Forgotten people in our midst

March 24, 2016

Forgotten people in our midst, no BR1M for them

 by Mariam Mokhtar

As hard times hit, there are probably more depressed and desperate people out there than we think.



In difficult times, the rich can make do without a few of their usual luxuries and the middle class will tighten their belts and somehow weather the storm. But what about the desperate classes?

Recently, a father of three was caught stealing RM27 worth of food from a Tesco store to feed his hungry children. That story is well known by now, perhaps because of its happy ending. It contrasts sharply with the story of the housewife who ended up in jail for stealing a packet of Milo for her daughter.

Are there more poor and hungry families out there than we thought? The people in these two cases turned to petty crime out of desperation. How many more such cases go unreported?

According to a friend who passes remote villages in the course of his work, the suffering in rural areas is acute and has been so for the past ten years. The cost of goods have been rising steadily and the ringgit does not stretch as far as it could before. Rubber tappers, especially, simply cannot cope. We rarely hear their stories.

People who work in charity organisations say cases of depression, suicide, domestic abuse and drug use rise when times are bad.

She has no problems and does she care?

A woman who declined to be named said she dreaded falling ill because she could not afford the cost of going to the clinic or buying medicines.

One single mother complains that she hardly sees her two children because she is trying to make ends meet with two jobs. She is fortunate that she is staying with her mother, who takes care of her children while she is at work. What about the legions of single women who live far away from their mothers?

The British American Tobacco company announced last week that it would close down its factory in Petaling Jaya and lay off 230 people. This came just after The Malaysian Insider said it was forced to fold up, resulting in the loss of about 60 jobs.

A friend who works in the airline industry said he had to relocate so that he could pay the mortgage on his house and finance his children’s education. Others have had to be retrained. And there are doctors who have been forced to transfer to locations where the demand for their services is higher.

Someone who helps out in soup kitchens says the queues are growing longer. According to him, the number of homeless people is increasing.

Earlier this year, some students claimed they were so deprived that they could eat only once a day.

Going by anecdotal evidence, the number of domestic abuse cases will rise with the economic downturn as breadwinners, usually the husbands, are laid off or suffer a reduction in their take home pay. Intense pressure on family finances sometimes cause people to vent their anger on their spouses or children.

Mothers skimp on food for themselves so that their children can have enough to eat. It’s common for women in such dire straits to ignore the possibility of their falling ill for lack of nutrition. In the long run, this will make matters worse for their families.

What about the many elderly people who live alone?What is the government and its welfare services doing to increase help for the most vulnerable communities?

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.


12 thoughts on “Forgotten people in our midst

  1. May be Malaysia is among the countries where
    0.001% own 99%of the wealth due possibly to legal provissions (no estate duty, capital gains and other exemptions such as gst on selected cases, ESOS, etc) and poor enforcement of collection of compounds and discounts culture.

  2. “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

    Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi

  3. Some good points in the article.

    There’s a huge amount of useless political noise that obscures any engagement with real issues, and the real problems of real people.

    But when Islamic foundations spend their money on golf simulators and Louis Vuitton-buying junkets in the US, it’s hard isn’t it.

    Terminal moral decay, that’s what our “good Islamic nation” is suffering from.

    The chief pirate has no qualms about wearing a white kopiah and dropping verses from the Quran left, right and centre.

    Comedy or tragedy? Both, maybe.

  4. Witnessed how a hardcore poor Malaysian get by with their mearge income a few days ago. Was at Penang GH and this lady got her 2yrs gal admitted. Tagging along is a 3yr old soon and eldest gal at 10yrs.

    Dinner was rice with an egg with some curry to be shared among the kids. Mum went by with an empty stomach.

    Before the kids went to bed, mun made teh O and put it into their feeding bottles. Breakfast was teh O as well. Asked her why, she said just couldn’t afford to buy milk powder.

    Emptied my pocket to get them a roll of Oreo, fried noodle, pack of diaper and a small tin of milk powder. For that I had to go smoke free for the next 2days but that was worth every penny.

    Life is tough when every night she has to count her pennies for tomorrow meal. Worse of all, they can only afford to have only a meal per day.

    The next day, we went round the ward to collect whatever extra food for the family.

