The Unseen

Construction workers being treated terribly…being indebted for a year for exorbitant “recruitment fees” as soon as they land…squalid dorms…employers confiscating passports…accident victims receiving tardy and insufficient medical care. This sounds familiar. I think the most powerful allegory for early 21st century globalisation that most people haven’t read is “The Book of D’ni” based on the Myst computer games. (SPOILERS FOLLOW)

Atrus and his proteges trying to rebuild D’ni stumbled on a lost civilisation called Terahnee. They found that the D’ni had cut off relationships because Terahnee was a slave society. They had beautiful homes and monuments and amazing technology, but behind it all were slaves from hundreds of planets called “relyimah”, “the unseen”. A slave could be beaten for being seen and killed for touching a Terahnee master. I read the Myst trilogy shortly after moving to Singapore in 2009. The concept of “unseen” labourers struck me forcibly when I realised a featureless white building at a construction site in Singapore that I walked past every day had people living in it.

I have worked as a foreigner in other countries for many years. If an employer demanded I hand over my passport to prevent me from running away I would certainly tell them to go sodomise themself. Obviously white-collar “expats” have power and privileges that blue-collar “migrant workers” don’t. But these people are having their basic human rights and rights under the laws of host countries violated while the governments turn a blind eye and/or side with the bosses. It’s so damn unfair.

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