MAY 28 — I shall start with a story of hope.
I had an ex-colleague who runs a car wash business in one of the most ulu places in Peninsular Malaysia. It’s a simple business, so simple that his wife just sits under a tree all day long collecting money and supervising some school kids they employ to do the dirty work. He keeps his day job while earning a cool RM7,000 side income every month.
In my skyscraper of an office now, an old makcik pushes around a shopping cart (probably nicked while the guards at the nearby hypermarket weren’t looking!) filled to the brim with knick-knacks, kacang, muruku and stuff. She comes by once a week and without fail, my colleagues and I will stock up on junk food to munch on while working. Based on sales on our floor alone — okay, maybe we are gluttons! — but we estimate she profits around RM50 per floor, and with well over 50 floors in the building, she must earn at least RM2,000 a week (tax free!).
We can complain about spiralling cost of living, but these are ordinary people taking full advantage of the abundance of opportunities in Malaysia to earn a living. This is the land of opportunity. If an illegal immigrant can come here and earn a living, justly or not, there is no reason why a person like me, born and bred in this environment, with ample knowledge of how things work — for better or for worse — cannot make it big.
I shall say this, whether or not people choose to leave the country is entirely up to them. Everybody has their own dreams and ambitions, and if migrating overseas takes you closer to those dreams, so be it. But do not give excuses to justify you leaving. You don’t need an excuse, certainly not a bad one, to pursue your life-long goals.
You do not need to blame the crummy education system — it is crummy, but it is an education system we all grew up with and I would like to think that a lot of us turned out fine.
You can’t blame racism or glass ceilings because everyone honest enough to admit will tell you that glass ceilings exist EVERYWHERE. The current debate over the “tradition” of Europeans as the de facto head of the IMF should tell you more than you need to know about glass ceilings.
All those crummy reasons don’t hold up because while Malaysians are busy flocking to Singapore, Singaporeans are busy flocking elsewhere too. That is where the whole argument falls apart. Do we see some green pasture across the straits that the Singaporeans don’t see? And do the Indonesians see something green about KL that we don’t?
My friends, this is the age of globalisation. Borders between countries are blurring. This is not like the time where miners came to Malaya from China with the sole purpose of better economic prospects. Today, there are Malaysians working in Sudan, Dutchmen working in Nigeria, Americans working in Siberia. Do you think these people are where they are because of some misguided notion that these places are better than their homeland? No, people work where they work and people build a home where they do because this is where life takes them.
When addressing his own country’s emigrant issue, Rajiv Ghandi once said: “A brain drain is better than a brain in the drain.” That we, as Malaysians, are deemed capable enough to be able to work anywhere in the world is a clear indication of our talents. And whether the people migrating will choose to admit it or not, these are talents nourished by the foundations we built for ourselves while growing up on the streets of KL, Ipoh and JB.
I can go on and on about how I want to change this country, how I want to make a difference. That is all true, but that is also secondary. People can claim that they are leaving because of better prospects, a more comfortable life. That is probably true as well, but still a secondary issue.
I propose a simpler explanation. I stay because I want to. People leave because they want to.
We go where life takes us.
Be annoying, for it is good!
2 days ago