Ah, “Divine Blessings”. The buzzword that’s been circulating around the internet the last week and developed into a local meme. Local gossips and public opinions aside, this mentality (used moderately, of course) can be good! Gratitude for what you have is one of the cornerstones for which you build on in order to obtain more. Now, I consider myself a polytheist. “That’s just as good as not believing in any God!” I’ve heard some exclaim. Believe what you must, but I take teachings as learning points regardless of the source. Adding in a dash of skepticism, naturally.
But back on topic: I have never come across any religious teachings that advocate you getting something for nothing. Usually, there will be verses and quotes about striving, hard work and then reaping the rewards. I think collectively, these elements built up to one of my core beliefs: the possibility to create your own luck.
Divine blessings and Bruneian mentality
I’ll be realistic: Brunei is a so-called conservative country. As such, religion is ingrained into the daily functions of society. I’m sure a majority in the workforce has encountered it – prayers before and after a meeting, tahlil prayers once a week and so on. It’s simply a way of life and we don’t think much of it other than going through the motions sometimes.
I’ve noticed that faith is a good thing for many of us. It really doesn’t matter where the faith lies, to be honest – it could be in:
Or all the above. Faith is what drives our consciousness towards actions. If you believe you can change the world, you would take actions towards it!
Taking things for granted
But in Brunei, many of us may have noticed another engine is being powered; the engine of complacency. Why? Because Bruneians have too good of a life for too little effort! We enjoy subsidies in petrol, rice, sugar, free medical treatments and free education to name a few. So, we thank the stars for these divine blessings that’s bestowed upon us. But this complacency culminates into stereotypes for Bruneians namely:
- Sense of entitlement
- Poor work ethics
- Easily jealous
Divine blessings through self-development
I’ll say it again: I believe in the ability to create one’s own luck. Have you ever felt that some events are just unlucky? The sense of loss of control definitely feels like crap. While some things are truly beyond our control, there are usually actions we can take to alter an outcome somewhat. “Low chance is better than no chance,” I’d say. So to me, divine blessings are practically synonymous with luck.
Have you ever heard the quote “Be the change you want to see in the world,” apparently by Mahatma Gandhi? Sounds like an awesome quote to put on a cat poster, right? Well turns out it was paraphrased from his actual saying:
We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.
– Mahatma Gandhi
I’ve known the paraphrased quote for quite some time and have always felt it was profound. Likened to saying, “Nothing will change unless you do.” It’s very interesting – What steps should I take to change, and thereby altering my luck? For starters, I decided I did not want to follow the typical stereotype:
1. Sense of entitlement
I’ll be honest. When I first graduated, I expected to find a job within 1 month of touching down on Brunei soil. Lo and behold, that was not the case and actually took 2 years to get a full time gig. I also went through what I felt were the 5 stages of grief from repeated failures to gain employment; It was very humbling to say the least.
There was a trigger from around me as well; I was so used to the “please and thank you” mentality of the British that I thought, “why not just carry on?” I may be more empathetic towards front line service staff as a result. And I like to see people smile – not those forced fake one they have to do when dealing with customers. But proper smiles when we treat each other with mutual respect. Cheesy, yes. But with this comes an appreciation towards what we have and not fixating on what we “should” have.
I’m not a hardworking person. Hell, I see myself as an underachiever who could probably do more if I wasn’t so damned lazy! Regardless, (and thankfully) I’m learning to be better. One of the things I’ve learned is discipline. “Motivation is fleeting; discipline will get you through when there’s no motivation,” I read online. What kind of magic is this!?
I came to understand 2 things that combat laziness: discipline through habit and passion. Whenever we get into a habit for something, it’s hard to break from it. Therefore if we practice good habits, we should be able to do things on autopilot, right? Passion is much more understandable for a lot of people. If you’re passionate about something, you will surely try your best to work on it, better it. So what if you don’t have a passion? Try different things, look into different hobbies!
