Monday, October 23, 2006

"You Left, We Stayed"

Heh heh. I thought this "insight" by Patricia John in the Sunday Star was particularly amusing. And it just about sums up my personal thoughts on staying back in Malaysia instead of migrating overseas. Well, besides the fact that I'd like to make a difference in this country at some point in time.

We have read many letters such as the "very frightened Malaysian" complaining about the discriminating environment as well as the many brain drain cases which find their talents better appreciated overseas. Of course, there are plenty more, as shown in the commentary sections of this blog, who will seek and advocate migration overseas at all costs.

So Patricia wrote on her cousin who has migrated but kept sending her Malaysian "bad news" as if she's an absolute sucker for staying back.
So, from this great and privileged place where they are, they send us stuff of how bad things are in this land where WE choose to live.

My question is this: Are you saying that your Howard is so great? Is he clean and just and honest? Is he intelligent and far-sighted and doing everything right for Australia? Or perhaps your ideal is George W. Bush or Tony Blair? Words fail me when I try to go there!
Her point wasn't so much to criticise the other countries as to make a point that different people are likely to make different choices, and there's probably no right or wrong to it.
I respect the choices people make. I respect their need to leave this land and go find their fortunes elsewhere. It's in our genes anyway - we're the offspring of peoplewho left China and India and came here. I'll understand when my children say they want to work in Canada and Europe and the United States. I understand the need to go seek new things and learn how the rest of the world lives.

But I also understand that paradise is where you make it. Running to another land is not where its going to be. It is here: with the man you love, your daughter, your son, your dogs; with your mum and your wonderful sisters; with your lovely home and garden and with your friends.

If you know who you are and what you want, then you will be happy. There's no need to fly away. Listen with your heart and you will find it's been here all along, and you never knew. I've always known. Always. And life is good.
I'll just add that life is indeed good, but that doesn't mean that it can't be better. We'll just have to do our little parts to help make the "little paradise" of our own, wherever that may be, a better place for you and me, and our future generations to live in. :)

19 comments:

Kian Ming said...

The grass always 'looks' greener on the other side. Having lived in Singapore, the UK and now the US, and having my in-laws in Australia, I've seen the good and bad of all these countries. But in the end, my wife and I still call Malaysia home and that's the place we'll come back to.

Anonymous said...

Hujan emas di negeri orang,
Hujan batu di negeri sendiri,
Baik lagi di negri sendiri
Bless us MALAYSIANS

chenchow said...

I agree with Patricia on this issue, where I think that eventually it is our homeland that needs us to come back and nurture and improve.

I have lived in Singapore and US for some time while I was studying, and I still chose to come back to Malaysia to do as much as I could to contribute whether directly or indirectly.

If we ourselves, fellow Malaysian citizen do not bother to come back and contribute, who would? If we compare against China, they had such outflow of talents too during 1980s, 1990s, but it is now massive inflow of talents. Would we be able to foresee such a day for Malaysia?

While not everything here is ideal, I would say that there are tons of opportunities for each of us to contribute. Tony and Kian Ming setting up this blog is an indirect way of contributing to Malaysia. Any idea that we have shared and posted, could be useful for implementation by our country. And even if it is not implemented, some practical suggestions could be utilized by some of the readers of this blog, and this could be beneficial to them. Even if it only benefits one Malaysian, it is a positive net gain!

I would strongly urge every reader of this blog to do something that is beneficial to the community. I really mean anything. It could be helping out at charitable organizations, donating to some fund in your primary school/high school/university/college etc, helping out at mosque/temple/church or donating for its cause etc. All these would go a long way to make our country better~!

Anonymous said...

I am currently studying in the land of Oz. It surprises me every time someone asks if I am staying on to work. It never crossed my mind. The reason those living in the Land of Oz have such a skewed opinion of countries like Malaysia is because that's all they get to read in the Age. Freedom of speech as practiced by the Age is about spreading condescending half truths about other Asian countries. It is therefore not surprising to me that many "new" aussies feel that they have to "educate" their relatives back home. After all, that's what they get to read everyday. That's why there are so many "deputy sheriffs" here.

iamyuanwu said...

