The Fear Factor

When I went back home for my sister’s wedding, my cousin, the first boy in the family and now a grown man of 27, asked me for help to talk to his mother into allowing him to work out of the tiny little island, in which he already found his opportunities a bit limited. He wanted to expand his horizon and try working on overseas stint before settling down in a marriage later, back in Singapore of course…

His mother– my aunt would not hear of such request from him. To her, having her first born son working on foreign soil away from family is a big no-no, and she came out with a million and one reasons on why he shouldn’t. He tried to reason out with her that it is unfair for him not to be able to take his chances just because she fears the unknown and unforeseeable future. With that, she turned against him using the most classic nevertheless most powerful tool she possesses, a mother’s tears.

When he told me about the whole drama, I decided not to get involve, because firstly, it deals with a person’s fear which, although I absolutely don’t understand, I have to emphatise (e.g no one understands my fear of driving but I appreciate a little empathy on that, thank you). Secondly, the moment it involves fear, the more an outsider to that fear tries to give his/her two cents worth to the situation, the more likely the person in fear would take on a defensive approach and get hostile. And getting hostile treatments from my aunt was the last thing I wanted, in what was a festive trip to celebrate my sister’s wedding.

My aunt fears that if she allows her son to go, he would forget about her, lose his faith, not come back, all alone in a foreign land with all of the world’s potential dangers as she saw on the news channel–basically, the world out of that little island, to her is a big bad dangerous world in which she doesn’t want her first son (she has 3 others) to throw himself to. She is ok with him traveling for holidays for a week or two though, but to live and survive and to look for sustenance for the family out of that little island, is unthinkable for her.

Another aunt, the younger sister of that aunt was more understanding of my cousin’s plight and she understood that it is not fair for him to be penalised based on his mother’s fear, BUT, and she was quick to add this, speaking as a mother, she would not want her two children to leave either. That little island is safe for her children because all our family members are there and if anything happens, the family can be there for them and there isn’t really a need for anyone to leave as, in her words, there are ‘opportunities for everyone on that island’. Right. What this aunt didn’t know was that, while she was trying to convince my cousin to NOT go against his mother–her sister, her own daughter, a reporter wannabe had been begging me non-stop over FB chats to talk to her mother to allow her to pursue her degree overseas. 😛

As written in the previous post, my immediate family consisting of my husband and myself and our feline members went through a devastating episode in which our Milo died a horrible death. In one scenario, to both my aunts, home is the safest place for anyone to be in. Once you are home, it is as though you are invincible and no one can harm you or any harm can even say hello to you. But the moment you step out of your comfort zone into the big bad world, it is mayhem in which you, in this case their children, are the most likely victims. In another scenario, our Milo was at home. Specifically, he was right at the doorstep of home, at the front gate, at his comfort spot, on which he spent the warm nights at. Same spot each time, at the comforts of his own home and his family members just inside the house. AND YET, one fateful night, he was squared in by 4 wild dogs and mauled to his death with a broken neck. And we, his family members including his sister Tito, stood by  and watched him die with nothing much we could do except to chase the wild dogs away. So where is safe, really, if one can die a horrible death at one’s own home.

Both scenarios reminded me of what my faith teaches me. That if HE intends harm upon you, there is nothing one can do to stop harm from coming, wherever you may be, the safest place on earth notwithstanding. The acceptance of that fact is one of the pillars of our faith and also, the acceptance of HIS divine wisdom which goes beyond our comprehension.

Amongst the reasons my aunts gave as the ‘no’ factor to their children studying/working overseas is that they fear for their kids’ faith. They somehow believe that by being out on their own,  the faith of these young ones would be eroded by all the ‘influences’ from the outside world. So forgive me if I find it a bit ironic that a week after that, the very person they trust the future of their children to — the patriarch of the Lee dynasty, called upon them, right in their own home and land, to be less strict in their faith, in order to ‘integrate’ with the rest of the (Singapore) world. That’s like a national call for them to further dilute their already diluted version of the faith which they have been hanging on for dear life.

Fear is one powerful emotion, as the husband reminded me of a story by the Grimm brothers if I’m not mistaken–that a frog in that story fears the world outside the pond so much so that he stayed on and on in the pond, although he could slowly feel the temperature of the pond rising and it was no longer comfortable OR safe for him to be in there. In the end, the frog died in the boiling pond because he would rather stay in a dangerous place in which he perceived as safe, rather than take the chance to leap out to save his life.

With that, I learnt the important lesson of acceptance, tawakkal (put one’s trust in God) and to put my fear in the right place, all within the first month of 2011.

Having said that, I turned down both cousin’s requests to talk to their mothers. Makciks are very adamant people fixed in their own mindset and have the potential to get ultra defensive and vicious when challenged… and THAT is scary. So to both of them I said,” Pandai-pandai korang ahh!”


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