Monday, June 25, 2012

Memories of a hellish existence in a realm devoid of compassion

People walking by, dazed, uncaring and fatigue from their tedious work, with a tendency to forget their surroundings. At a grand pace they move towards their refined realm of existence; their tired limbs stretching, trying to unwind, fingers twitching nervously. The grace of movement, slowly as they work themselves towards an imaginary sunset, towards a better future. Anxious faces, some biting their lower lips in anticipation of an upcoming brilliant display of the sun over the horizon, and some exhausted from the waiting. The exhilaration. People and their puppy-faces, not really understanding the rationale of working beyond what is expected of them. Such bewilderment is expected, I guess a bizarre societal norm, and the eagerness of happiness after a challenging day at work. Such are the demands of a world that seems to nurture monetary rituals and that drives the need of society, to be successful, to own a home in the suburbs, and to have yearly holidays to far-flung countries.  

The Rat Race, the thick sludge of the corporate industry. What they feel as a necessity to win the extra buck on overtime, or merely to render that additional mark on their year-end performance appraisal for that highly anticipated but meager yearly bonus. Such cycle, stimulated by the machinery of Malaysian society, has seen excited fists shaking at the sky, loud voices expressing joy or a satisfied smirk that leads people to embrace their position in the corporation with a flourishing bow. What many do not recall is that I remember them, these complacent folks working amidst capitalism, that strives for perfection in an imperfect world. Their presence, their contribution to their ideals of wealth, and their apathy that shapes the world that we live in ~ molding the core values of society and running them aground with relish.

I am a social worker, understandably an unpopular profession that lacks the glamour of the Rat Race, a relief aid worker, and a person who is inclined to make more noise than usual; I do specialize in rattling of the emotional cage. A mere human who has seen his fair share of the rot within the vast legacy of civilization. This legacy breeds complacency, redundancy and the prejudices against the vulnerable. You shake your head? Oh yes, obviously an expected reaction, which I have seen uncountable times before, and demoralizing to some but nevertheless a common reaction. Seems every decade or so, we experience or hear the increase of “societal ills” or what I would call the remnant of an epidemic that has gone horribly wrong. No, not an exaggeration – Never.

A homeless woman living under a bridge, a street kid wandering the back lanes alone, drug users running in terror from the constant institutionalized raids, and the sense of urgency among rural, poor young people eager to migrate to cities in search of employment. I meet more and more people living with HIV and other diseases, burdening the storm of stigma, single mothers struggling with two jobs to make ends meet and the indigenous Orang Asal trying to stem the aggressive encroachment of “civilization.”

The list continues. And an endless credit to what we Malaysians take for granted, at times we join in the revelry of oppressive behaviors ~ justified in society’s eyes, or simply an absence of emotion. There is no sunshine, there is no warmth to bask, nor is there a sea of wealth and privilege for the rural and urban poor. Equality is a rotting organic substance discarded by those seeking an existence of numbness and devoid of empathy. Ah yes, you now stop shaking your head. I know.

These experiences are like a journal of self discovery, a sharing of experiences, short stories of those who have struggled through life, swirling in the cesspool of poverty, hardship and misery. My memories serve no greater cause than my own reflection of my soul. At night, when I am alone, my memories creep forth from the void, escaping from the vaults of my heart, always teasingly wrapping their tentacles over my mind. On these nights, when I am embraced by the darkness of my memories, devoid of the sunlight that many seek, I see them. I hear them. Addictive agony. I remember. 

to be continued....

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