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5 Things Bruneians Need to Talk About

teahprofEditor's Note: Hi Readers! Lately, I have been introducing new contributors to this blog. There was the travel piece by John from NerdWallet, I am a Bird by Kathrina and Angel's Bistro Chez Fio experience. Over the next few weeks I will be introducing other new writers. This is important to me as everyone has a different perspective on things. We see things through different lenses. On that note, allow me to introduce you to Teah. This is a little bit about her in her own words.

"A civil servant by day and a freelance writer at night, Teah recently launched a Brunei based writing zine, Songket Alliance. She is also the co-founder of Bruneians Read, which means she likes to read. She travels too, and that's kind of the same as reading sometimes."

5 Things Bruneians Need to Talk About

by Teah Abdullah

1. Upholding a Realistic Language

The government is trying its hardest with upholding the writing and speaking of the Malay language. Quite frankly, it isn't working very well.

Before I go on to elaborate my point, let me clarify this: I write really well in English, and I'm not making this point as a form of superiority complex. I write Malay relatively better than the average person who writes English as well as I do. I write Malay for work every day, and I do not resent writing or speaking in Malay.

But standard Malay is a pain.

As oppose to emphasizing the continuation and the upholding of standard Malay, we need to start being realistic when it comes to our culture, which is: Uphold Melayu Brunei as a national language.

You can consider Melayu Brunei as bahasa pasar if you want, but I disagree. There is nothing more culturally strong and significantly Brunei than our capability at speaking Melayu Brunei. Granted, the Bahasa Rojak (English and Malay mixed together while talking) will always exist, but we need to realise that language evolves. "Cali" or humourous, for instance, is believed to stem out of the comedic actor Charlie Chaplin, "eksen" or "bluffing" derived from "action". We've allowed these words into our lexicon without thinking of its origin, and they are so deliciously Brunei.

When I was studying in Singapore, I surrounded myself with people who were enthusiastic of the Southeast Asian region. Some of them spoke both Standard Malay and Bahasa Indonesia. In the event I was on the phone with my mum, my best friend Shalina would tell me, "I think Melayu Brunei is the most beautiful and delectable Bahasa Melayu dialect in the region."

I have my biases when it comes to thinking we have a pretty good Melayu dialect, but I know several others who feel the same way as Shalina does. Our tonal goes several harmonies and our Melayu Brunei sounds playful. Continuing language identity is a very difficult task, but when people resent Standard Malay because the language sounds odd when uttered, we need to be realistic and find a language that is more identifiable to Bruneians, and that is Melayu Brunei.

2. Incest

Incest is a subject that goes on the newspaper often, but no one actually uses the word 'incest' to describe rape between family relations, which strikes me as odd. I'm personally curious to know the data on incest, and why we--as a society--have done little to reprimand it other than quietly discussing it. There are some things that should be left behind the walls of a family's house, but incest rape is one area where we need to start having serious discussions about, even if there are already regulations dedicated to it.

The less we talk about incest rape, the more we are giving space to fathers who rape their daughters saying that the girls were "tempting" him (legitimate reasoning I have personally seen on a newspaper.) Other than the psychological harm it may cause on the victim, it can be even more dangerous for the female in the event she gets pregnant from it. Other than the possibility of deformation, abortion is an option that isn't available for females who got pregnant through rape. And if the method is available, it isn't medically safe.

3. Our Overindulgence is Becoming a Cultural Trait

Want an iPad? No worries. Pay an installment of such-and-such dollars and you'll be able to pay them off in three years, at which time, there will be two other new iPads on the market! Want an LV bag? Go to the nearest mall! There's several grade-A fake ones you can afford!

There is something about branding that irks me. And while every so often I fall as the victim to branding, the overindulgence I see in a portion of Bruneians can be shocking. I'm sure there's someone that we know who has a new phone every few months despite not being a technobrat; they just buy it because it's new on the market. And there's the issue of grand weddings which causes people to drown in massive debt because of societal expectations, which isn't a good start to marriage. How about that WhatsApp message that circulated around recently about the Malaysian Ringgit being at its weakest and we could see long queues at money changers? Our overindulgence has become a cultural trait that our neighbouring country is abusing the weakness knowing that a portion--no matter how small or big--of our population would fall for it.

UBD did a study in 2009 which found that 75 percent of Bruneians aged 25 to 45 currently do not save or invest. THAT. IS. CRAZY. Where does their money go to?! Repayments, loans, cars, new and expensive phones.

This is dangerous for the future of our country, particularly when it comes to poverty. In other societies, elderly and women are the ones more likely to fall into poverty. With government pension no longer a privilege, this puts several generations of the Brunei population at risk.

It definitely isn't my business to tell you what you buy, but it certainly is my concern that we should not think so highly of ourselves that we forget moderation when it comes to our spending for the future of our economy or social stability.

4. The Overdependence on the Government

I'm not talking about necessary subsidies like oil and food, because those are necessary when wages are still considerably low. I'm talking about how some NGOs and individuals think that government approval in projects will lead to fulfillment. Everything opinionated Bruneian people talk about links back to the government, and every single NGOs I've personally come across ask the question of whether they've been recognised by the government. This is understandable because our government is such a strong part in our everyday lives, but our dependency on them is problematic because it is as if we can't solve our own troubles. We are creating an extra strain at making the government solve all the little problems in our lives.

If you have a problem, try solving it yourself first over and over again until you think it should rightfully go to the government. If you think something in Brunei is not satisfying, start a movement that focuses on the things you care about (I've done so with B:READ.) You'd be surprised at the amount of people who would help you achieve what you want. I personally think the government is strain right now, which is why they can't take care of every single problem. Stop complaining about how everything the government does not satisfy to your need; do something instead!

As for NGOs and companies, once you get a pat on the back by the government, what happens next? Quite often, nothing. It isn't a big deal to be recognised by the government. You might as well focus on fighting for your cause without thinking about how you need government to legitimise your existence. Work hard and build yourself. Treat the pat on the back from government recognition as an extra, but don't pressure them to help you in every single aspect of your organisation.

5. Too Many Burger Joints and Too Little Restaurants Selling Pais (a traditional Bruneian dish)

No more burgers, please!


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