Monday, June 22, 2009
The maids issue has made the headlines again. Do we have to go through the same issues each time? Its always the same issues on both sides. Let's look at the areas we can agree on:
1) Bad employers are few, relative to the majority.
2) Bad maids are few, relative to the majority.
3) Some employers mistreat the maids - physical and mental abuse, over working them, putting them to do dangerous tasks, wtf are those employers who ask their maids to clean the outside of the windows when they are staying in condos???
4) Some maids do behave irrationally or may steal or "hurt" the kids / old people when left alone in the house.
While we all may be surprised that the majority of employers are against giving the maids the day off per week, it is understandable. Many fear that the maids may get involved with new boyfriends, and/or be made use by unscrupulous people to loot the employers' homes, or bring their boyfriends back to the house when the owners are out.
Its a reflection on reality triumphing over morals and human decency issues.
Its always so much easier to "put up stickers that you want world peace", but its so hard not to be pissed off with your neighbour's antics.
I believe all households that want to employ maids should ask themselves these questions honestly:
a) Who is the maid to you and your household? A helper, a worker, or someone who is a lesser human being.
b) How will you treat the maid? As part of your family, or purely a worker.
c) What kind of lessons in life are you imparting to your children by the way you treat the maid? Are your children learning that all people should be treated with respect, or that some people can be treated differently or with disdain? Are you teaching them that its ok to discriminate, or that some people are less "valuable" as a human being? Do you reprimand necessarily to the extent that your kids think that its ok to do likewise?
Maids are just people like you and me who are brought up in a less fortunate environment. How we treat our fellow human beings tells us a lot about the kind of person you are? All maids are someone's wife, mother and child... just like you and I. Sure, some may be not as smart, but thats not reason enough to treat them any less than a human being.
We should treat people how we want ourselves to be treated. Some might say that even after their best efforts, the maid can still be difficult. At least we should still set the right example - whether it results in a better relationship is secondary. We should not second guess our behaviour, if we treat people with respect and its not reciprocated, we at least did our part. Maids are not machines, they are just fallible like all of us. Do what you should do, the way your parents and religion brought you up. When people are nice and helpful, its easy to love them. When they are not, it means we should try harder.... if it gets really difficult, don't get a maid anymore.
We can ask for things to be in a certain way to protect our families, but we should also be mindful of what we are asking for to achieve that. There are basic human decency rules in our hearts and minds, there are worker's rights as well. Its very very difficult to leave your family and friends and maybe children behind for a few years to live and work in a foreign place. If one of your brothers or sisters is in that predicament, how would you want their employers to treat him/her. Its a very tough life, the more we embrace them and live as an extended family member, the better the conditions for all. You do not want to make life even more difficult, oppressive and deplorable by putting them in an "inhumane work environment".
If you honestly fail to answer these questions in the "right way", and you yourself know the "right answers"... you shouldn't really be having a maid.
Having said that, the rules are inadequate both ways currently. The employer does not get sufficient protection after paying hefty fees should the maid absconds or get pregnant, there needs to be better laws to allow for maids to be changed if things are not working out, without penalty. The maids also need better protection, there must be a unit to monitor or for abusive conditions to be reported so that they can be checked, investigated and rectified immediately.
The really superior human being is the one who knows in his/her hearts that everyone is truly equal.
p/s photos: the evergreen Cherie Chung Chor Hung is back in a recent commercial shoot
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