    The children had never stepped inside KFC or McD. Whenever the TV advertisment on this fast food joints comes on, the kids will ask mum when can they go eat in this places. It broke my heart looking at tgeir pleading and innocebt faces.

  5. Homeless and hard core poor may also be a sign of being a ‘developed’ country under the capitalist economy system. US is said to be the most developed but it also has its hard core poor and homeless [reported to be the ‘box’ people] including in cities such as NY, SF and the US Capitol-Washington.
    It is commonly perceived that one of the causes of is the economic policies and fiscal laws which encourage accumulation of wealth and legal ‘evasion’ of taxes by the rich and corporate sector such as MNCs. This may also be said to be due to the politicians in power whose positions are financed by the rich who then are indebted to the rich to protect them from fiscal policy which may adversely effect their wealth.
    In line with past, the current elections may also be financed by the wealthy as it is reported that hundreds of millions are being ‘donated’ to the candidates of both parties to ensure the winner will ‘subservient’ to the financiers.
    Result the rich will remain but the poor will increase.
    The slogan should be GOVERNMENT FOR THE RICH-BY THE RICH to be financed by the poor who are used to suffering but the

  6. From my experience with programs dealing with homeless/poor in Bay Area, there are at least 4 popular explanations of poverty: A moralistic view that the poor are simply lazy, that they could improve their condition if they had the moral stamina/motivation to do so; a romantic/ethnocentric view which holds the poor are just like everyone else, they just happen to lack education/training, or are victims of discrimination; a conspirational/paranoiac view which holds the poor are victims of an ‘oppressive’ economic/social system; and the sociological view that the poor are members of a subculture that’s devoted to immediate personal satisfaction, they’re trapped because of their ideology/outlook on life which lacks of future orientation. I don’t know which of these is correct. It is sensible to suppose that most complex social phenomena have no one cause and it’s very possible all these theories are correct, but we don’t know if they’re the only ones or which one accounts for what proportion of the total poor.

  7. La Moy, interesting observations but I Have several questions. How and why did these people become homeless/poor in spite of several programs such as Social Security, Food Stamp, Section 8 housing, Unemployment Insurance, Medicare and Medicaid and many others.
    I used to participate in a feed the homeless program in downtown LA where we provide about 1500 meals or chicken dinner each Sunday across from the Rescue Mission. Through my observations majority of the homeless/poor are either African American and Whites. Seldom do I see Asian or Hispanic in the food line. Are there no poor/homeless Asian or Hispanics I wonder or they are too proud to be in the food line and would rather work on minimum wage to earn a living.

  8. semper fi: too proud, too poor and too shrewd is my guess the reason for not seeing Asian poor in the LA soup kitchen you have served. Also, LA is a rather segerated metropolitan, created from a Republican ideal. Perhaps, the places where you served might be a factor for your observation also.

    la moy might have missed discussions like the following:

    Nonetheless, the situation in the Bay Area might be different also, with so much wealth generated from Tech boom in the recent past, that some pundits might likely to be right that Tech boom wealth might have crowd out working class from other professions. On top of that, loads of cash from China dropping into a few neighbourhoods might likely to exacerbate the situation why some families are literally getting priced out.

  9. Semper fi: You’ve asked some complicated& complex questions which I don’t know if I were qualified to answer. Based on my observations, great majority of the homeless suffer from some kind of mental health problems, many are veterans of foreign wars suffering from PTSD. Our system is either unable or unwilling to take care of this problem. There simply are too few facilities for these homeless mental patients. As to why there are so very few Asian & Hispanic homeless, I tend to believe it’s a cultural thing. Like the Asian, the Hispanic are able to maintain a very closely knit family where members help each other during hard times, unlike Black or White you’re expected to leave home to be on your own when you turned 18. Especially the East Asian, they’re very future oriented believing in education, hard work and saving for rainy days. In the contrary, the Black is the most present oriented people in the nation.

  10. I’m inclined to think that the fourth theory in my earlier post explains more about those in the grip of the hard core of poverty in America than do the other three. I think it unlikely, however, that it will ever become the basis of public policy because the theory implies that such poverty is a chronic problem about which not much can be done short of brainwashing a substaintial proportion of the population. Most Americans expect public policy to be based upon some kind of cheerful optimism and the anticipation that the solution to the problem is just beyond the next election.

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