Thursday, October 11, 2007

jean valjean

In Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, the main character Jean Valjean was put in jail because he commited a crime - he stole a loaf of bread to feed his sister and her 7 children. We could argue all day about social injustices, not just in this country but throughout the world. We could talk about the hypocrisy of 'making poverty history' while pouring in billions to send a probe to Mars.

But those are arguments best left to people whose job would be to sit and argue about things like this, because there will never be a solution so as long as we remain humans, intact with our selfish nature. Still, it would not change the fact that poverty and desperation often leads people to do undesirable things. Undesirable to you, and you would be surprised - but just as undesirable to themselves.

For the purpose of this story, and for my not-so-regular readers who might not already know, I have a mentally disabled brother. The politically correct term these days is 'learning disabled'
but I am not one for political correctness, so you are free to call him whatever you wish just as long as you treat him good. Words versus actions, you know.

It should come as no surprise to you that despite what you are taught in schools, disabled people are bullied on a daily basis. It is the unfortunate truth that while an idiot at Pizza Hut cannot serve soup correctly, she has a job, while for a lot of disabled people, making a much smaller mistake would mean that you are out of the job. But I am not one to complain about the injustices of life, believing instead that karma would take its course.

In his latest job, my brother finds himself working in a restaurant as a waiter. The job is not without its usual problems, both with the employer and with my brother's own inability to work well. However, at this new job, he befriends many of the Les Miserables of this society and in turn many Jean Valjeans.

This particular chap, one that we (I say 'we' because if you are sitting in front of a computer reading this, then you are fairly well-off) would ride off as a kutu of society, approached my brother and asked to borrow 10 bucks so that he could take the bus home. And so, my brother lent him the money. My mum immediately smelled a rat and told my brother to make sure he got the money back as soon as possible because no bus ride costs 10 bucks. But, as is the case with my brother, we were left banging our heads on the wall the next day when he told us the guy needed an extra 20 bucks - which my dear brother so kindly obliged.

That was not the end of it, for this little con game went on and on until my brother came home one day and told us that the kutu owes him RM60 and we finally managed to convinced my simple minded brother that the guy did not forget to bring his wallet for the 6th time in a week and that the guy was actually cheating him. One week after that ordeal, my brother came home with the news that the kutu had resigned and balik kampung to his hometown in Kuala Terengganu. I know it sounds really silly, but so do the weekly stories of people paying RM20,000 to a bomoh for a magical stone. Things like this do happen.

The normal reaction to the proud new owner of the magical stone is to say 'padan muka' for being so dumb, and I agree. But when the person who was conned turns out to be a mentally disabled guy, people tend to get outraged. None more so than my mum who went around telling anybody who would listen, how there exists animals who actually have the heart to cheat handicapped people. Lowlife, I believe was the term of the day. Personally, I shrugged it off. RM60 is a lot of money to some people, but we weren't exactly going to starve. On one hand, it was good because we used that as a lesson to my brother that he cannot be so trusting of random idiots in the future.

One week later, my brother was told by another of the waiters that the kutu had just sms-ed to say that his father finally passed away after a long illness and that he had to stay in Kuala Terengganu to help his mother look after the other siblings.

Sure, cheating the money out of a mentally disabled bloke probably wasn't the proudest moment of his life. This is one case in which the ends do not justify the means. I kept wondering how he could look himself in the mirror, or how he was going to try to keep a straight face when he went back to the kampung and gave his siblings their weekly pocket money.

I guess when you are desperate, you would be surprised by the things you could do...


Humans are capable of anything when they're desperate....

i am sorry to hear that. this kind of case doesn't only happen in malaysia. i have seen some ppl wandering at the same places everyday and using the same excuse to get money in australia. if they were beggers, i would give them money willingly. however, they are not. they are even at lower rank than beggers. scrumbags!

Two revelations hitting me in one day.

You, and Michael. I feel so greedy suddenly.


anon: Like I said, I wasn't really peeved. No need for you to apologise. What I probably should have added is that sometimes, people feel too ashamed to ask for handouts, so they resort to other things.

tan: michael? who? what? when? where?


human ego.

very well written.


Michael Ooi. The one about the kid and the faeces bag.

hmm. cheating is wrong, regardless of who the victim is. and i don't consider the kutu's "punishment" as karma or a "punishment" at all. things just happen.

anyway, it's great that you see it as it is and don't measure the situation by the world's ridiculous "scale of injustice" which attributes different degrees of sin depending on the committed act, the perpetrator, the victim, the circumstances, etc.


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