Of Joblessness and Poverty, Riddled with Concerns
Hot, humid, that leaves me sticky to touch, and wet from the trailing sweat down my neck. Met a friend at a lonely jetty, about 11km from Sungai Pelek in the state of Selangor.
Still the same stories, shared by people, of revealing rural hardship and the fuckery of Malaysia's so-called development for the poor. Yes some things have changed, for the worse, like the high cost of living, forcing those who depend on the fruits of their labour to make more sacrifices. Malaysia, outwardly at least, appear to be a successful 'developed' nation in southeast Asia, yet far from the truth, as rural folks struggle with the farms, livestock and their small plot of agricultural land.
Fishermen face similar challenges. Rural poverty affects their spouse, parents, siblings and children. Education, or the lack of quality in the national curriculum, doesn't guarantee stability of jobs, as one young woman in her late-20s mentioned to me, "I have a local degree in communication, and I've been jobless for the past 2 years." After being retreched, she helps her father tend to the boat that he uses every day, however the sea seems to provide little bounty these days.
"I feel dead, Abang Zash." she said, as she collects the nets from her father's boat. "I don't earn much, whatever we get from the sale of fishes to the middleman, or sometimes directly to the wet market."
"Have you tried applying for jobs outside of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur?" I asked. I've asked questions similar to this, often, and the answers are usually the same. "What about out of Malaysia?"
"Yaah lah, I've done that, and still doing it. But jobs are limited, you know." she said, pausing to wipe the sweat from her forehead. "Not that you don't know kan, but only those with the 'cable' (special connection, or crony links) can get jobs, and better salary. What do I have? I worry, as Abah (father) is old."
Aye, the situation of the elders, when their children leave their parents to work, and them forced to fend for themselves, some feeling abandoned by their offspring, almost isolated in the distant villages. Government, whether state or federal, have failed to create a sustainable welfare program for the rural elders, and society seems more interested to visit their parents on traditional holidays or when they need something.
"How does your father feel about you applying for jobs out of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur?" I asked, as I helped her remove a plastic bucket partly filled with fishes, from the boat.
"Abah wants me to be financially independent. He says he doesn't mind me working outstation. You know him kan, Abang Zash, he just wants me to be happy." she replied. "But I feel anxious and I hope I get a job soon. Abah could then have more rest and not work everyday."
Hours later, I find myself sitting here, at a quiet spot, facing the simple garden and thinking of the days when the weather was kind, devoid of this stench and haze, and the times when life was simpler.
Malaysia, it hasn't been what some or many had expected. While urban folks run mindlessly around in their fancy city, seeking extreme fame and fortune, little thought is given to those who struggle against the loss, this oblivion of feeling ostracised, and those who feel forgotten.