What’s wrong with hard labour?

May 31, 2006 11:58 PM

Since the restaurant winded up last week, my mom and my brother has been at logger heads. My brother has found a job at a meat-packing factory – Dorsogna to be precise. Mom thinks it’s beneath him, or I wonder if she thinks that it’s beneath her?

Her argument is that the family did not move all the way here from Malaysia for my brother to end up doing a blue-collar job. My brother asks why does she look down on the job, which my mom denies. But the exact phrase I keep hearing her say to my brother is, “Why can’t you find something else?”

It’s funny how she was the one who encouraged me to go into the restaurant business. And she knew how angry I was when I heard relatives say that I was wasting my university education. So her attitude now is contradictory.

To be fair, my brother has always chosen the easy way out of everything. The least amount of effort expended if possible. In engineering, we would have called that “efficiency”. But my mom has always chastised him for it.

However, I’m also of the view that if my brother is happy – the job is quite well-paid and the hours are decent, then why can’t she be happy for him? She says that there’s no future in the job. I like to be optimistic and think that a factory floor worker can still rise up if he/she shows enthusiasm and a love for the job.

I ended up saying to her that we moved here to get a better life, and that we have succeeded in doing that. She does not dispute the fact but she still couldn’t help but get all worked up about it. I guess she worries that he is somehow suffering from doing such a job.

Though, it’s a way of thinking that I don’t agree with, that a lot of Chinese ppl would associate hard labour with suffering and shamefulness. Hey at least it’s better than being unemployed!

While snobby ppl turn up their noses at these so-called “??”, they are quietly building their houses and offices, cleaning them, fixing the roads that their expensive cars drive on, repairing their pipes and connecting their electricity; looking after their kids and frying up their favourite plate of char kuay teow. Some are even richer than you think – they are just too humble to show it.

Don’t judge a book by its cover; don’t judge a job just because it relies on physical exertion rather than mental.

19 thoughts on “What’s wrong with hard labour?

  1. Nadia

    I can say from personal experience that the enthusiasm bit does bode well – after all, that’s what got me my second job at the same company!!

    It’s the whole Asian mentality that you’re only considered to have a proper job if you’re working in an office, and there are obvious pathways for progress. I think it helps that in Singapore (not sure if it’s the same in Malaysia), the pay sucks if you’re cashiering at a supermarket. I’m sure if the cashiers in Singapore were paid the same amount as the cashiers here in Australia are… there’d be a lot less stigma associated with non-corporate jobs.

  2. An

    Agree with nadia but on the other hand… hey!! Those hawkers are earning a LOT!!! I’ve seen fishmongers, fruit sellers, hawkers, etc. staying in landed property and driving mercs around. On TV, they once interviewed some degree holders cos they went into hawker business instead of a white collared job. So dun belittle those blue-collar workers. They may be highly educated and may be far richer than you! hahaha!

  3. ian

    I came to realise that blue collared workers do not receive the same treatment as compared to the ones in countries like Malaysia. I recalled once when my landlord called up a plumber to fix our leakage problems in our rented house, the plumber was actually qualified enough to snub our business offer for he has a lot of jobs to do. And I found my tenants and I haveing to patiently endure for the next whole week before the issue was fixed.

    It can be concluded that they are earning so much due to the high job demand, affording them to choose their clients at their discretion, whereas hard labour in Malaysia wouldn’t choose to be so picky. And yes, their humble appearance makes them all the more respectable…

  4. transnationalmigrant

    no shit mate. my mom always cracked the shit when i was working at a 7 eleven store to save up for a car during the uni hols. its the whole “Asian” thing man. whatever that thing is i don’t know.

    but i reckon that it somehow will reflect on parents with regards to how their offspring turn out.

  5. mooiness Post author

    Nadia: yeah true that – the stigma of a non-office job, even if the pay was better ppl would still look down on it.

    An: exactly my point – there are different paths to getting rich.

    Hijackqueen: yeah I know she worries which is why I try to soothe her by telling her that our lives are quite good already.

    ian: No doubt about their pay man! Plumbers, electricians, fridge and washer repair men etc. All very well paid jobs in Oz.

    transnationalmigrant: exactly – I’m sure our parents wouldn’t have wanted us to scum money off them whenever we want something. U actually worked to save up for a car. I think that’s commendable.

