A while ago, I wrote a post called Entitlement, about ‘survival apathy’.
As a child born just four years after the 1969 Sino-Malay riots, I was raised, as many other Chinese children were in the predominantly Chinese town of Ipoh, with more or less the same survival plan: Study hard, save money, turn a blind eye to all the injustices that were happening, mind our ‘own business’ (whatever that was) and bide our time. For what?
For the first chance to pack our bags and leave.
I’m sad to say that it took me over 30 years to realise the full impact of such an upbringing. Because when you come into this world with the mindset that you’re going to leave anyway, chances are you won’t really give a damn about what happens in between. I won’t go into the religious undertone of what I’ve just said but I will make this assertion: someone who believes in reincarnation is more likely to treat the planet and people more respectfully because s/he doesn’t want to come back to a wasted land full of assholes.
As I look at my own kids, Malaysians who are growing up more American by the day, I am filled with a kind of guilt that is hard to shake off. On one hand, I know that they will grow up in a ‘fairer’ society with relatively more equal opportunities. On another, they will never have the chance to decide for themselves if they want to stay and fight, or fly.
Should we as parents be blamed for planning ahead, for believing that nothing can change in our lifetimes or theirs?
Should we have stayed and in turn, teach our children that some things, no matter how risky, are worth fighting for?
Am I to be blamed for leaving when I was raised, virtually packed and ready to go at the first sign of trouble?
After all, my grandparents left China for the then-Malaya for a better life.
Are most of us born with the flight gene in the end?
If I were single, child-less, would I still leave? Or would I have been out there, in my yellow Bersih t-shirt, shouting my voice hoarse for free and fair elections, throwing my mom into a fit over how irresponsible I am being to my unborn children?
“Perhaps we will care when we’re citizens of a country worth fighting for,” says Lokes, as we drive leisurely through an upmarket residential area in Redmond, with houses crossing easily the RM2mil mark, sipping our eggnog lattes.
“We are,” I answer quietly.
Tell me, Malaysian parents still in Malaysia – how are you raising your children?
Are you breeding fighters or flighters? What happens when we run out of places to which we can run?