The Chinese believe that family wealth will not last for three generations. The first generation makes the money, the second spends it, the third see nothing of the wealth. It is a ‘rags to riches, and back to rags’ story.
Many Malaysian families with ‘old-wealth’ (not the nouveau riche) acquired their fortunes because of one man. He would have worked like a dog to acquire the knowledge, the skills and the contacts. He would have shunned designer clothes and shoes, and instead would wear the same faded singlet and trousers.
Many of these original wealth makers ate their meals in the same coffee shop every day, and led thrifty lives. Their documents would be carried in a paper bag, and never a showy leather briefcase. They travelled economy and drove their own cars.
They did not have airs and graces. Their scruffy appearance hid the fact that they had several million ringgits deposited in a bank, and owned properties and businesses throughout the country.
The men who started these business empires would have been driven by their family’s circumstances. They vowed that they would get an education and grab every opportunity to lift their families out of poverty.
Many started their businesses in a small way, perhaps by repairing bicycles. Then with the money saved, they would start their own bicycle shop and would leap-frog from there, to acquire more shops or venture into other businesses.
The sons of these hard-working men mostly failed to measure up to their fathers.
Many of them wrongly assumed that they possessed greater business acumen than their fathers. They used their father’s name to open doors, to get preferential treatment, or to borrow money. A son might have gambled his inheritance away. Not knowing the value of hard work, another son may have spent his father’s hard-earned money on women and cars.
Instead of doing what their old man used to do, which is to invest wisely, open a trust fund for their children, and set aside some money for their old age, the second generation simply frittered away the good work of their father.
By the time the third generation came along, there was very little of the original wealth left. Infighting, bickering, selfishness and greed also consumed the second generation. For the love of money is the root of all evil.
Also true for the nation
Whilst the three generations phenomenon is certainly true of families, it is also true for the nation.
Our grandfathers inherited Malaya/Malaysia from the British. The major races were united in their desire to be liberated from colonial rule. Today, we fight one another, for what end?
The education system we have now is a shadow of its former self. Our schools and university were once the pride of Asia, but we cannot say the same today.
Malay soldiers once fought alongside non-Malays. Today, some people think that having non-Malays in the armed forces is allegedly going to pose a problem. It is not true that non-Malays do not wish to join the armed forces. Many non-Malays become demotivated when they are passed over for promotion, not because of ability, but because of race.
Today, we hear about foreigners owning vast tracts of prime land, even allegedly, Malay reserve land.
Native customary land rights are ignored. The British conveniently forgot about restoring the rights of the Orang Asli (OA), but instead of fighting on their behalf, we increase the suffering of the OA.
Institutions like the police, the civil service and the judiciary, were largely independent. Today, they are allegedly beholden to Putrajaya.
Many old-timers claim that around the time of Merdeka, they could leave their houses unlocked. Today, people walk up to your car, break a window with a parang and rob you as you sit trapped in your vehicle at a traffic light. Worse still, our leaders allegedly rob us blind and plunder the nation, and don’t care that we know.
Policemen were both respected and feared. Today, a policeman would allegedly help you settle your brush with the law, with a “Macam mana mau settle?” (How shall we settle this?)
The Malays were noted for their humility and manners. Today, people like the leader of the red-shirts, Jamal Md Yunos, and the army veterans, have little regard for manners or dignity. They shame the whole Malay community.
Three generations ago we looked up to our leaders, just like the children and grandchildren would look up to their patriarch, whom they were proud to emulate.
When the patriarch died, his children failed to continue his good work. Greed and egotism consumed their souls. Today, we suffer, just as the grandchildren of the patriarch, suffer.
The three generations curse is upon us, but there is good news. GE14 is approaching and only you can help restore order and renew the faith, in ourselves.