3) Should we put her up on a pedestal for her narcissim and fragile ego?

(4) Should we envy her that she can show off in public a live fashion-lifestyle accessory?

I have a funny feeling that this ordinary looking woman does not even know what she did, or did not do, was wrong.

Quite sad because many middle class, elite, and the wannabes in the Philippines treat their maids like this. They let them strut around in public in their white uniforms, sometimes blue, trailing behind like a deprived servant who picks up everything after them and must know her lowly and rightful place in the society.

In most cases, particularly in the Philippines (and in many parts of the developing world), this act actually commends respect for the employer. Which is very alarming, a sad, sad, sad state of mentality from certain privileged individuals who have no respect for human rights and equality. They have no remote idea that their absolute arrogance is laughable to others. They have no idea that they are -- Fools! Preposterous is it not? This is S-H-A-M-E really, just shameful.

Let me say though that there is nothing wrong with being a maid. There is nothing wrong with employing maids. Like I said, I grew up with them. Just treat them the way you want to treat a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance, i.e. you do not insist your daughter or friend wear a uniform at home, and you give them the same drink or food you serve for yourself.

Read also a similar entry I made in the past: How snooty are you?

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