Of Attitudes & Altitudes

This is a story told not to discriminate, alienate or propagate a certain ethnic group or way of life. I’m saying things the way it is. It’s my honest depiction of what I have observed with my own eyes. Please do not take offence.

Often have I wondered why the local people found it hard to break out of the chain of poverty that plagues a large majority of them. Apprenticeships & job opportunities are easily available wherever they are albeit lower wages, longer hours & hard work, it could still lead to something some day. I’ve always wondered why business owners would shun the local people & prefer to hire Indonesians for these menial jobs. I’ve always wondered why many of them have such low productivity even from the very beginning of their careers. This reflects the local men more than women. I find the local women more industrious & reliable.

After observing them & especially their young up-close for 2 years, I realise it has got a lot to do with their attitude towards life. Happy go lucky & cukup makan is a mantra many of them live by. They were not forced to live from hand to mouth. They chose to live from hand to mouth. This way of life has been handed down from generation to generation as if it was genetic.

This is what many of them will do. When they do not have money, they will go looking for work. Once they get their wages, they will not work. They want to enjoy first. They spend their money on cheap booze, contraband cigarettes & cheap women. Only when their funds run dry, they go searching for work. Some of these men even have families to take care of.

Compare this to another group that also chooses to live from hand to mouth, young Anglo-Saxons. There is however a big difference between the local men & young whites who choose a hand to mouth lifestyle. Our locals want to enjoy life while the whites want to live life. They go from country to country, town to town & city to city because they want to see the world. They finance their travels from any work that they can find wherever they are. When they have experienced all that they can from one place, they will save their money & move on to another place.

Now let’s look at another group of people who have thrived all over the world. The Chinese. They are industrious by choice. Many of them come from impoverished backgrounds as well. Since they were young, they were taught to be frugal & work hard. This is why many of them go from rags to riches in 1 generation. They are willing to work hard for a small profit & still save every penny. All the money saved will either be used for a business or for their children.

One of the challenges that a teacher working with the locals will face is the students are bright but many they are unwilling to work hard. They want to be doctors, engineers & lecturers. Many of them possess the talent & potential but few realise their ambitions because many refuse to suffer temporarily for long-term gain. This short-sightedness is a mental handicap that is keeping these people from progressing.

I have to use short-sighted rewards & punishments to steer them in the right direction. Candies & the cane are my left & right hand. I use these to get them into a positive habit. Hopefully, by the time they leave my class, there is enough momentum to carry them further. It is a slow & painful process of change. Pray for them & those of us working for them.


  1. Anonymous2/11/10 13:32

    That's the MAIN obstacle trying to teach in the rural schools. As the Chinese saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.

    Real sad that it's their culture, their way of life - such complacency. But that reminds me of a rich man who was scolding his not-so-rich/successful friend who was sitting, idling and relaxing in a coffee shop, enjoying his life...and giving him all the advice to work hard and become successful and rich like him. The friend asked, "Why would I want to be successful and rich like you?"

    The rich man said, "Then you sit and idle and relax and enjoy life,' to which the friend replied, "And what do you think I am doing now?"

    Maybe that is the reason why the NGOs are always protesting, trying to protect these people and encouraging them to maintain their natural way of life - on the basis of their human rights. It's THEIR way of life...and they ARE happy and contented.

  2. They live simple life. They're happy and content with it. I just mirrored situapui's comment basically. We don't have to make them become a doctor/lawyer. Just someone who is useful to the country. Without them, will the lawyers have the skill of catching fish etc? Education is successful when they know how to get their basic needs (hospital treatment), proper hygiene and living with high moral values. I will be proud if I have a student who'll be a prime minister. However, I will carry a very great feeling of guilt till I die when one of my students is one of the most wanted murderer.

  3. Arthur: Many of them will go to Sibu & do odd jobs.
    The women will be more reliable while the men will dibble dabble around.
    With no forest to forage, they will finally learn to work hard (or steal) to make ends meet. Esp since they are so great at reproduction!

    Aini: They are happy & contented but they are also facing overpopulation & urbanisation.
    The forests are getting smaller & smaller while their population is getting bigger & bigger.
    Sooner or later, they will need to adopt the skills necessary for survival in a city.

    Their children get free education, lodging & food at schools from Primary to Secondary & so will their children's children.
    Once these benefits are no longer provided, they will struggle to provide for their children.

    By refusing to take a more serious look at life, they are giving up their future & the future of their children.

    I am trying my best to make them aware of how big this world is & the limitless possibilities if they work hard.

  4. Its almost like tradition or.. like you said, genetic. quite interesting. its the environment and how they're brought up that puts the idea of not wanting to work hard into their heads.

    i have some good catching up to do with your blog. lol

  5. Dont worry about catching up with my blog. It'll always be here for you anytime.

  6. Koko love,
    Such courage to publish these thoughts! :)

    I've been thinking about the 'why' bit for a while now.

    But I guess at the end of the day its hard for me to say which of those is better. Without the locals doing menial tasks and working cheap it'll be hard for the country to expand as a whole.
    But then again, if they dont ever get out of that rut, how are they supposed to progress.
    Its just one of those conundrums with no right or wrong answer really. Just the way it is.

    Thanks for sharing this. Its triggered the thinking button in my head. :)


  7. Eli: =)

    Sarah: Well, we're trying our best to get these rural folks thinking like global folks.
    When you become a mom, make sure your children are forward-looking & God-fearing!


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