It’s okay, it’s alright, it’s enough

What is a modern Dayak?

In the minds of many, it’s a contradicting phrase. The word Dayak tend to conjure up images of preliterate people, living in the hinterlands, practicing shifting agriculture, living off the land. The Dayak philosophy of being in harmony with nature, body, mind and spirit.

The word modern denotes higher standard of living, in concrete houses, with cars, in suits and dresses, Starbucks and McDs.

I guess the modern Dayak is straddling the line between it’s rich heritage and the pull of the capitalistic modern lifestyle. Some straddle the line well, incorporating what can be and preserving it. Some get folded into the seductive pull of a more ‘civilised’ lifestyle, away from their ‘barbaric’ past.

There are many Dayaks who are ashamed of their roots. They don’t want to be associated with the primitives, so they abandon their origins and adopt a new culture, the culture of materialism. I don’t judge those who do so. It is their right to do what they want with their life. I am but a young man who still ponder at the relevance of an increasingly obsolete way of life and mindset. To some, abandoning their culture is like opening up to new possibilities. To some purists culture must be maintained at all cost, hence the prehistoric mindset as well.

I believe that the arts can be preserved and maintained, but the mindset must be left behind. The complacent, it’s okay, it’s alright, it’s enough mindset. Why do you think there are so many Dayaks who are still poor and left behind?

Their sense of entitlement, perception of being victims of higher powers and change, their over-glorification of the irrelevant past makes them both proud and scared. Scared of change, of failure, of shame. The cycle goes on, from one generation to the next.

Then generation Y comes in. Gen-Yers are the new breed of Dayaks, usually of mixed parentage, who accept modern norms easily, born into relative comfort, distanced from their original cultures. Theirs is the culture of contemporary music, art, selfish materialistic individualism trumping all else. Community is ones’ friends.

Of course not everyone is the same. There are those brought up in households that expose their children to their original culture (and I’m not just talking about Dayaks only). But with modernity some parts of the past has to be sacrificed.

I listen to some people speaking in their native tongues, and it has lost it’s purity. The modern version has been contaminated by foreign words that never existed before. It’s okay if there is no substitute for a particular word, but some words which already exist and then get replaced by a foreign word because everyone uses it seem pointless. Like the Malay word alamat (address), there’s a substitute for it, spelled ‘addres’, and pencuci mulut with ‘desert’.

So there now exists multiple mindsets. The old who live in their comfortable bubble of complacency, the baby boomers who feel entitled and victimised, and the Gen X’s and Y’s, who dive headfirst into the modern lifestyle.

So what is a modern Dayak?


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