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Undeniable Income Inequality

Just open your eyes and ears, and you will know why this state of affairs with Malaysian society cannot go on.

Written by johnleemk on 9:21:05 am Jul 13, 2007.

Last night, I went to queue up for tickets to a showing of Transformers. (For those who realise I've mentioned the movie quite a bit lately, I can't help it — my sister made us watch it again.)

Normally, when the queue is extraordinarily long, I have someone to talk to so I don't pay attention to my surroundings, but last night, I looked around and listened...and realised a disproportionate amount of those around me were Chinese. You could easily be forgiven for thinking you were in China, considering that most of them were speaking some Chinese dialect.

Now, there are a number of possible reasons for the apparent absence of other Malaysian communities in the queue to buy tickets to a movie.

For instance, you could argue that the Malays and Indians have different preferences — that they spend their money on other things. However, considering that both are generally enjoined by their religions from certain enjoyments — the Muslims cannot drink or eat pork, and the Hindus cannot eat beef — it is far more likely that they would be slightly overrepresented, since they have less avenues for entertainment.

You might argue that they prefer to watch movies on DVD instead. There's a whole cornucopia of excuses you could concoct for why they are so hugely underrepresented.

However, the simplest answer is staring us in the face — they cannot afford to watch movies in the cinema. The Malays and Indians are just too poor, while the Chinese are (as a general rule) the bulk of the middle class.

If you just pay attention to our society and observe, these things are very clear. The cinema is actually one of the better places to examine these issues — racial issues can crop up quite a bit.

Yet, so many people are blind to these obvious problems. This is why I am so infuriated whenever a debate on race in Malaysia crops up — there are extremists on both sides who claim to be for equality but demand equality only when it benefits them.

The fact is, you cannot go on with almost half of Malaysian citizens treated as second-class members of the Malaysian nation and denied the opportunity to serve in our government.

Equally, you cannot go on with over half of all Malaysian citizens denied freedom from poverty and denied equality of economic opportunity.

For eons, our society has been dominated by paradigms which tie race to socioeconomic function. But if you look around enough, if you think enough, you will realise that these paradigms cannot hope to last. What our society needs is nothing more than a commitment to true equality of opportunity.