What Is The Use?

The recent murder of a 28 year old Malay man, by an unlawful assembly of 7 Malay men disturbs me. It disturbs me because, I just cannot pinpoint a valid reason as to why, anyone will want to waste a good life away, by killing someone else. For whatever sentiments or emotions, any members of the community may have about this issue, I just can safely say that there is still a significant number of Malay men out there, who cannot find anything worthwhile to do at 4 am.

On a good note however, it begs the question, as to what can be done to elevate the status of an atypical Malay man.

The past weeks have seen Malay men in different lights. There was that newspaper article quoting a thesis done by a lady that brought about the questionable tagging of, “Malay men are useless”? It was a report that had me laughing, because, obviously, such a topic does not require intensive research or a thesis to expound upon. I learned early in my life when I studied History that Malay men had “useless” written all over. Even in myths, when the Sultan of Malacca was willing to carve open his son’s heart as a dowry for the Princess of Mount Ophir, I knew that Malay men were “useless”. It was further reiterated in history, when I realized that the Temenggong of this island namesake, Temasek, sold Singapore to a British bloke for pittance. It was a conclusion on my naive understanding that Malay men, were technically “useless”.

Usefulness is a broad and subjective topic to broach upon. If going by some of the predicaments that my wife and friends are going through, usefulness is a term people use on individuals who can be counted upon to pick up on the slack of  lazy, incompetent and totally “buffoon-ic” instructions of colleagues/superiors. Usefulness may also be the calling card for those who adhere and comply to instructions, due to the irrational fear of being driven into that mold of outcasts. Or usefulness can be a verb rather than an adjective. Most of the time, it happens to be, anyway. When we say someone is useful, don’t we have that flashing and vivid image of that “usefulness” being a work or job being done.

It seems that I hate the tag of being “useful” these days. It carries a negative connotation. It carries a tinge of being dispensable. I think I will cringe if someone said this about me,”Oh Jaz? Yeah, he’s useful having around,” Dammit. That’s what they say about spare tires you know? It’s “useful” to have one in your trunk in case , you have a flat tire.

These days, I am trying to drum up to my wife about the need to recognize her values and worth. Enough life stories has been shared to me, to make this, a worthy principle to carry around in life. Being indispensable is hard to achieve, but the starting point upon which it can be accomplished, is by realizing your worth first.

Let’s face the simple fact. People are generally and intrinsically selfish by nature. A social dynamic that sees someone gaining a foothold in terms of popularity and influence will not sit in well with those emotionally challenged. As a consequence, they will seek to destabilize that growth by stifling the self image of the concerned party. You know how these people do it? Well, they’ll state their awareness of your indispensable features and qualities firstly. Then they will lump and dump, responsibilities on you, by citing that you have the right “usefulness” to perform it, because you are the “right” person for the job. Then they will sit back and watch as you wither and falter under the load of unnecessary responsibilities. When you do a great job, they’ll lay claim to the credit of recognizing your “usefulness”. When you fail, they’ll highlight their ironic disappointment that you fell short of their “high” expectations. Moronic? Definitely.

But I’ve discovered the simple realization that being “useful”, is actually about knowing when to apply myself when I feel like it. Being “useful” is me knowing that my presence in a certain situation enhances the dynamics, not just as a prop. Being “useful” is about me choosing, the kinda people and job scopes I want to associate myself with. “Usefulness” in my perspective is about putting across that image of certainty, that my qualities and values, multiplies the whole unique output of any given scenarios. It’s not about filling in for someone, or being someone else’s agenda or being at the beck and call of anyone. It’s about being indispensable.

Ending off, my take away is this. Leonardo Da Vinci could have been “useful” in a lot of areas in his life for the sheer depth in terms of knowledge and insights he had. He could have been “useful” to have in the kitchen, or farm, or factory or even cemetery. He could have been “useful” to be at the beck and call of rich aristocrats who could have paid him to design doors, mousetraps or even sex machines. Without a doubt, Da Vinci could have done all this, with the simplest of effort. But the fact is, he did not. He applied his “usefulness” in his niche categories of interest and passion, and look at the kinda legacy he left for everyone else. He could have been an “anybody” in his time. But he decided to be a “somebody” for the future.

And darn, he did prove that he was “useful” to have around at the same time…

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