Can You Afford Your Principles?

Principles can be expensive. And if you are the sort of person who have a lavish lifestyle with no savings in your bank account for hard times, you may find yourself unable to afford your principles. Because you have to compromise! Because people can put pressure on you by holding your financial dependence against you!

“Do this! Or you will be fired!”

“Just ignore my corruption! And your ‘periuk nasi’ will not be affected.”

Example of these happenings are found daily in our current political scenario these days. The rakyat lament “Awat la pemimpin-pemimpin kat atas tak boleh nak buat apa-apa? Lagi berkuasa, lagi berada, lagi tamak. Orang-orang sekeliling pemimpin ni tak tolong nasihat ka?”

They are just like you and me. We have to please the boss by agreeing with everything he/she says because we are trying to protect our ‘periuk nasi’. Even though we saw the politicians as someone who are already powerful and wealthy, but they still have to pay for their big cars and big houses and kids’ private education and so on and so forth. They spend more, so they need more. So eventually, the powerful politicians up there also could not afford their principles. They cannot afford to lose their position because they have already set themselves up for a certain lifestyle and now they have to keep at it.

That’s slavery. In a way.

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Which prompted me to say to my parents “I am not going to upgrade my life style every time I receive a salary increment (UD 48 salary, where art thou? Come faster!). I am not going to change my car for a better one. I am not going to get accustomed to luxurious skin care products or expensive designer items (unless the expensive items are gold jewelries that can be pawned in the future. I love jewelries) I want to have a lot of savings so that I can have the means and the space to afford my principle. Should anyone try to threaten me with my job, I won’t go broke in a few months time. With the money I have saved, I could hire a lawyer and sue.”

I am not asking everyone to fight unjust authority in a big scale while not caring about financial consequences. Not many people can afford to be outspoken when they have family depending on them. But those who can be outspoken – because they don’t have financial consideration, because they don’t have dependents – should!  Otherwise no one will speak the truth and oppression will be accepted. Learned helplessness of “boss is always right” will be the norm.

Start in a small scale.

Let me tell you a story of how to fight.

This story involves my younger sister who is an English teacher whose husband is also a teacher teaching Bahasa Melayu in Sarawak. My brother-in-law had served in Sarawak for 5 years already by the time my sister was engaged to him. After my sister eventually married him, they applied to be posted in the same area. After a lot of fights and multiple applications, finally my brother-in-law and my sister were approved for a transfer to Langkawi. Fine. They didn’t mind Langkawi as long as their relationship would no longer be long distance.

My brother-in-law received the much-awaited letter of transfer in the month of April 2015. But the letter was dated January 2015. No one had contacted him or informed him about his date of transfer earlier. From the month of January to April, he still served in Sarawak as usual and should still be entitled for the BKLP (Bayaran Khas Lokasi Pedalaman) allowance in that duration.

After a few months of serving in Langkawi, my brother-in-law suddenly noticed that his salary had been steadily deducted. He made inquiries regarding his salary deduction. They  told my brother-in-law that they deducted his salary because he had received extra BKLP allowance from January to March.

Folks, it was not a lot of money. Just a little bit under RM5000 altogether. Not much by other people’s standard. But it is his. Okay? His rights, no?

My brother-in-law is the easy going type who doesn’t enjoy confrontation. My younger sister, however, is exactly like me!

So she wrote a letter to PPD in Sarawak requesting them to reimburse her husband the money they had deducted. The PPD do the whole run-around of passing the bulk to JPN and then to Putrajaya, and here and there.  It was a whole lot of bureaucratic crap! So, my resourceful little sister went to Putrajaya with her husband to talk to the in-charge officer about the whole confusing situation and why her husband’s BKLP allowance should be reimbursed. Then the Putrajaya people pushed their case back to PPD. And PPD refused to give them back the money. At the same time, all their friends were not that supportive. “Hang takkan dapat balik duit tu. Ramai orang kena macam tu juga dulu. Nak buat macam mana?”

My sister was pissed off with this! You guys didn’t want to fight, fine! She would do it.

She wrote a long formal letter (5 pages!!) relating the details of what had happened and  she made copies of the letter to Putrajaya and Biro Pengaduan Awam. At the end of that long letter, she talked about having discussed with her lawyer Nusrah & Co. about having legal action taken. (She didn’t actually discuss it with any lawyer. Hahahah. But my father had said that he is willing to cover the lawyer fees should it become necessary.)

BRAVO! That’s my litter sister! That’s how you fight for your rights! That’s style!

After a few weeks, they got back the money that was deducted! Alhamdulillah!

“Biro Pengaduan Awam was quite prompt with their response. They called me back after two days of having received my complaint  to say  that they will investigate the matter.” related my sister.

But personally, I think it was the talk of a lawyer that did the trick.

