Opinion

When the enemy is your friend

Erna Mahyuni

Native Sabahan Erna is (not) Malay but loves Malay literature. Her hobbies: cats/gaming/blogging at ernamerin.com/Tweeting at @ernamh.

JAN 25 — The problem with corruption is that for some, it isn’t a problem. It’s their key to riches and comfort, which is why destroying the current status quo would mean destroying their lifeline.

It isn’t just politicians who thrive on the broken system that relies on corruption to grease wheels and palms. It’s the people we know. The friend with a father who works in construction. That acquaintance with family on the board of directors of half the country’s GLCs.

These are the hardest people to convince that the country can’t go on the way it does. The problem with being rich is that it insulates you from the suffering of the have-nots. The longer you wallow in money, the more you start to believe that you’re entitled to it. That you earned it, you deserve it (for being clever, oh so clever) and the people who are hungry and homeless... well, they didn’t try hard enough, that’s all.

The solution isn’t getting rid of them. You can’t, after all. They’re everywhere. They’re in your schools. Your workplaces. Your neighbours. And yes, even your friends.

We are surrounded by people who think it’s perfectly all right to give a damn only about their loved ones’ comfort.

It’s the same old excuse: “Cari makan.”

There is no point trying to explain to them that it doesn’t make sense that a chosen few monopolise the country’s wealth while some don’t even get a share.

They blame fate. They blame the poor.

“The poor just don’t work hard enough.”

That’s the biggest lie they tell themselves.

Is paying “sweetener money” working hard? Or earning “passive income” by sitting on a board, contributing nothing besides the race on your IC? Bidding for contracts you’re not qualified for and then “selling” them off for a quick profit? Is that “hard work”?

If it is hard work, then it’s very specialised hard work as a man on a rubber estate earning less than RM800 a month won’t be able to share a whiskey on the rocks with a useful contact. Or have a relative in high places who can give you an “in” or a meeting with an official.

Transparency? You can’t have transparency when your road to a comfortable condo, luxury car and overseas education for your kids requires secrets, lies and a favour promised or given.

The system is broken. That doesn’t mean we give up working to fix it. You just have to accept that not everyone wants to and some are probably hitting it with a wrench, whenever you’re not looking.

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

 

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