28 July 2009
The Dusuns' attitude towards work
"Respect thy work"? Maybe this is not quite right to summarize the Dusuns' mentality towards work. It's more like "work till you drop dead". At least that is the camp that I encounter often, including most of my family members. Making a living of traditional agriculture mainly cultivating rice, the Dusuns take pride in the size and quality of their farms. I often hear the phrase 'mokimamaha' which is really hard to translate into other languages but basically means 'one must have the desire to do better all the time', which is derived from the concept 'gayo maha' (big desire to do better?), suppossedly positive.
To some extent, I do appreciate the attitude. The Dusuns are one of the traditional societies in the world, living a simple life which in the modern world equals poverty. Some of them manage to change their lives through education and incorporation into the mainstream society. But most, till present, can still be considered poor. (I don't have statistics to back this up, but if you travel to the Dusun villages in Sabah, you'd know what I mean). Because of hardships, the people emphasize the importance of working hard otherwise 'amu kaakan' (you would starve).
But lately I'm beginning to think that somewhat, the concept 'gayo maha' is becoming a bit negative. I see elderly people (pensioners) who laboured endlessly in their farms, using traditional methods, to the extent of costing their healths. These parents are not necessarily poor, most have working children who could support them, some are even receiving decent monthly pensions from their previous employers. It is just that the concept 'work till you drop dead' is so ingrained in them that they couldn't imagine living differently. I know of some parents who cultivate 4 farms at the same time, each of them measuring to about 2-3 acres a plot. During the cultivating season which is about 8 months of a year, they would work the farms in turn, very devotedly I must say. And endure ill-health because it 'is embarrasing not to work while one is still healthy'.
From my perspective, it's killing oneself slowly. It's not living life to the fullest. It's not healthy. But then again, that is me. For all I know, that is the way they enjoy life :-) And to give credit to these people, at least they showered love to mother earth. They have lands, and they do what is right to the lands. Maybe I'm the one being negative here.