Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The modern day slacker

It is this type which frustrates the hardworking Malays, who have worked so hard to bust the myth of the lazy Malay, the subsidy-mentality-bumi, and gives them a bad name.

YOU would have known at least two of this type: the young Malay boy in his late 20s to mid-30s who has the potential, but for no reason at all, seems intent on ruining his life, by simply being lackadaisical and complacent. He is the slacker.

It is this type which frustrates the hardworking Malays, who have worked so hard to bust the myth of the lazy Malay, the subsidy-mentality-bumi, and gives them a bad name.

The latter, who come from various economic backgrounds, burn the midnight oil at their corporate jobs. Some take on another as a side income or work at two jobs.

Their partners or spouses are equally as hardworking, but when drawn into conversation about the idle Malay boy, both will throw their hands up in the air.

Talk to non-Malay professionals and they say nonchalantly, “That’s what you get when you hire these Malays.”

A successful bumi businessman told me once that he hires only young non-Malays, because he had been duped too many times by the boys he wanted to help.

These boys, who seem to be mushrooming by the day, are articulate, and do keep abreast of current events. Interestingly, these boys mainly come from working class backgrounds.

They’re not unintelligent. Have a chat with them – they can be so perceptive that you wonder why they are not in politics or a think-tank. And yet, they are in debt, and seem to relish in their financial piccadiloes; when they are offered opportunities, they take and screw them up halfway.

The reasons are unbelievable: I broke up with my girlfriend. I don’t have money. I don’t have the ilham. My friend owes me money. I owe myself money.

However, despite their apparent flaws, they complain about how the world owes them a living. The government should give me a grant. The government owes me a living because I’m Malay and poor.

People don’t like me because I’m not connected. Girls don’t want to date me because I’m poor and directionless.

Granted, some do try. But they look for short cuts.

Some of them become the “shadows” of the bodyguards, the lesser datuks and proxies to the middleman to the PA to the right-hand man of the “Man Himself”, in vain hopes for a small cut.

If they are lucky, they take back RM5,000. They create small enterprises and mark up costs that defy business logic, that in the end they have to close shop.

The opportunities are already there. Yes, our education system is not perfect, but many have come out from it better and richer.

I also do not deny that working or doing business is not easy either. Yet there are many Malaysian success stories.

Blame the NEP if you want, but the truth is, many have also thrived sans it. Some packed up their bags and moved abroad without a degree or connections. The Internet is at your disposal – for all this talk about not having money, a good number of these boys have a working computer. Mac, no less. So work from home.

Work with clients from everywhere! A friend once hired a Nigerian student in Nigeria to create his website. That young boy from the sticks of Nigeria delivered a really swoosh website within a month.

When asked why they are so dismissive of politics and youth activities, they can tell you, “It’s a waste of time. We’re not America. There’s a tradition of activism there, not here. Besides, we’re the grassroots. The government should take care of us and provide us with incentives.”

How can any government do so, and why should it? This is not about opportunities but attitude!
There is already a social and economic imbalance which will worsen.

Many marriages break down, and some of the increasing reasons I hear from my syariah lawyer friends are that these boys are complacent and do not contribute to the marriage financially.

They do not pick up the slack at home by being the housekeeper, and expect the wives to fund two families. Theirs and his.

Some resent their wives’ successes and create problems. Some of them bring their debts into the family equation.

Economically, if more and more of these youths opt to be slackers, the country’s GDP will go down greatly and crumble into a declining and worsening economy.

The divide between the haves and have-nots will widen. The gender imbalance is already there: More young (Malay) women are in tertiary institutions and working very hard.

Quite a number have told me they fear marriage because they do not want to be beholden to a spouse who cannot contribute to a marriage.

At this juncture, this begs another question.

Why are a good number of young and working class Malays complacent? Sometimes, I feel that the foreign workers deserve citizenship because they work and somehow manage to save for their families back home.

They live in the most deplorable living conditions, and some worse than the shacks I have seen in my kampung.

The question should no longer be about whether Malay youths are politically apathetic. The question should be how to make these boys work and be motivated.

It is a study I greatly welcome and would like to do.

A WRITER'S LIFE By DINA ZAMAN

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