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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Malay Ideals: lndolence Perpetuated (On Malays Being Lazy)

[In contrast to the Chinese and Indians] The Malays on the other hand when forced to work for the benefit of the colonialists made a silent protest by doing as little as possible and resisted following instructions. This perpetuated the notion of the lazy native or the stupid. native. The English constantly foisted the idea that they were the most excellent and honourable while the natives were the worst kind of people. Over decades, the Malays began to believe in this propaganda and thought themselves of being incapable of doing even the easiest job on the face of this earth...

Indolence Perpetuated

The Malays were unfortunately well known for their indolence and laziness, unjustifiably so. This is primarily thought to have stemmed out from centuries of evolution. The Malays are from the Polynesian group of people who used to be nomads wondering over great distances in search of better living conditions when their group had grown larger. The Polynesians stretched over thousands of kilometres from Sumatra to the New Guinea and even as far as the South Pacific and Hawaii. Because the conditions of the land and the seas as well as the forests were so rich in the abundance at food. supply and resources, there was little need for innovation, exertion and hard persistent work. An hour’s toil would produce food for a week, it is said, and meanwhile, to fill their time, they would indulge in excessive entertainment and relaxation. This conduct is passed from one generation to another by way of culture and passive learning through observation and experience. In addition, the climate was swelteringly hot and humid which sapped their energies and strained the most industrious of the Malays, in which persistent hard work would be impossible, it is argued.

We however believe that this is a problem of values and observation. The Natives from all over the world, from the Aborigines of Australia, to the Eskimos of the Arctic; the Amazonians of South America to American Indians of North America; the Natives of Central America to the Natives of Africa, if anyone observes these peoples, who are hardly touched by industrialisation or the hectic metropolitan life, he will have perceived that they are somewhat "indolent" by Western standards. Western standards dictate that a person has to be seen of hoarding massive amounts of wealth in order to be classed as successful. Who works day and night to accumulate a mountain of money. Who has to stampede one another in the rush for more gold and glory. Who has to compete every single day to maintain his “successes” and to thwart any affronting competition. Always on the look out for fear that someone might shove him off his pedestal of achievement and take over his temporary kingship. This is the standard of success and industriousness of the West where greed has taken toll of their lives. Where wanting is not enough but wanting more and more is good.

With the Natives however, the above precepts are not yardsticks of success because materialism has not taken sway of their lives. They have not been touched by the so-called ”civilisation”. There has not been a population boom in their communities that necessitate a struggle for existence. They work with nature and relied upon it to replenish their sources of food. They do not destroy their environment. They allow nature to resuscitate itself. They take time in hunting and fishing. They take time in planting for their daily meal. Food is plenty for everyone if they do not try to plunder it. They seek self-sufficiency. There is no competition where one tramples upon another. There is humility and courteousness in the lives of natives. They are not puffed up with pride unlike the Westerners who think that they are the most knowledgeable and the noblest of mankind. The search for personal wealth seldom occurs with the natives "untouched" by civilisation. They do not compete, but they cooperate. They cooperate with people. They cooperate with nature. There are no losers. There are only winners. They do not horde gold but they share whatever little profit there is to share. They assist one another and mutually benefit one another in their own community. To the Westerners, this is laziness and indolence. To the Natives, the Westerners are just greedy, a classic difference of values.

Even so, a casual observer may note that when a Malay declines to undertake upon a task, whether it be a work or other ventures, when questioned, the Malay would usually give the reason that he or she is just "malas” (lazy). With the Malay person, there is a tendency to use the word universally for any excuse. The reason for not venturing with the task at hand is of course not laziness. However, the word is summoned at every occasion as an excuse. This is because the questioner would not ask any further upon hearing that answer. It is more of a reflex answer and a habitual response than a thoughtful and reasoned explanation of unwillingness to perform a particular act. The Malay person rarely ever gets lambasted for the frequent mentioning of the word. The use of the word is never censured in the Malay community either. Other communities only use the word ”lazy" as a last resort to justify their unwillingness to work. They would employ more reasoned explanations, such as "tiredness", “being unwell", "not in the mood" or "busy” and others. Understandably, the Malays frequent use of the word gives the impression to outsiders that the Malays are indeed a lazy people.

Nevertheless, there is an inherent danger of misusing the word "lazy". When the word "lazy" is summoned almost all of the time, the Malay society unconsciously and inherently tolerates laziness. This is achieved through constant, daily and widespread use of the word within the community. When other communities see indolence as a trait to be despised, the Malays unknowingly see it as acceptable. "Laziness" and its acceptability in the Malay community is promulgated through its constant reference by Malays themselves. This helps to spread the attribute in the Malay individual indirectly. Passiveness in selecting the proper word to explain the proper reason for inactivity is mirrored in the easy attitude that they take when working, which is a reflection of a mentality which prefers to take things easy, avoid hardships, which conjures up the picture of a people lacking in commitment. This could have resulted from the Malays' acceptance of laziness in their culture and attitude and the fact that this character (laziness) is something not to be feared but inadvertently embraced

--- The Malay Ideals / Asrul Zamani

Among other things, the author is saying that as per the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Malays have become lazy
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