Saturday, 15 December 2012

Tall Poppy & Bent Paddy

My mom used to tell me when I was young, “ Whatever you do, make sure you don’t get too proud.” It was a mantra used not by the old folks to young people, afraid they may forget their roots(with good intentions) but even by peers during school days. When someone did well, we assumed the person has now become proud. 

With that drumming into our young minds, we seldom flaunt our talents or gifts, afraid people may label us as “proud” people. Instead, we embrace average results and settled with mediocrity. We are programmed to reply, “No, I’m not that good lah” And we repeat that a hundred times! Until it had become part of us – self-fulfilled prophecy! Oh, how we celebrate mediocrity! Cos we are afraid if we come across as too good, we may be called “proud” or trying to show off.

And we brought this mentality to the workplace. We become like everyone else. We dare not perform too well less we’ll be labeled “si bodek”. So, we hide in a corner, give 70% of our effort and never our 100%. Again, mediocrity is to be celebrated.

There is a field of poppies and while all the poppies are generally the same length there are a few that outgrow the others. Those tall poppies are then cut down. I still don’t know why, I’m guessing it’s for aesthetic reasons that those poppies will ruin everything for the other poppies

In Australian English, tall poppies are usually individuals who, on the basis of unwarranted self-adulation, itself a consequence of success, amassed fortune or fame, have become targets for criticism; or, less frequently, individuals who, overcome by success, amassed fortune or fame, and on the mistaken assumption that they are above the law, have engaged in unlawful behaviour, only to find that, eventually, the law catches up with them as well.

Tall poppies could once expect to be cut down. This social leveling attitude went hand in hand with belief in concepts such as giving everyone an "a fair go". Tall poppy here doesn't mean you shouldn't excel or "rise above". It’s about the way you conduct yourself. What Australians actually despise is when a person achieves success and appears changed by it. When they act as if they are a step above everyone else and no longer equals.

I was sure to emphasize ‘genuine merit’ above because a tall poppy is one who excels, stands out amongst the competition, possess talent that the others do not have. I honestly believe that we have no idea what we’re doing by cutting the tall poppies.

In Malaysia, the nature of paddy in the field is difference. The more rice it contains, the more bent it is. This these elements that play a strong influence in shaping the traits and character of the Malay community. This Malay proverb reflects the philosophy of humility.

The meaning of the proverb is to remind us in our daily life, the more knowledgeable one is, the more humble one need to be. In fact, an intellect or wise man that remains humble is highly respected by the Malay community.

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