I read that article too. And I agree with Patricia. I love my country to bits. The government may be corrupt, development may be a few steps behind other countries, politicians may talks-first-think-later, starting pay for graduates may be low (it's pretty important issue for me as a young grad =p)... But it's the people and culture that I love.
I might consider moving to another country for work. But here is still where home is.

DKR said...

Personally, having studied in the UK and now started working in the UK, It would take a lot of improvements to be made for me to return home. Being a self sponsored student having failed to get any government sponsorship or a place in a local uni to pursue the course i wished to pursue, and seeing many other less qualified people being given better opportunities than me, I would have grave concerns for bringing up my children in a country that gives only lip service for striving to be the best. Time and time again, I have seen first hand hard working, senior ranking government officials with vision and great ideals turned down from achieving greatness for the nation due to racial or political reasons. I will never be inclined to criticise the people who remain in malaysia for not leaving, as that is they're choice and i'm sure everyone has his own motives for leaving or staying, but having seen the flipside of the coin, there are many places where ideals and meritrocacy aren't just catch phrases that are branded about by politicians and used as bait for upcoming elections. Don't get me wrong, I love the country and I love the people and the multiculturalism, but I think we're taking strides in the wrong direction and things have to change quickly and soon.

Anonymous said...

In short, do whatever we want but keep our Malaysian citizenship....

Tiara said...

Thorny issue for me. Despite having been in Malaysia pretty much all my life (except for now, being in Australia for the past few months), I have not been granted citizenship and I don't know if I'll ever see it. I've contributed lots but I don't know if it's been meaningful, or even if I can contribute more (with my PR in the way). My country of citizenship is to a place I've only ever been at for holidays. Australia seems great at the moment, but knowing me I'll probably never sit still anywhere. I'm too much of a nomad to settle.

What if you're someone who doesn't find her roots anywhere?

Anonymous said...

Although I have many friends and relatives who talk/write to me, most don't sent me anything about Malaysia. I find it strange that her cousin overseas does this.

I think I understand though. Many many years ago, my know-it-all then-immatured brother used to do it. At the time, he was just starting out and in a strange land that he did not quite fit in. What changed to him was finding someone to share his life with and then he does not even care to correspond much anymore.

There is this strange phenomenon about Asians and Malaysians in particular that somehow confuses the idea of maintaining familial relationship but at the same time wanting to make that relationship to be EXACTLY what they want. The idea of first deciding WHO they want relationship first is often perverted by the convention of WHO THEY ARE SUPPOSED to built relationships with. The idea that our blood-relations are dysfuntional is something we live in denial more often than we dare to admit. After all we deny our dysfunctional relationship with our political leaders, our government, our police, our fellow-Malaysians and even today our schools and teachers. We are politically correct in more than just public politics but also many more areas.

I used to feel guilty when people asking me information and help to migrate particularly my poorer relatives. Those were the days without internet, travel was expensive and people had limited education. Its hard to tell people its not easy and the choices are not simple, and its harder to give advise when they are are too eager or desperate.

Migration is not just about economics or even just politics, its about an entire life choice i.e., about what you want to be part of ultimately. Although my believe is that most non-bumiputeras are much better off migrating overseas since they are essentially robbed of what it means to be Malaysian for them, its still not an easy choice for many.

little bird said...

The world is getting smaller and flatter in terms of travel and communication. Family members who are living in different parts of the world can talk and see each other everyday through the Internet, webcam, Skype, and what have you at affordable prices. They can also visit each other, especially if there are budget airlines flying between the cities.

To stay or migrate is a personal choice. There is no right or wrong. Many working adults, who have a reasonable income, may choose to remain in Malaysia, because of their relatives and the lifestyle here and things are still relatively cheap here (house, rental, maid, etc).

However, once they, particularly the nonbumiputras, are married and have children, some of them may migrate because of their children. It is a question of whether what you want for your children and do you envisage bringing up your children in an environment that does not provide equal opportunities to all children. Depending on their ethnic group, children in this country have vastly different opportunities.

