Monday, May 30, 2011

We are all at the crossroad now

There are so many reasons to leave but only one to stay.  And that one reason is still strong enough (for now) to keep our hopes and vision alive.

I did believe, after March 8 of the last general election, that we were heading for better times. But of late, I am starting to be fearful of what darkness lies ahead before we could reach the light of dawn. I don't need to repeat what drives my fear here for my fellow Malaysians know what I am talking about.

What is happening to Malaysia? To us, we who know no other home than here, what will happen to us? Why do we, the ones who felt the most despair and sadness at the rot we are seeing can't seem to mount a strong enough defence against the assault that is being waged by the few?

Why can't they, the ones who have continually given their support to a once glorious coalition who brought forth our independence, see that they are now supporting the rot that has set in by remaining blind to the faults of their leaders? Why don't they ever demand better from their so-called leaders?

This is the despair I believe we all feel when we hold that proverbial towel in our hand, conflict in our heart and shouting match in our heads: Shall I throw it in? Now? Hang on a bit? Wait a while more? No, it's hopeless. But .. I can't. Not yet. Not.just.yet.

But we are all standing right in the middle of it now. I hate to have to choose to go where my mind tells me and leave my heart behind the road not taken.


At a crossroads

The Malaysian Insider
May 28, 2011 

MAY 28 — My wife and I met while we were studying overseas. After graduating, I returned to Malaysia while she completed her studies and eventually returned two years later. We started our careers and eventually got married and started our family. It never crossed our minds to settle anywhere else other than Malaysia. In university, I was active in the students’ movement and was determined that when I returned I would make a difference in my country.

That was 20 years ago.

Five years later, my brother decided to migrate. Deep inside I was angry and thought that he was foolish. He was an engineer with two degrees and an MBA, and he was seeking greener pastures? Well, he can leave… but no sir, I will stay and make this place I grew up a better place.

Another 12 years passed, and this time it was my sister’s family who was leaving. What? A family of medical professionals leaving? Even a specialist within their midst who won international awards and accolades for research papers, and they are turning their backs on us here? They earn tonnes more than me and they are worried they cannot afford their children’s education? Why don’t they stay here and together we will change the system and make this a better place? There are already so few of us left here to change the system and THEY ARE LEAVING!!?? Well they can go, but I will stay and soldier on…

Another three years passed; last week my wife downloaded an application form for migration. My hands trembled even as I held the form. Is this finally going to be the path I take? The form states that if I am over 45 I will not qualify! This is my final year!

This is my family’s last call… after this, we will not be welcomed even if we want to go. My heart sank. My wife and I had a heart-to-heart talk. We are middle-class professionals with no big businesses or wealth of any significance to be inherited by our children.

Our next generation will need a strong education foundation to start them off. They are doing well enough in school, not geniuses, but still in the best class and with good prospects for good careers if given a fair chance.
We have heard stories from friends and neighbours of children getting 9As and were asked to do geography when they wanted to be engineers. Were offered history when they wanted to do law. They had to go private. We are resigned to the fact that we will likely have to privately fund our own children’s education.

I looked at my bank account. Have I saved enough to put my children through private education? Not really… maybe partially. Will my children be able to get full A+s to get scholarships? Unlikely. Is my income low enough to be considered poor so that my children will qualify for underprivileged scholarships? I don’t think so. Is my skin “brown” enough for my children to get a “Bumi” quota? Sorry, wrong place.

Today I look into the mirror and I see grey hairs. My vision is beginning to blur. I have to change to a presbyopia specs soon. I switched on the computer and clicked on The Malaysian Insider — I see the face of Ibrahim Ali shouting. I looked out of the window, I see people queuing up in a petrol station nearby. I see Makcik Som selling nasi lemak, just as she has always done for so many years. Twenty years have passed.

I am tired. The prickly durian spirit of yesteryear has been worn down to a smooth watermelon. No longer prickly, no longer pungent. Am I giving up? No! Definitely not. But what about my children? Must they also sacrifice for my cause?

Yes, I have decided to put in my application, to give my children a fair chance. But I will stay, because I have a dream. A 20-year-old dream. I will settle my children overseas and I will return to make that difference that I dreamt of… If I don’t realise that dream at least my children won’t have to dream that same dream for their children. Ibrahim Ali may not like my children, but I do … enough to stop dreaming for a while.

Call me a traitor, pengkhianat, pendatang, pengkhayal or whatever. Maybe I don’t have enough faith in what I am doing. But I will leave for little while and I’ll be back. I am thankful that my great-grandfather came to Malaya for his children. Perhaps my generation will be the last generation here, but I will stay as long as I can.

Recently, I read an article about socialism that gave an analogy of an economics professor and his class. The class insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be too rich or too poor in such a system.

So the professor proposed that they experiment socialism in the class. All grades in their next test would be averaged so that no one would fail and no one would do extremely well.

After the next test, the entire class achieved an average of “B”. The students who studied were a little unhappy while those who did not were elated. By and large everyone accepted the situation because they passed.

As the second test approached, those who had studied previously worked a little less, while those who previously did not study did not see why they should study, afterall they still passed. So by the second test the average results was a “D”. Everyone was unhappy now.

By the third test, the average was an “F”. The scores never increased and everyone started bickering, name-calling and this resulted in animosity towards one another. Classes were disrupted and studies affected.

To their surprise, everyone failed in the next test. The professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great but when government takes the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. Could not be any simpler than that. You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

I believe our country is now at a crossroads. My father’s generation was at point “B” where everyone passed and managed an average score of “B” like in the professor’s class — by and large it was tolerable and everyone accepted the situation.

Today we are probably at an average score “D”. Things are not going that well and our country is not doing as well as it should. We are losing out to our neighbours. A lot of people are unhappy. People are starting to bicker. So where do we move from here? Point “F”?

I still hold on to my 20-year-old dream, so I will stay… but if I turn out to be a daydreamer then at least my children don’t have to live in their father’s daydream.


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