Thursday, May 1, 2008

Labor Day, Laboring Day.

We’re all laboring in our own ways, and in more ways than one.

All over the world, we see the poorest of folks having the most number of children. From the suburbs of Brazil to the plains of the African continent, from the dumpsites of Philipines to the streets of India, from the hills of Ranau to the paddy fields of Kedah, we see....

Labor Day, Laboring Day.

It’s May 1st 2008. The year passes by pretty fast doesn’t it?

Anyway it’s Labor Day, which I assume is a day to celebrate all those who work and labor to make a living. The laboring population is no longer restricted rigidly to labourers – those sweat-bathed, sun-soaked, mud-splattered men (and women) in construction sites all over Malaysia and the world.

We’re all laboring in our own ways, and in more ways than one.

Some are at the very lowest of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the stage of mere survival. If ever a survey is undertaken to estimate the percentage of the Malaysian population still struggling to make ends meet each month, I believe the final results will be nothing less than shocking, if they are not manipulated, twisted and re-manipulated by the authorities. Such a survey will ultimately require a huge, randomized sample population, dedicated and trained manpower and sincere, unbiased statisticians.

Alternatively, one can just got the nearest ATM machine, rummage through the available dustbins, collect the ATM receipts and calculate the average leftover savings of the working Malaysian citizen.

Some of us with so-called stable careers are at Maslow’s stage of security. We might be saving hard for that elusive property to call home or for that non-local car that wouldn’t break down every month. Most of us I think, are working and saving for our future and that of our families. It’s not the ideal state of existence, especially when we read and hear of the extravagant lifestyles of the Hollywood stars drunken with excessive self indulgence. Then again, most of us are objectively better off than a great part of the population – the hungry, barefooted, elderly folks of Paitan, Sabah for example.

Over in Peninsular Malaysia, the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) has been lobbying for a minimum wage for all workers. It’s been a dreadfully long time and goes without saying that the capitalistic Barisan Nasional government has been turning a deaf ear to the MTUC until recently. The shrewd and perhaps opportunistic opposition parties meanwhile have been lending the MTUC their voice on the streets but hitherto, no tangible efforts to make minimum wages a reality for laboring folks.

I am no expert in human resources and economics. Even so, I find the argument for a minimum wage for everyone littered with ifs, ands, and buts.

There is no denial that many workers across a wide range of jobs and fields are struggling to pay their bills and feed their children. With the exponential rise in fuel prices, inflation is bound to get worse. Basic necessities, groceries, foodstuff, and household items will consume a great portion of the average household expenditure. Savings will be scarced for these laboring folks, if at all.

Still, life is always filled with irony and wonders of wonders.

The couple that earns RM 6000 of combined income per month has only two children and one dog. A thousand kilometers away, the couple who commands RM 50 per day harvesting palm oil in the interiors of Pahang is raising a brood of five children plus one on the way in the wife’s uterus. Despite their financial constraints, the labourer husband has his wife go into labor every other year until menopausal age or when the Labor Party is finally recognized in Malaysia, whichever is sooner.

Some communities do not believe in contraception. Some even consider family planning a deadly sin. Copulating for pleasure and not for reproduction equals damnation in the burning brimstones of hell. God does not speak vocally or vehemently very often, but I wonder what God will say when he sees men and women who reproduce without the basic financial ability to raise the child in a world that requires money to survive.

If indeed family planning and contraception is a sin of any degree, then bringing a child into a world indiscriminately without a will to provide for the baby is a sin a thousand times the severity of contraception.

All over the world, we see the poorest of folks having the most number of children. From the suburbs of Brazil to the plains of the African continent, the dumpsites of Philipines to the streets of India, from the hills of Ranau to the paddy fields of Kedah, we see the most religious and uneducated and impoverished folks beating the Syrian hamster in a race to be fruitful and multiply.

It is even more frustrating in Malaysia when these reproductive folks emerge later on demanding their special privileges and rightful crutches supposedly accorded to their apparently deprived children under the Malaysian constitution.

Does poverty bring with it a certain spirit of fecundity?

Perhaps it is the other way around.

Perhaps a body of fertility without a corresponding mind of sensibility invites a life of poverty and destitution.

Some nice and sweet folks ooh and ahh and declare that marriages and children are made in heaven.

True beyond a doubt.

So are rain, storm and thunder. Humans wear raincoats and umbrellas to shelter themselves from rain. There is no reason then why humans should be prohibited from using condoms if they have no plans of receiving that gift from heaven called children just yet.

A great part of the blame is upon religious figureheads for all these nonsense – the Pope, the mullahs, the priests and the imams. It’s bad enough these arrogant mortals are engaged in an intense competition to populate the earth with believers of their faith. It’s worse when they fail to see the perpetual hurt and lasting damage their narrow-minded, selfish ambitions are inflicting upon pious and susceptible simple minded folks. Lastly, it is the worst when the hatred-filled religionists employ children of impoverished families as suicide bombers and jihadists.

My point is this - a minimum wage is not the golden answer to a labor population grappling with spiraling inflation. No minimum wage will ever be sufficient until these hardworking men learn to direct their amorous energy elsewhere or utilize it with a pinch of foresight.

There are of course other factors to consider in alleviating the burden of inflation upon the laboring population. Unscrupulous traders, corrupted politicians, market monopolies, imprudent spending, diesel smuggling, unproductive farming and exploitive employers are topics more suited for commenting by economists and analysts.

As to MTUC’s demands for minimum wage, I say give the workers a minimum wage by all means. Make it a fair and decent one please.

While they’re at that, throw in some contraceptive devices too.


darren said...

The problem with the poor in this country is over reliance on the government for help.

We are giving these people false hope by championing salary increment as the golden solution to poverty in this country. It's like morphine shots. Pain is still there.

Better education (sexually and financially) is what we need to provide.

Alan said...

The use of contraceptives among the rural folks of the you-know-who(and to a certain extent urban folks) is not very encouraging despite the mass publicity. Let's face it, the average number of children in these families is about 6 at least. I guess the sky is their limit.

I also don't understand why the O&G specialists are so reluctant to perform a bilateral tubal ligation (BTL) on mothers who have had at least 4 children despite their persistent requests, just because these mothers are below the age of 35. Apparently this is because of the fear of divorced mothers who recently got married and want a reversal of BTL.

I find this so absurd. Who gives them the right to counsel a patient against her own decision of wanting to plan for her family? Who knows her family better than her?

I never believe in this crap and that's why I personally ask my antenatal patients who have already had at least 4 children if they would consider going for a BTL.

It's their choice to make ultimately.

What's the point of churning out babies when one can hardly afford to offer the best for her children and eventually resort to welfare from the government?

Kong said...

In the rural or plantation estate, where can they buy contraceptive pills if there are no clinic around but only sundry shop? So does the end justify the means or is it the lesser of the 2 evils? Should we let those sundry shop sell contraceptive pills?

Anonymous said...

Blame it on the Pope and the Mullah. In Philippines, Ramos tried to promote contraception but was strongly objected by Cardinal Sin( Wonderful name he has ) Eventually the world will be dominated by Muslims followed by Catholics when the world population hit 10 billions in the year 2050.

Alan said...

To Kong,

As far as I know, Malaysia boasts a healthcare system that's within reach by 98% of its population. Working in the district has allowed me to witness this truth.

There are a lot of Klinik Desa's throughout a district that's within the reach of the community (walking distance) and contraceptive pills are one of the items that these clinics can prescribe unsparingly. Besides, there is also the LPPKN everywhere.

So, there's no need for sundry shops to sell contraceptive pills.