Monday, January 12, 2009

Diaspora III

It's taken me a while to get here, to write this up. The main part of that is because the time, which I had previously allocated for it, swiftly evaporated into thin air. It shrunk, a consequence compromise, pleasing people, pleasing oneself, and making money.

Not much money was made, though. But that's probably another story for another time.

The story for this time, for me, is the departure of people. Far more specifically, the departure of ones close to me. Perhaps, if I am brave enough, I might well just admit it as a sense of Malaysia dying, rather than people just wanting to discover themselves.

"It's the brain drain," said a friend when I discussed it with him. It wasn't what he said, but the way he said it: almost as if I just sprang from a kampung somewhere and thought that the brain drain is a pipe leading to and from our head. It inflamed me momentarily, but died down quick enough. It was, after all, the same flame that was lit when I heard of my friend's intention to depart. "It's not exactly like it's something new."

True enough, it is not a new phenomenon, and neither will it dry up any time soon. Nevertheless, there's something here that makes me feel that it's not merely a conventional sort of drain, not one where people are necessarily enticed by money and prestige. Rather, there is simply a big desire to get out, the approach being initiated from the inside, rather than being pulled from the outside.

Far more importantly, now one of my closest friends have decided to take that approach. Of leaving the country. His, I have to admit, is not a move to necessarily make more money; his explanations, if anything, gave me more food for thought.

Perhaps one could say that it is hypocritical of me to take such a stance. It is a stance taken as much by logic as it is by emotion, but it is my stand nonetheless. Hypocritical, because I myself have spent more than a third of my own life outside of Malaysia. Having lived and breathed such airs and lifestyles at different points of my life.

And, for the most part, I found it to be completely unremarkeable. Perhaps a part of that came with the territory. London might sound and look good on a postcard, but it can be a cruel place to live in as well, especially for those slumming it with the working class rather than enjoying the view from the top of the tower. The same could be said for Seoul and Jeonju, and I dare say that the same could be said for almost every other city on earth that I could think of.

Certainly, these experiences were to be the making of me, but then again, I was at a period of my life where any experience would have been life-changing to a large extent. A 10 year-old would learn a shit load on the streets of London; a 28 year-old wouldn't necessarily learn as much.

There will always be the pros and the cons. All things considered, then, KL, Malaysia, Asia, is not much different from a lot of other cities and countries around the world. And yet, everyone wants to go away. Not everyone will, not everyone can afford to, but to put it mildly, those who do certainly adds up to more than the fingers and toes I have. Some for personal reasons, but most for more selfish reasons, like making money.

Why does this unsettle me? First of all...well, I don't like my friends leaving. I especially don't like them leaving 'for the sake of leaving'. There's no real point to it, and I'd be losing a good comrade along the way.

Second of all...Malaysia is not a bad country at all. It is a flawed one, deeply at that, and at times, there are plenty of idiots who do a lot of damage. Unfortunately, these are the same people who decide on the order of things, and while not everyone is a bad apple, for the most part I feel frustrated and disappointed at the order of things. At the narrow-mindedness, prejuidice, backwardness, and hypocrisy.

And yet, on the same level, they deserve their place to be there. Why? Because they want to be there. They may want the power and prestige that comes with it, but nevertheless, that is the goal, objective, the main coup de grace. There are so many other people around who can make such a difference, who can make a big impact...but these are also the same people who dreams and wishes to run off to another country (Australia, being the closest 'white' country, is often the weapon of choice for many).

Perhaps what we need, then is a change in mentality. If you don't like something, perhaps the first thing to think of would be, "What can I do to bring about change?" Instead of just relying on others to bring about change, perhaps the time has come for a lot of people to ask themselves, "What can they do to affect change?" And if they're honest enough with themselves, they will invariably find that there are a lot of things that they can do, a lot of areas that they can focus on, to bring about positive change.

And there are people willing to bring about change, to look at things in a positive way. A lot of my friends are involved in doing charity works as well (one even helped to build a bridge in Bosnia, apparently). Fine and noble efforts...but our backyard remains unattended to.

That is what I intend to do, next year, once I have completed all of my current commitments. I intend to come back, and bring about positive change. Small, big...doesn't matter.

Otherwise, the same, vicious cycle will just go on and on. Otherwise, if people don't look at the bigger picture and leave the country "because Singapore's money is stronger," then this country might as well just roll over and die right now.

*Read Diaspora I.
*Read Diaspora II.

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