If you are a young nonbumiputra couple having a good income and prepared to pay a large chunk of your savings to support youselves and your children (remember every child you have is a huge economic burden from birth till maybe completion of a university degree), then stay on. Be happy.

However, if you and your spouse are willing to take a risk to move to another country where your children may have better educational opportunites based on true meritocracy, then move on. Of course, moving to and settling down in another country is not simple and easy. There may be discrimination, higher taxes to pay, a different lifestyle (like having to do house work yourself, rather than having the luxury of a lowly-paid maid to do your house chores), etc.

Many couples with children have moved away from Malaysia. The adults, having been raised here, often keep their Malaysian passports and regularly come back to Malaysia to visit their family members and friends and to feast on local foods.

When they are back here, they become little birds: "chip, chip, chip" - because they carry with them their foreign currency which is stronger than our RM.

So, who are we to pass judgement on those who wish to migrate or not to migrate?

chenchow said...

ianyuanwu, regarding the starting pay in Malaysia is low, I would say that it is a relative case, when we compare with other countries. While our purchasing power would be lower corresponding to other countries, I would say that it is a catch 22 situation.

It is our productivity that matters. If our salary is increased, then could our local company affords it? Would Malaysia loses its competitive advantage? May be Tony or others who are employing could comment on this.

Some of the aspects that benefit new graduates in Malaysia could go unnoticed. Our salary is lowly taxed, especially for those low income earners. For instance, a fresh graduate earning about RM2,500 or below would not even need to pay a cent of income tax. Whereas a comparative USD5,000 fresh grad in US would be taxed by about 30%. Similar tax structure happens in UK, Australia etc.

While it is not apple to apple comparison, and even post-tax, our income is less, I think what we should focus on would be on productivity increase. If we can do so, and build greater income or earning for our companies/governments, corresponding income increase could be forthcoming, although it might not be immediate impact or even transparent.

Just my two cents from another young graduates.

Anonymous said...

chacun à son goût i say. don't diss people just because they want to live there. Likewise, don't diss people who decide to stay. Each intention is as noble as the other. Just learn to respect another's intention. That way, we can progress no?

Anonymous said...

those who have lived in other countries but say malaysia is still the best, haha, admit it, you are namby pamby pussies who just can't make it there. come back home where you can bribe your way out of a speeding fine, have cheap labour to do your housework and more cheap labour to make you pulled tea at 3 in the morning and fellow losers to whine about your sucky boss, inlaws, government and everything else (and when you are home, so many blogs these days for you to leave whiny comments)

Anonymous said...

Someone sent me a copy of Patricia's article this morning and now I know where it was taken from. Anyway, I responded to my friend the issues raised by Patricia and would like to repeat it here verbatim:

""Interesting article, and her views are not wrong. Those were exactly my views up to 15 years ago. In fact, my views then were even more radical, as I used to call emigrants (like myself, now) "traitors".

Unlike me, though, she failed to see the other side of the coin - the views of people like me, as I held them now.

It is true that the grass is NOT necessarily greener on the other side. But, metaphorically, there is much more grass and different types of grasses in NZ. It may not be greener, but it is, very surely, cleaner (in every sense of the word). For your info and to assist in your evaluation of your own choices, I would like to present my views alongside the issues she raised.

Firstly, I do not tell people that it is all bad in Malaysia and all good over there. People who say that lived their lives over there with blinkers on. There are always your good and your bad.

As she said, and I agreed, "paradise is where you make it".

It therefore should not matter if anyone decides to walk away from their airconditioned semi-dees or their volvos and drivers. If you do not feel that you are in paradise, then no amount of those possessions will make any difference. We have a 9-year old car in NZ, but it still felt like paradise. Not so, however, when we were driving in KL in our new Nissan Serena, nor in my volvo 240.

