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Tuesday, 5 January 2010

2010: A Remedy For Laziness

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the new year and the grand new decade. This is the year, which witnesses the birth of our new hopes, which are in reality much the same as our old hopes. We hope that life will be kind to us, so that we may in turn be kind to others. We hope that God shall have mercy, and bless us while He rebukes our enemies. We hope that our young ones will grow to be strong, and brave, and that we will be proud of them.

As a Malaysian, it is normal for me to recall Dr. Mahathir's Vision 2020, which he established at the peak of his career as a roadmap for bringing Malaysia into the 21st century as a developed nation.  Dr Mahathir's Vision 2020 can be found here, where it is detailed that he had identified nine (9) challenges for Malaysia.

Mahathir outlined nine strategic challenges that Malaysia must overcome to achieve Vision 2020.
  • Challenge 1: Establishing a united Malaysian nation made up of one Bangsa Malaysia (Malaysian Race).
  • Challenge 2: Creating a psychologically liberated, secure and developed Malaysian society.
  • Challenge 3: Fostering and developing a mature democratic society.
  • Challenge 4: Establishing a fully moral and ethical society.
  • Challenge 5: Establishing a matured liberal and tolerant society.
  • Challenge 6: Establishing a scientific and progressive society.
  • Challenge 7: Establishing a fully caring society.
  • Challenge 8: Ensuring an economically just society, in which there is a fair and equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation.
  • Challenge 9: Establishing a prosperous society with an economy that is fully competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient.

Of these nine challenges, it may be seen that many of the challenges identified deal with people: their characteristics, their mindset, their learning. The Right Attitude is always a boost in trying to achieve lofty goals! Being matured, liberal, and tolerant, is one way where we can break out of our established patterns. Too often, in the name of upholding tradition, the elderly amongst us have caused paralysis to our leaders in their ardour.

For me, the 8th challenge is much more important than the 9th challenge: Even if the country was to be poor, it would be acceptable to all citizens if wealth was distributed equally amongst all. However, our leaders must recognise that the distribution of wealth can take place once, after which society must learn to be hardworking. Otherwise, countless occasions of wealth distribution and redistribution may take place, only to meet with abject failure. This can be seen from the abysmal failure of the welfare state in certain Western countries.

In Oriental society, those who are poor but hardworking deserve to be helped; on the other hand, those who are poor and lazy, expect things to be done for them, and wealth to be given to them -- these people do not deserve to be helped. How do we distinguish between the two? This is why in many stories, a poor man is aided by a benevolent benefactor, giving him the chance to study, and to make a name for himself. Those who try, and succeed, are feted as herous. Those who try, but fail, are sometimes given a second chance. But those who do not try, are doomed to failure, because success is achieved by movement towards a higher goal. Movement from one's initial position to a position of success requires effort, time, frustrations, and sacrifices. Personal pride must bow to the need of the situation.

In my life, I have had the privilege of coming into contact with an elderly gentleman, who gave an opportunity to my father at one point of time. My father has been impressed by his teachings and philosophy in life, as this elderly gentleman was an honest and hardworking individual. He was the eldest of all his siblings, and worked hard to ensure that they were educated. When the youngest of his siblings had graduated, he finally decided to look for a wife: but it wasn't easy, given his age at that point of time. He was in his 40's, and frankly looking for a bride was no easy task. Yet somehow he managed to find a humble girl to marry him and bear for him children. Now in his 70's, he takes care of his grandchildren, while his son and daughter-in-law stay at a nearby housing area, pursuing their life goals.

This elderly gentleman told my dad, that in our line as lawyers, we will need to slog long, hard hours. It is only normal, that the hardworking lawyer would, after some exertion, become exhausted mentally. It would be good to take a break, said the wise old man, and freshen up. He suggested:

  1. Splashing water on the face, i.e. the cheeks and forehead
  2. Wetting and patting the eyes 
  3. Wetting and patting the ears
  4. Wetting and patting the nose
  5. Gargling the mouth
  6. Combing the hair
  7. Taking a short walk
  8. Taking deep breaths
  9. Taking a trip to the washroom.

Those days, my father was one of three partners in a simple, unassuming legal firm. Work was not always readily forthcoming, so my father took on the toughest cases that other firms could not handle: cases that lawyers had given up on; cases that clients thought were hopeless; cases that people thought were sure "goners". Through hard work, and a lot of prayer to the Lord, my father managed to win a few of the impossible cases, including: a murder case, a smuggling case, and a drug trafficking case. Thereafter, his name having hit the limelight, he opted to focus on civil litigation only, turning his back on work from the criminal world. This change took place after a visit from an unexpected visitor, who worked in the underworld. Their offer: Take all our cases, and we will pay you a fixed income every month. The money on offer was good, but the job would be bad for the conscience. Remarkably, he turned his back on the offer and chose to establish his firm in the field of civil litigation.

Today, I am looking for that spark which lives in my father. I must admit, being a good lawyer is not always rewarding: Not financially, because clients like to compare and whittle down legal fees these days; and not spiritually, because we usually end up overworked just to make sure that we bring in the dollars to pay for the overheads. Obviously, with time, things will get better; we just need to work hard enough, and sincerely enough, to put our heart and soul into the work that we do. Apparently, modern day marketing books on marketing intangible services say that we should be excited by what we do, so that our work will shine; and from that, will come more and more work. I've decided to live one day at a time. 

In this new year, I've set my sights upon writing a book. This, if you know me well enough, should come as no surprise at all; the only surprise would be if I suddenly announced that I have already gotten to writing it at all. But today, as much as any other day, I decided that I would dally it no longer: I would do my best to put a few more pages to the work on every weekend, and before you know it -- the book would be ready for editing. Writing, editing, deleting, writing, editing, deleting: this seems to be the normal pattern for any book. A writer would gather up ideas, and find ways to arrange them. Non-fiction, unlike fiction, needs to be coherent, and easy to follow. On the other hand, even difficult-to-follow but "sophisticated" books will be excused and eagerly devoured by readers who wish only to boast that they have read "that great book". A few topics have already been shortlisted; it is now only a matter of time before I come up with the skeleton layout for them all.

I wish everyone would be able to cultivate a mindset of frugality. Just the other day, a thought occurred to me: What is the amount of energy the ordinary man consumes, just by being alive? What is the amount of energy consumed, just by sitting on a sofa? That day, I became aware of the electrical appliances around me: the television, the radio, the air conditioner, the water heater. There were some appliances that clearly would consume electricity even when they were inactive. These appliances, set in "standy mode", were in fact in operation, and consuming precious electricity as they waited to react to a signal, an infrared beam shooting from a remote control, or the flick of a button on a radio. For that reason, it would be possible to achieve some savings in our households if we took the trouble to seek out and to turn off the electrical appliances in our house if we were not using them. 

I leave you with this video, Vampire Energy.