    Leonard: probably yeah the job title. Who cares in the end when you are making money. A lot to do with “face” methinks.

  6. sourrain

    Your brother is going to smell like Spam…yumm.Hahahahah!

    Well, face is just but a part of Asian life that we are all used to.It’s a little different for your family I guess,because you’ve had a big mix of being in OZ & Msia..I can assure you that if I was to become a factory worker in KL earning RM600 a month, my family would disown me.Heck, I would disown myself..I wouldn’t even be able to afford nasi lemak.So it’s not only your mom.

    It is in our Asian culture that manual labor are paid less than office based work..unless you fry a mean plate of char koay teow. Unless you branch out and have your own business, being hired as an electrician just does not put you in middle class.However, all over the western world, a plumber or an electrician gets paid big bucks,never lack of work,flexi time.

    When I was working in KL, my brother earned more than me working part time at a 7-11 in Melbourne.Gone all my face.

  7. mooiness Post author

    marina: oh yeah that is like totally bewildering. Like why?!

    sourrain: hehe. Ham! Mmm. I heard that they can sometimes bring back the surpluses.

    Yeah I do get that the pay scale for manual labour is way different to that in Asia. I wonder if had we not move, would my brother pick a factory job like now. Probably not, considering he likes to go out and stuff. No way he can afford it.

    7-11 Rocks! Anyways, your pay now should have us all beat if you convert it. Heh.

  8. sourrain

    Erm…not really.Seeing that I am new to the industry, all my previous experience and knowledge gone down the drain..so my salary now is more like a freshie who just left uni.Minus the fresh-faced euthusiasm and idyllic views.

    Life sucks don’t it? Donate to save my soul!

    (i dont believe i’m self-pimping!!)

  9. jc

    well said!
    normally, parents always put higher expectation towards their children, hope that after their kid graduated with degree/master, can get a better pay and higher post.
    education level cant judge a person how well and success in their life and career. Tat just for sake of knowledge. It doesnt mean u can become a better person either.
    Each of us hav own dream, goals to b achieved. Time will prove.. destiny will come..
    Don’t simply pre-judge n determine..
    Worth to give a try to take risk in life, at least we try before!!:)

  10. girlstar7

    I think I am one of the only ppl that comments on this blog that isn’t Asian, and I can definitely see a difference b/w having caucasian (one aussie, one american) parents and asian ones. no offence, but I am glad I don’t have asian parents!! I couldn’t cope with the pressure!
    I have got quite a few asian friends and their parents all sound the same. one guy I know got a score of 99 out of 100 at the end of year 12 and his parents askd ‘what happened?’ as in where was the extra 1%?? WTF??
    I am lucky to have parents that support me in whatever I want to do. although me, both my parents, my uncle and aunt, and my grandpa have all gone to university, my brother decided he didn’t want to go. my parents were totally supportive as they realised a university education and white-collar job is not for everyone.
    I guess it’s just a culture difference. but I think parents shouldn’t put too much pressure on ther children; they should let them do whatever makes THEM happy.

  11. mooiness Post author

    girlstar7: ah you speaketh the simple truth – happiness is what matters, balanced with practicality of course.

    Most Asian parents do not fully accept the argument, “It’s my life!” I’m not saying that it’s all bad either because it means they care for the children’s welfare long into adulthood.

    But yeah, with Asian parents some get it worse than others. 😉

  12. virgin_undergrad

    That’s reminds me of the episode in the 60 minutes where they ran a story about the imminent influx of 100,000 + skilled worker into Australia in the next 10 years. Menial labour really isn’t as bad as what it seems, in in Australia at least.

    The reality is, regardless of the nature of jobs, Aussies really have it good. Better workers’ rights, union protection, and even an unbelievable real wage compared to someone in the same job in say malaysia or singapore.

    I totally concur with you. One thing which really attracted me to australia was in fact the seemingly ‘classless’ attitudes. I mean, no one really seems to bear any stereotypes about menial labourers and the classical imagery in my mind is a bricklayer or garbage man, knocking off at like 5pm and heading off to the beach.

    Kudos to ur brudder, it takes more than just indifference but genuine courage and inner-peace to just live life whatever you want undictated by the expectations of others. and if an easy/peaceful life is what he has in mind, i say by all means carry on.

    If only we asians can just shake off that rat-race-siege-mentality….

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