3. Poor work ethics
Many local workforce I’ve encountered, particularly public servants, simply don’t care. There’s no stake for them in the job that drives them and even worse is there’s no drive within themselves! I’m fortunate that I was imbued with a sense of responsibility from accompanying my parents when I was young. With it, I would try my best to complete tasks rather than leaving it to others or dumping it entirely. What this “sense” feels like is similar to a nagging sensation in the back of your head. “Why are you not doing it when you can!?” it’ll keep saying. I can’t think of any pivotal moment which triggers this attitude but if I did, I’ll surely put it to writing.
But I believe work ethics have to be ingrained somehow. Usually parents with poor work ethics will teach their kids similarly and so on. It really has to start somewhere – maybe a change in national policy to nurture a healthy culture? Who knows?
4. Easily jealous
I’ve only very recently come to grasp this idea that there’s a culture here of being jealous of others. I mean for Bruneians, “thin skinned” I can understand but jealous to the point of sabotaging others? No way! But sadly, there’s chatter of people pulling others down so they can rise, or even just so they’re on “equal” footing. Chatter which I hope are unfounded.
Do you remember the time when I almost joined a money cult? You might have heard of the book called “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind” by T. Harv Eker. Well, his team came and did a 3-day free “course” in Brunei. Most of it was just trying to get people to buy their bootcamps and courses. But some of their material were quite useful for my young and naïve mind. One of which was when the speaker was talking about success.
“If someone is successful, do you say ‘They’re just lucky!’? No! You say, ‘Bless you and your success!'” he shouted enthusiastically. Right there and then, my mind was blown. It’s so simple and yet, I needed this speaker to lay it out in front of me! He later explained that this mindset allows us to “come to terms” with our shortfalls and move on; and get better. Because if you’re stuck wasting time cursing at someone, green with envy, what could you possibly accomplish? And if you were to become successful one day, you’d surely want others to bless you and your success too, right? As opposed to being cursed at.
This probably ties-in pretty nicely with being lazy. Back in school, we would have a few classmates who would always ask to copy someone else’s homework. I’ve never catered to them so that was the end of that from me. But some people never grew out of it and this stems into copying in real life. First of all, I think mimicking is a good way to get started on learning in the real world. But blatant plagiarism is pretty rampant here. All you need is someone who comes up with a low barrier of entry enterprise, and you’ll see 5 more crop up a few months later. Some businesses include:
- Nasi katok
- Japanese restaurants
- Cube shops
- Coconut shake and pudding
The list continues on and on. I honestly don’t mind copy-pasted business models but the thing that grinds my gears is that they have no unique selling points! As a result, few are good and most are not. And at the end of the day, there’s no variety here – only endless throngs of cube shops.
I seem to have gone off the rails there. What I’m getting at is what our Government speakers have said time and again: We need to innovate. Try new things. And copying other businesses from A to Z will not do it.
Poklens are the Brunei equivalent of chavs, rednecks and ah bengs. Basically unsavoury types that usually do more harm than good to those around them. Luckily, I never mixed around with poklens (ahax) but have encountered some. Safe to say, I’d rather not have more of those encounters, thanks. And as long as we behave like civilised people, I doubt we’d have an outbreak of poklen-ism.
Personally, I think there should be a creative outlet to unleash this pent-up poklen-energy in a positive way. Perhaps enticing them to train in skills of craft? Truth be told, I have no idea how or where to begin with this.
If you came here looking for a shortcut to gain divine blessings, sorry but you’re out of luck. From what I gather, divine blessings are a result of actions taken in the right direction such as the government’s decisions to look after the welfare of Bruneians. That’s why we are able to enjoy such “divine blessings”! I strongly believe that you can plot your own route to sail but sometimes the seas really throw you off course. In other words, you can create your own luck but some events are simply unfortunate. Regardless, if you did your best, what more can we say? Surely, there’s no regrets in that! But one thing’s for sure, you’re not going to gain any divine blessings, monetary or otherwise, by meditating under a waterfall for 10 years.
“Man will not get anything unless he works hard” (Surah al-Najm, 53:39)
“Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.” (Proverbs 12:11)