On saving money in Malaysia and taking it elsewhere, she is again not wrong in her comments (although it was based on the assumptions that all our moneys were made in Malaysia, which is certainly not in my case). That, however, is looking at things retrospectively and not prospectively. Rightly or wrongly, I felt I could have done much more with better opportunities if I had started my career in a foreign country, and it is for that reason alone, if for no other reason, that I thought I should allow my children to start "right". For better or worse in the long term, we will never know, as that is dependant on so very many factors, but I will be damned if I believed that opportunities are better for them elsewhere but yet refuse to trade in my "semi-dees and volvos" for those opportunites for them. On potential earnings and costs of assets (including volvos) and living expenses between Malaysia and elsewhere, I leave it to you to make your own calculations.

All those things she said about beaches, etc, in Malaysia, can also be found over there and, I can assure you, in safer, cleaner, and more accessible environment. And more beautiful and unspoilt. Unless you have stayed at both places (and not just as a tourist), you will never know what I am saying.

To assert that people who said those things are anti-Malaysian is too sweeping and emotional a statement. To be "anti-Malaysia" is to want to make Malaysia suffer. Why would I (and almost all in my situation, I dare say) want to do that? As she said, we still have our close relatives and friends back home in Malaysia. To want to be "anti-Malaysia" would be like wanting to cut your nose just to spite your face.

On her comment about feeling "normal" here, she appears to have forgotten her own observation that paradise is where you find it. I also feel normal here in Malaysia. But I feel normal, too, in NZ, Australia, Singapore and, I believe, anywhere else I go to. Having said that, I do NOT feel safer in Malaysia compared to being in Australia or in NZ. Unlike her, I am not able to ignore the escalating crime wave in Malaysia, even if we are only going by the government's statistics.

Her argument on the language issue perhaps betrays her blinkered view of the world. French and German are international languages. Bahasa is not. Even the French and Germans who does international trade ensures that they are efficient in the English language, unlike us blindly patriotic Malaysians. Does she know that schools in the Netherlands teaches at least 3 languages, including English? As for Germany, they are so advance in science and technology and the arts to be able to survive even if they chose to be cloistered in their own language. Are we? We have people going to France and Germany to study the sciences and the arts. These people studied there in the French and the German language, respectively. I do not know of any foreign students coming to Malaysian to study in Bahasa, does she? Even those who come to our International Islamic University studied in the English language. Does she not know that the official medium of instruction in IIU is English? By her argument, we must chose to be left behind and progress at our own pace if we love for our country, never mind the speed of change going around in the rest of the world.

Is she also arguing that Somalis need only know the Somali language just because they are in Somalia? How irrationally emotive do you want to be?

The fact that I think there are better opportunities for my kids elsewhere does not mean, by any stretch of imagination, that I do not love Malaysia. For the same reasons that that writer's ancestors chose to come to Malaysia from China, India and Sri Lanka, I chose that my children should go to NZ. Does that meant that her ancestors do not love China, India or Sri Lanka? Listening to my own grandfathers, I do not think so.

In closing, I am assuming that she concluded that "life is good" after having spoken to victims of snatch thieves, rapists and murderers, and to heart-broken parents whose brilliant kids are deprived of a decent affordable local university education. Whether that assumption is correct, I am confident enough to say that she has also assumed that her relatives who left did not know what is good for them, unlike her.""

To each his own, provided there is no bad faith in the thoughts and deeds. Note: I tried to post this ealier but it did not appeared to have gotten tru. If it did, pardon the repetition.

Anonymous said...

Some of you have mentioned about making decisions for the sake of your children. Well actually I am one of those 'children' who have made my choice based on my experiences in Malaysia. At school I was definitely a true multicultural Malaysian, being a Chinese but having a Malay as my best friend and an Indian as my next best friend.

Life was ok until I went in search for the next passage in my life. Working hard to give myself a better opportunity in higher education I was extremely disappointed for being dumped by local organisations for no concrete reason except for my ethnicity (and/or possibly my religion). My potential was instead recognised by foreign countries and thenceforth the seeds of doubt had been sown.

Fast forward half my life and I must say that I am still sometimes surprised by how fairly others have treated me despite me being a 'foreigner' in another land. No one or no where is perfect, but I no longer have to be sorry for having a different hair colour or religion.

