Awhile back, I stumbled across the news that the Yang di-Pertua Negri of Penang had given awards to 13 drain cleaners for their lifetime of service (servitude?). [link]
The first thought that entered my mind was: “How nice, at last someone appreciates the work that these good men do for the city.”
Later over lunch with a close friend however, his words prompted me to rethink my earlier perception of the award-giving. He said something along the lines of this:
“If the government really appreciated them, wouldn’t they have given them money as a more appropriate token of appreciation? I mean, come on, there’s a 53-year-old grandfather among them who’s been a drain cleaner for the past 37 years with the Penang Municipal Council!
“Sure, they got to wear nice clothes (note: custom tailored and paid for by the Penang state government) and receive an official award, but when you think about it, how exactly does that contribute to their livelihood? How does that improve their standard of life, their quality of living?
“All a grandfather would really want is the best for his kids, and his grandkids most of all. Would it have been so hard for the state government to have given him a scholarship for the young ones, or some cash instead? Heck, even a brand-new motorcycle would be more practical than a mere award!”
P.S. Thank goodness for brilliant friends like these to provide inspiration for long periods of inactivity such as this!