Some of my brother-in-law’s friends had tried to discourage my sister. “Hang nak buat apa hire lawyer untuk benda ni? Bayar duit lawyer nanti lagi banyak daripada duit yang hang dapat balik. Buat rugi ja.”

This is the problem! Some people just don’t get it! If you were not brought up the way we were, you would never understand! If my sister has a psychiatric problem and a psychiatrist is listening to the story, some psychiatrist would probably write in the case notes that my sister does not  have good rational judgment because she insisted in spending more money for legal action than the actual money she would ever get out of the said legal action.

But I totally understand her. I think she is rational. The rational is this. “At first, I want the money as a matter of my rights. I deserve it. But when you refuse me my rights and piss me off, this is no longer about the money! I don’t care about the money anymore. Now I just want to win! Because this is about justice and my principle which I happen to value more than money. And since I can afford my principle (or at least, my father can, hahahha), I will go all the way!

Someone who don’t think the way we do would say we are irrational. Someone who were brought up fighting for money for the sake of money alone, would have abandoned the effort. Someone who were brought up without being taught about principles, would not bother trying to do the right thing when it means you would lose money. Someone who are brought up pampered and never had to fight for anything (or never win after fighting), would not have the sort of temperament to be able to do this, and therefore they think everyone is a wimp like them. They would say all the negative things like “tak payahlah lawan. Buang masa. Takkan menang punya!” That’s learned helplessness, folks!

I was brought up fighting for what I want. All of my siblings are like me. If we are pissed off enough and the matter is important enough, we fight to the end and we will bring the matter to the highest authority. If we fail to get our justice through the right channel, ehem…..there’s always the ‘viral social-media’ channel. The rational is this “You asked me to go through the right channel in my complaints and I did. But if the right channel is incompetent and it broke somewhere along the way, don’t blame me if I complain through the social media. Blame yourself!”

Sometimes I win, sometimes I don’t. But most of the time,  win or lose, eventually I went ahead and did whatever I wanted anyway. As long as it is about protecting the concept of justice, I am not going to give up.

And knowing that about me, I keep my lifestyle affordable. Money is a tool. It should remain as a tool to get what you want. It shouldn’t be more than that. You shouldn’t need it so much because that’s slavery.

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And in order not to need it so much, accustom yourself to living moderately. Live just enough. As for the rest of your money, just save it for a rainy day when you need to use it to fight for your rights!

Actually, you shouldn’t need anyone or anything too much. It can be used against you to force you to betray your principles. If you want to need anything, need integrity! Need ideals! Need principles!

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I know that in life, things are hardly idealistic. ‘Periuk nasi’ being the main consideration. But you have to start somewhere. You have to at least TRY put an effort to bring your ideals to life. Not giving excuses that sounds like “it’s not practical” when the going gets tough. If you can afford your principles and your ideals, why not enter into battles? If you are not willing to fight for your own self when you are oppressed and your rights are denied, would you even bother fighting for others?! Sedangkan nak lawan untuk diri sendiri pun kau tak mampu!! Lembik!

Start to slowly strengten your back bone. Build your confidence. Confidence is built upon previous winning. The more you win, the more confident you become. But you would never have any previous win to build your confidence upon… if you never even enter a fight in the first place. At least when injustice happens to you, be bothered to fight! Then perhaps slowly, you can bring yourself to also fight for others.

The need for justice is fitrah. And when you fight for justice, following your fitrah, that’s happiness. Anything that follows your fitrah gives you happiness. It is as simple as that. But don’t expect that you will get your justice without having to put in some effort. That’s laziness! Happiness requires effort, folks!

My brother-in-law’s friends, after learning that he got the BKLP money back, contacted my sister to ask for a copy of the letter she had written to Biro Pengaduan Awam so that they can use it as a reference to write the same complaint. My sister gave it to them but not before thinking to herself, “Aku dah penat-penat lawan, baru hangpa pun nak tumpang sekali. Time aku ajak lawan sama-sama hangpa tak mau! Konon takkan menanglah. Buat penatlah.”

See? Some people are parasites. They don’t want to risk themselves first. They don’t want to initiate anything. Even when someone asked them to join what has already been initiated, they still hold themselves back. Only when winning is assured, then they come running. To people like me and my siblings, we don’t respect that sort of people. It takes a lot of things to impress us into admiring someone and respecting anyone. Social position has nothing to do with who we respect. Unless you have a back bone and can at least fight for yourself eloquently and bravely, you are just not the sort of person we will ever respect or trust. How can you ever respect or trust someone who don’t want to fight for the right thing? Not even when the fight is for their own rights! It’s difficult, isn’t it?

It makes you wonder, what other important principles would they abandon when the going gets tough if they are willing to give up on justice?

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