So Patricia, you feel normal because people around you look 'just like you'. I understand your perception since I myself had gone through years of submission since my name is a giveaway in Malaysia. But it is possible in some places to feel absolutely normal even if you are a thorn amongst roses or vice versa. I wish your children every success.

Dennis said...

It is good to see and hear a stout defence of why people choose to remain in Malaysia to live and work.

Migration (like outsourcing) is a feature of an increasingly globalised world. Without migrant workers, ASEAN would suffer – the more advanced countries because of the lack of cheap labour for the unskilled jobs and the less advanced, the foreign exchange brought home by their “brawn” drain.

Even if Malaysia didn’t have the sort of systemic inequalities that currently exist, Malaysians will still choose to live and work abroad but maybe in less staggering numbers. They do so for all sorts of reasons. Some have been mentioned in other comments in this blog. Not many know that the Son-in-Law had wanted to work with the Economist in London. If only that newspaper had hired him full time….. (They only offered him a free lance role to cover SEA). Now, he is definitely not running away because of inequalities – his meteoric rise incontrovertibly demonstrates otherwise.

The point, I think, is not whether it is right for people choose to stay or go. It is rather than some have chosen to leave because, by a simple comparison, they can secure their and their children’s future better by going to work in another country. Others, like Professor Jomo and Dr Lim, are not appreciated here. In the sort of work they do, it is not simply a question of doing job B instead of job A. Meaningful choices for them are limited within Malaysia but if they allow themselves to look further afield, the world is truly their oyster. In these 2 examples, the government and the main players in the economy have the ability to remedy the situation or by inaction, exacerbate it.

I take the point that we all have a role to play too. In our little spheres of influence, we can each choose to light a candle and encourage others to join in so that the darkened room we inhabit becomes brighter or we can by our inaction, continue to wallow in absolute darkness. However, those who have taken their leave deserve sympathy; they have had to go live in an unfamiliar place and leave behind their family, friends and support network. And mind you, there is no guarantee of success (of course we haven’t heard much from these guys because nobody likes to brag about their failures abroad). But those who succeed are usually good ambassadors for the country (isn’t it obvious that their success is the best form of advertisement for the country?) even if they are minded to bombard their relatives with critical articles from abroad. And I would like to think that they do, like our Burmese waiters, Nepalese security guards, Indonesian construction workers and maids and Bangladeshi factory workers, enrich their home country with foreign exchange.

We shouldn’t be so smug as to run down other countries. Each country has its own problems. I think Bush, Blair and Howard have gotten themselves into a lot of stick because of their Iraq policy but mind you, they get stick from their papers and broadcasters as well. Does Pak Lah for his faults from our own media? Even Thaksin did. We still have a long way to go.

Anonymous said...

The trouble with most Malaysians who emigrate is in the end they will find out that " London's streets is not paved with gold" Sooner or later you will realize that Malaysia is the contry that you longed to be. In the end you will find out that after travelling far and wide, the best country will still be this land of your birth. Trust me

Tiara said...

Oct 31 anon: what if their country of birth doesn't even want them as one of their own?

Anonymous said...

i don't know about studying overseas or living overseas as i come from a less than avarage income earning family. i was lucky enough to obtain a placement at the local varsity even if i am a non-bumi. thoughts of migrating has come about but only due to the numerous 'insistent' prodding and poking from friends who have migrated. yes i have quite a few friends who are married to foreigners and have thus moved away. they, oddly enough highlight the nasties about malaysia and ask me why i 'take all this shit' and continue living here. Yes, i agree there are many things here in Malaysia that are not very fair and violates humans rights. I hope and pray it will change but by the looks of it, only another bloodshed will bring about a change. The new generation is not afraid of this. I can see it in them as i work with them on a daily basis. Hopefully it will not lead to that. Every country has its own set of problems. So does Malaysia. If migration is right for you, it may not be right for another. Personally, i believe all malaysians wish to return if certain big issues are corrected. And we all know what those are. :-)