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Science, with all its might and curses, with all its wonders and destructive powers, has swept the four corners of the world and taken them by storm. Indeed, in whichever direction we may turn our attention there will always be some work of science to greet our inquiring glance. Even a nail or a pencil will show ample evidence of its great powers. But is this science, so mighty and powerful, a blessing? That has been a question asked by many and the number of answers to it must run into a seven-digit number. Many are for its doing away altogether, another similar number prefer sitting on the fence, while a meagre few answer in the affirmative.
I, for one, believe science to be the only thing that stands between the world and chaos. The reason why others think otherwise is almost beyond me. How could we forget for a single moment the heroic and brave efforts of the scientists who contributed so much to the making of this world of comfort and luxury? They sacrificed their prime years in order that others might lead a happier life. The stories of Pasteur, Nobel, Davis and their many fellow scientists who so unselfishly risked their lives and limbs to save their brother men from illness and death or the taking of risks are well-known. We hear of Pasteur's fight against the ignorance that dominated the world then, his vain attempts to convince the people that he was right, and finally of his success and the golden laurels heaped upon him when he saved man from the most terrible death one can imagine.
The lives of his confreres are no less dramatic. Almost every one of them was cast away by the world, but they battled on - bravery and hopefully - and, with their discoveries, swept away the barriers of superstition to better their fellowmen, the very same who had opposed and mocked them. Without these men and their science the world would not be fit to be lived in.
Nowadays it has become a habit for us to turn on the electric light or turn on the radio, but how many of us have paused to think of the labours of the men who made such things possible? Talking of ingratitude, it reminds me that a thankless child is sharper than a serpent's tooth. And as for the idea of wiping away all traces of science, it is rank sacrilege. How inhuman it would be to return to the ancient days of savage barbarism, when men lived like the wolf or bear which he hunted and by which he was sometimes hunted; when swamps were places of fever, sickness and death, and fire and water were things that played havoc with the lives of man or beast.
I know that in modern warfare thousands upon thousands of innocent men are killed, but I feel it my duty to say that it is not the work of science. It is only the result of the evil nature of mankind. The genius ones that invented gunpowder and such like dreamed only of removing the obstacles that stood between them and prosperity, and of building dams, canals or tunnels. Through no fault of their own, this monument of good faith they erected is sadly misused.
It is on the modern man, on the cruel brutal beast in human shape, that the whole blame falls. It is he who has designed the wholesale massacre. Science and its wonders are but helpless tools in his hands. Such is man's nature and here it would not be unfitting to quote an extract from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar:_
And men have lost their reason.............."
The Choice of a Profession
The choice of professions for their children is a question that requires the most careful consideration of all English parents. A large number of Malayan parents are relieved from the necessity of debating this difficult matter, as many children in this country have their careers unalterably fixed by the laws of caste, which compel them to follow the professions practised by their parents. However, even in Malaya, among the members of the educated class, at any rate, sons do not necessarily adopt the same callings as their parents, and a choice between various professions is open to them. This being the case, parents in Malaya, as in England, have to scan carefully the developing powers and inclinations of their children in order to discover what work they are likely to do best when they grow up.
In England it often happens that boys whose minds have been influenced by reading tales of adventure and battle, determine to emulate the heroes of their storybooks and court the dangers of a sailor's or soldier's life. A few of them, perhaps, remain firm to their choice; but the majority, as they grow older, reconcile themselves to the prospect of a more prosaic life than they had dreamt of in the visions of their boyhood, and become government servants, merchants, lawyers, doctors or clergymen. A similar choice of professions is open to all Malayans, except that here the priesthood depends on birth rather than on choice.
Of these professions, Government service is so varied that its different branches afford employment for all kinds of talent. The young man who is fond of literature and has the patience necessary for the management of boys can join the Educational Service. Another, who has shown ingenuity during boyhood in the construction of engines and mechanical contrivances might be successful in the Public Works Department. A third might be marked out by his skill in the management of figures as likely to do good service under the Accountant-General.
The chief advantage of Government service is the certainty it affords of a regular salary followed by a pension. Government servants are seldom thrown out of employment except by their own misconduct, and in the few places in which they lose their places by the retrenchment of a department, substantial compensation is paid. But the salaries of Government appointments, though they afford a more regular and certain income than other professions, are not very large, and promotion in the various departments of the Service is rare.
On this account, many enterprising men prefer to be lawyers, doctors or businessmen. Yet it must be remembered that though these professions afford more chances of success in the lottery of life, they also have a number of disadvantages. Many businessmen are ruined by unfortunate speculation, and many lawyers and doctors fail to secure enough work to support themselves. The number of failures in these professions in Malaya is due to the fact that there is severe competition among the many thousands of Malayans who have good education and think it essential to their positions that they should one of them.
Perhaps, in the course of time, when educated men in Malaya, as in England, may be willing to engage in agriculture, in shopkeeping, and other employment now in the hands of those without any training, there will be more prosperity.
A Tropical Talk
Rickshaws - the two-wheeled humanly propelled vehicles are still plying for hire on the streets of Malayan towns. With the introduction of modern cars and buses into this country, rickshaw pullers are being gradually deprived of their livelihood, notwithstanding the fact that most people nowadays prefer to travel in leisurely dignity.
The puller is usually a husky-looking fellow, wearing only a pair of blue dungaree trousers rolled up to his thighs, with well-developed calf muscles. He has a broad-brimmed straw hat which is sometimes silver papered, but no shoes adorn his feet which are hard and calloused through the many years of running on all sorts of road surfaces. Statistics show that over seventy-five percent of these men die of heart trouble at an early age.
The vehicle is fitted with a small rubber or canvas mat for the passenger's feet under which, incidentally, the puller keeps his money and a screen of brown canvas with which to protect the occupant when the hood is up in rainy weather. Each vehicle is licensed, and bears a license number in the same manner as a taxi.
Far from being considered a menial task to drag other human beings about, the puller is proud of himself and delights to show his stamina to tourists, whilst his road manners in crowded and narrow streets are an education by themselves. With his passenger sitting comfortably, the puller (he may be a boy in his teens) dodges through the streets where the number of cars, buses, motorcylces and other vehicles would be appalling to the average European driver, with no other means of announcing his presence on the road other than a cry of "Ai-ya! Ai-ya!" mechanically repeated in a low but penetrating voice.
On the contrary, there is something more in the life of a rickshaw puller which marks a striking contrast with the usual life he leads. Some pullers earn their living by foul means and they prey upon strangers and tourists. The method of the unscrupulous puller is to run swiftly with his victim into a poorly-lit street and leave the latter there to be dealt with by his gang. The pullers usually run through his pockets and then hurriedly depart with their spoils.
But the percentage of such rickshaw pullers is small compared with the thousands of honest pullers whose broad good-humoured faces and cheerful cry of "mau becha?" are familiar to all townsfolks.
Last update on 28 October 2000.
Contributed by: Chung Chee Min
PageKeeper: Ooi Boon Kheng