UNDERSTANDING ANTON CASEY

If you haven't heard of Anton Casey, you probably don't live in Singapore. A few days ago, the New Paper devoted a full front page to his story, complete with a photograph of his face. His infamy is now reported in major newspapers all over the world. You may read about him in the Times, the Guardian, the Daily Mail, the Independent, the International Business Times and the Australian.

What really puzzles me is what motivated Casey to be so contemptuous of poor people. He has said that this was the worst mistake of his life. But was it a mistake? I really don't think so. I think a person who taunts and laughs at poor people publicly cannot say that he "has made a mistake". What he can say is although he really hates and despises the poor, he should not have done so publicly because the repercussion on himself is severe. In other words, the fact remains that he has nothing but contempt for the poor. In his mind, the only "mistake" he has made is in expressing his contempt openly. That is why the public did not accept his apology because the truth is nothing has changed. He's only sad that his actions have caused harm to himself and his family. That's not remorse; that's self-preservation. He will only learn to be more tactful but the rot in his heart remains unaltered.

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Anyone who has seen the photo and video he posted online will no doubt notice with horror that he involves his five-year-old son in all his antics. On his Facebook page, he tells the world how his son asks him in surprise why there are so many poor people on the train. In the video in which he tells the people not to be angry with him but to be angry with their parents for raising them weak and presumably poor, he has his son next to him smiling supportively at every word he utters. Why anyone would drag his own young child into this is something I find hard to understand. Surely if anyone is going to make himself public enemy No. 1, the last thing he will do is to make his innocent child a party to his disgraceful conduct? Because he somehow linked his actions inextricably to his son, no newspaper reporting the incident could leave his son out of the picture. Some publications I have seen tried to blot his son's face out of the photos he himself published to the world but others just left the photos intact. What kind of a father would do that to his own son?

Most wealthy people however callous they may be do not insult the poor. Some of them may not have any consideration for the poor and they may not give to the poor but insulting them is the last thing anyone will do. They may behave as if the poor never appear in their horizon but they wouldn't dream of making fun of them. I'm always interested in the psychology of the individual and when I see a person of means making cruel remarks about the poor and taunting them, almost always, the person has a reason, however warped it may be, to do that. Usually, when you scratch below the surface, you will find that such a person who seems to be allergic to the poor himself comes from an underprivileged environment which he absolutely detests. He may work very hard to get himself out of the rut he perceives himself to be in and he may very well succeed. But even when he is successful in acquiring for himself a comfortable life, his aversion to poverty and his contempt for the poorer segment of society from which he himself comes are by no means placated. Such people, sometimes derogatorily referred to as the nouveau riche, are the first to put down the poor.

That Anton Casey is an obnoxious person is undisputed. But we have to be clear about what wrong he has done. It's a wrong that offends good sense and the dictates of propriety. His behaviour is distasteful, base, repugnant and unacceptable.

But (yes, there's a "but" to it even if I can't stand the sight of this abominable entity) he has committed no crime. Society can ostracize him but we can't expect the government to lock him up. Netizens have demanded police action and I have read nasty comments online against the government and the police for not taking punitive action against him. But what can the police or the government do since he has committed no crime? Society can make it uncomfortable for him to continue to live here because who wants such an odious character in our midst but to expect the police or the government to act is ridiculous.

There is a lot of talk about forgiveness. What forgiveness can he expect if the only outcome from this whole episode is to make him more guarded about what he says in public? You see, the insults are but a mere manifestation of what actually goes on deep within himself. Anton Casey has, by his actions, exposed to all reasonable people his true feelings for the poor. You can only insult the poor if you really despise them. Do you really think this storm in his life will endear the poor to him? Do you really believe he will henceforth learn to have less contempt for the poor because he's been so firmly castigated for insulting them? Logically, the answer must be a resounding NO! He will continue to detest and despise the less fortunate, and perhaps even more so now that he will perceive himself as having suffered humiliation at their hands. He will just be more careful about insulting them publicly and that's all there is to his "repentance".

Again, this is no crime however loathsome we may find his actions to be. It would be extremely wrong of anyone to make any threat against him or his family. That would be totally unthinkable and I know the people of Singapore well enough to know that absolutely nobody would even dream of harming a hair on his head. I don't for a minute believe his vague story about death threats being issued against him. But we all choose our friends and who we want to deal with. Whether you want to be friends with someone who despises the poor enough to insult them publicly is really a matter of personal choice.

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