Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The problem of Money and Malays

I started this blog some time ago but then, I couldn’t go on writing or more precisely, thinking. I had a hard time digesting the changes in the political atmosphere, the changes in the people around me and the ever unchanged attitude of the Malays.

So for almost a month, that is since after Raya Haji, I was ‘on leave’ from ‘thinking’. I almost totally blacked out my access to any political news accept when was forced to listen to comments on them from my spouse or read SMSs from friends. Whenever someone tried to make a political conversation with me, I just made a quick full-stop comment, changed the subject or simply turned away.

During this ‘leave’ or ‘blacked-out’, I really found the true meaning of a peace of mind. And I must tell you that it was a wonderful holiday – a mother of all holidays. Where your mind and body were in total relaxation.

Under the total relaxation, I was able to find the other part of me that I never knew I had or I could do. I found out that once I blocked my mind from politics and serious thinking (like my next book to write, my clients’ accounts etc..) I could really see the world from a mind of a real woman. Real woman here means, woman who see the importance of choosing the right cleanser, wardrobe, hairstyle, shoes…and I even went on a shopping spree or rather a window shopping spree on the net instead of surfing Rockybru or Bigdog or Utusan or even CheDet!!! Well, that’s weird with a capital W for a person like me.

But today, I’m back. Too bad, eh. I have to come back because this is just who I am. So, here I am again thinking and wondering how Malays had turned completely into money-crazy-monsters lately and really quite suddenly.

Money is said to be like ‘God’ to the Chinese and like the ‘Master’ to the Westerners. But today we see that Money is ‘Everything’ to the Malays – God, Master, Life and Death.

Just sharing with you a couple of the simplest of everyday examples: My little daughter started her ‘Iqra’’ class early this year and the Ustazah only spent 10 minutes to teach each student on each session. I quickly found out that the Ustazah never even introduced the letters to the students but go straight to reading or in other words - easy-teaching (not easy-learning). Obviously she didn’t have the certificate to teach Iqra’. Well, she could have taught earnestly and gain the money earnestly but no, she just teach halfheartedly for the sake of money.

Tuition center is another easy money making measure for Malay teachers. Teachers already distributed fliers to their students to promote tuition class even on their first day at school. They didn’t teach the students well in school hoping that the students would register to attend tuition with them after school. While Chinese school teachers sometimes stay-back to teach weak students after school for free! This kind of dedication would not be heard-of in Sekolah Kebangsaan nowadays. And you wonder why Chinese don’t want to send their kids to ‘our’ school?

No, these Chinese school teachers are not that rich and these Malay teachers are not that poor. They are more or less equal in their way of living but one of them decides to do something MORE for the sake of responsibility, care and love for the students and the other decides to do something MORE for the sake of money. And not to mention tuition center with about 50 students in one class!!! One is just nearby my housing area where I could see the students at the back playing and talking among themselves when I passed by the center. They couldn’t even hear the teacher in the crowded and noisy room. God helps us that the class could help the students improve their learning somehow. And of course, all the students and teachers in the center are Malays.

These are only a couple of examples where we can see that the ultimate goal for Malays is always money and not the satisfaction of doing the job wholeheartedly and perfectly. How the result turns out never matters to them. Our singers, actors, directors and producers do not make songs or films for the sake of music or stories but they do them for money. And our politicians … huh! Their attitude towards money is just unspeakable.

You know, I have always believed that it is always better to be the best Secretary than the worst MD or the best Clerical staff than the worst Executive Officer. But most people (Malays) I talked to could not swallow this. For them, best or worst of anything at all is being defined by the amount of money they get every month – and that’s the most and the only important thing in life…And then we have no shame to call upon other Muslims to go back to the teachings of Quran eh..!? Come on!

How do we instill in the mind of the Malays that it is who you are that is important, and NOT what you are. There’s a difference in “Respect towards you” and “Respect towards your money”, you know.

Respect is gained through ‘ilmu’ + ‘iman’ which then translated into ‘adab’, not money – all these are written in the Quran right? But we call ourselves Muslims eh?

I had an uncle who was a teacher. He was greatly respected and sought after by all whenever problems arose in school or in his community. He spoke gently but firmly and everybody loved him dearly. He mixed around with my other uncles who were big-shots, Dato’s or highly reputable businessmen but he never felt left out and they never left him out either. He could blend easily and gain the same respect from everybody. He parked his old volkwagen side by side with other people’s Jaguar, Volvo and BMW and never feel ashamed. Why? Because he knew things more than those who had reached the top knew, and because of that, he was well respected and never been looked down. He was a big reader and very humble in nature. He was the best teacher, a happy father and husband and a very successful man! But I believe, Malays nowadays would never understand how being a teacher could be considered as successful at all.

But with all these craziness towards money among the Malays, why do the Chinese and the Westerners are the ones who own them?

From how I see it, it is because:

The ultimate goal of a Chinese in life is to be successful. Successful is defined differently according to where one is. A successful teacher cannot be compared to a successful businessman or a successful doctor. But successful in whatever field they choose is what really matters in their life, not money. The money comes after that.

The ultimate goal of a ‘Mat Salleh’ in life is to learn as much and see as much of the world as possible. Learning itself made them satisfied already. But of course, when they learn, they become knowledgeable. The knowledge is what put them where they are. How much they know is what really matters in their life, not money. Again, like the Chinese, money only comes after that.

But Malays ultimate goal in life is to be rich. Rich is an objective word. In Malay’s vocabulary, it only means have lots and lots of money. You can have a lot of money by working hard but also by cheating, stealing or taking bribes – either way, you choose. Because they just want to be rich, Malays often are not satisfied with teacher’s salary, or an ordinary office worker salary. They want to live like big shots even when they don’t have proper jobs. And they don’t like working nine to five. And they only want high salary to suit their degree. They always want more money but they are only qualified as teachers – so, why not teach the students half-heartedly in school and get more money from their parents when they send the students for tuition? They want to be rich no matter how or what it takes. And not like the Chinese or the West, Malays richness don’t stay long and don’t spread out. It stays for a while, may grow vertically but never horizontally.

Everybody agrees that money is not everything. But then, why are we behaving contradictory? Why so greedy? Why is our race falling apart? If our attitude towards money didn’t cause it, then what did? And if we agree that it did, then why do we keep doing it? What is our excuse? Whatever change that we want to see in our race, it has to start with us – the man in the mirror, no excuse.

Now, excuse is another problem with Malays. When a Malay is late for work – he gives excuse/s – traffic jam is the most common one as if it’s news. But when an American is late for work, he just say “Sorry, I’m late.” And that’s it – no excuse. Any excuse would not make any difference about him being late. When a Malay made something wrong, he would say “Sorry, I tersilap tapi I takkan silap kalau…..bla..bla..bla..” But when an American made a mistake, “I’m sorry, it’s my fault.”

I have already started the change with the woman in the mirror long time ago. But I alone can’t shape the future of our race. Even our great, beloved Tun Mahathir failed in this. Let’s do this together and change for the better. Let’s start with getting to know ourselves and define the meaning of success, happiness and our goal in life properly. It’s really not anything new, it’s in the Quran. And most of you should know that better than a moderate Muslim like me.

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