Thursday, August 19, 2010

Service or slavery

Poor YOG volunteers. Such terrible working conditions, bad food, unappreciated servitude. I can almost feel for this forlorn complainant slogging it out at the Olympic Village. Almost.

Sorry. Whatever he may call himself, his heart and mind are not those of a volunteer. He sees himself as an indentured slave; and so he is, compelled to labour under his own sense of injustice at the drastic, if temporary, upheaval in his usual day-to-day routines.

But he is a slave with a great deal of miscarried authority. Mr Hall Supervisor is frustrated that his co-workers "are working WITH, not under" him (emphasis his), suggesting he wants to be the Big Man In-Charge. He lets this attitude carry over into his dealings with his guests! Like a tiny tinpot tyrant he tells his guests off for smoking and sitting on railings. In his sheltered world, he doesn't realise that in many countries there are far worse dangers to fear, and that the police are a source of ridicule and disrespect, or otherwise a source of terror and violence. Being a policeman to people from so many different political systems and social backgrounds is just asking to be derided at the very least. Fortunately, he hasn't been beaten up, though that may yet come in time.

Mr Hall Supervisor is more a martyr to his own cause than he is a volunteer to a cause greater than himself. He complains about unfulfilled compensation, as if compensation is a volunteer's due. Whomever plans the bigger picture can only see the bigger picture. Every specific need on the ground cannot be catered to every individual volunteer's convenience. So, yes, there will be snafus galore, but dealing with problems on the ground either shows class and personal initiative or there-I-fixed-it, happy now?

Every setback is an opportunity. Packed buses and long waits at the bus stop are really lonely when there is no one to talk to. Here the volunteers are literally rubbing shoulders with the cream of international athletics -- young, vibrant, exciting people (some might even be girls!) anxious to discover what they can about their host country -- and Mr Hall Supervisor just wants to sulk in his corner, bristling and prickling with leave-me-alone. Sigh. Such opportunities going a-begging.

We read a lot about how unnecessary the YOG was. How the money could have been better spent on ourselves instead of entertaining all these foreigners. Let's put this view in perspective. What is Singapore's core business? We'd like it to be shuffling paper in a predictable 9-to-5 air-conditioned office job, wouldn't we? That's what we exert so much energy studying to get into university for. But if Singapore is really going to survive, our place in the world is to be able to throw the biggest parties that keep international party-goers coming back for more! Realistically, there isn't much else we can offer. We have to learn to be hosts of the best hospitality and highest standards of professional, friendly service and here at the YOG , unfortunately we see some of our service staff just not being able to fit the bill. (BTW, it's his future core business as well, being a current student from **ATEC).

As a nameless events coordinator once said, 'we let you work with the stars for a WHOLE fortnight, and you still want money?!' I don't doubt that the volunteers are working hard. Long hours, blood, sweat and tears I understand. My problem is that Mr Hall Supervisor has no clue whom he is working for. Poor fellow is literally his own boss and is suffering for it.

Kid, in your own self-importance you are viewing the task as being more important than the experience. Turn it around! Time to climb out of your ostrich hole and cast you eyes towards a bigger horizon and a bigger world than you have ever imagined. Learn the difference between service attitude and servitude. And do try to get a life.

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