Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Blood and Sand

You know, I don't know why, but a lot of people I meet seem to think I grew up in KL. Or in a city. Maybe when I was young, after school, I go and play some video games on my Micro Genius or some shit. I never had a fucking Micro Genius or an Atari.

That I would sneak a cigarette or two behind the school shed or fuck a girl in the graveyard. That my views as a child was one of privilege and wealth. And fucking.

Well, I am thankful that I was not raised in the inner cities, that I had enough to eat - and sometimes more - that my parents did not rape me or were junkies who made me blind cause my mother was shooting up while she was pregnant with me. Or that I was born with cerebral palsy, or stupid.

I had a pretty normal childhood. I was more interested in books than in people, which saved me from a lot of stupid things. One classmate got pregnant when she was 13 or thereabouts. Some were killed in motorcycle accidents. At 17. A childhood friend died of AIDS in recent years.

My toys were primarily hand-me-downs. Broken either by my older siblings or by my own hand.

My allowance was 50 cents a week, in primary school. That meant I had the luxury to decide on either buying an extra glass of water or two slices of keropok every recess.

I saw a total of two movies in my first 15 years of life.

There were lots of books, however, and lots of TV.

I come from Kuantan - a town by the beach - but all I ever saw of the beach, all I remember of Teluk Chempedak from my childhood is having a pre-packed meal in my father's unair-conditioned Opel Kadett, while the beach was around 200 metres away. That, and a kindergarten trip to Pantai Batu Hitam where I was given the neck of a chicken to gnaw on, and had salt water in my nostrils, when I departed the shore, which I did not like.

Chicken necks. I thought my father loved chicken necks. That's why he kept buying them, I thought. Then, later in life, it dawned on me that the reason he kept buying them was because it was cheap.

I took him shopping a few years back, when he was still healthy, and bought chicken breasts, wings and drumsticks. He thought it was a waste of good chicken.

If we wanted to eat anything in abundance, we had to grow them, or rear them. My father had a green thumb and his cucumbers and eggplants - brinjals to some of you - were the size of horses' cocks. Morning glory with leaves as big as yams'.

I spent backbreaking afternoons watering corn. 350ml in each hole. And then selling them, RM2.50 per 7 ears.

And yet I had it easier than my siblings, some of whom had to herd cows or sell fruits to augment the family income. They worked like slaves.

And yet, my family was better off than most, in my village.

A lot more, had a lot less. My father was a teacher, so his income was considered 'middle class'. Do you know how much they pay teachers? Not much.

The Government used to classify anyone living in rural areas with a household income of less than RM500 a month (for four) as poor. In the cities or towns, it is RM1500 or thereabouts. My neighbour makes RM400 a month, IF they pay him, to support eight people.

I read somewhere that in the '70s or maybe earlier, Prof Diraja Ungku Aziz did a research that states the reason for the rural kids not doing well in school is because they do not have enough food.

If you're hungry, you can't study. Better off killing birds for that night's supper than hitting the books - a luxury I had.

Judging by this, I am very lucky. By a simple twist of fate, I could have been born in the other families, struggling to survive. STruggling even more. There would be no chicken necks. Chicken shit, maybe.

And people in the Government wonder why some people are against them.

Undoubtedly, there are a lot of help available. There are numerous funds, largely unclaimed. If you want to start a tailoring business or want to start a kerepek enterprise, the Government requires only that you go to classes, and they will provide you with the machinery. So with the skills and the machines, the only other ingredient is capital, which you can apply for. But what is lacking is drive, and proper management.

Malays, are a self-sabotaging race. On the individual level, as well as on the community level. Actually, I believe that Malaysians in general are self-sabotaging. However, since most of the other races are generally in better economic brackets, they will not starve.

That being said, I believe that any effort to alleviate poverty should reach across the board and not be race-based at all. In an ideal world, we should not be counting the pigmentation on our skins. But yeah. Fuck you.

ANyway, if someone tries to get him or herself up above their situation, usually they get laughed at, or schemes and plots would hatch. I understand that. It is only animal nature that people feel insecure and try to drag others down to their perceived level or lower. But wait. ANimals do not do that.

These poor people cannot fend for themselves. They may be seen by some as failures, but their existence is our failure as a society. I also perceive them as a threat.

Desperate people will do desperate things. If one day, the cities will not rise, because they are fattened up and contented with their capitalist dreams, the rural folk - the poor ones, may grab their hoes (of the non-prostitute kind) and sickles and machetes and do a Hutu Vs Tutsi number on the rich.

Some may think to control them, as a political weapon, but you cannot fool all the people, all the time. The time shall come when Caesar will rise and turn this into a Planet of the Apes.

I don't want the next few generations celebrating a Malaysian version of Bastille Day. Or that a modern-day Guy Fawkes may actually succeed.

Poverty is a cycle. It's like abuse. Poverty-stricken people breed even more poverty-stricken people. There are better literature and research on all this. I don't need to reinvent the wheel.

Anyway, I will be out of a job soon. Aside from taking care of myself and my own ass, I also want to help. My contributions will be small. But I will not go down without a fight. And this is a fight that matters. It is not whimsical, farcical or petty.

I spent my 20s believing that I will be part of some things that could change society. I understand now, in my 30s, that I will have to start it myself.

I have been given the tools and the resources to kickstart some things. I do not know what will happen and how things will turn out. It could be bad, but I have taken more insane risks before, as I am doing right now with my own life.

Bring it on.