I READ disbelievingly that our Ministry of Youth and Sports believes that just creating jobs in rural areas will somehow drive the younger population to remain in the heartlands.
Nothing could be further wrong when it comes to why there is a huge migration pattern of people drawn to urban centres.
It isn’t all about jobs. Why would someone from Malacca insists on driving a GrabCar or even be a delivery man in Kuala Lumpur if he could make the same amount where he lives? Or why are people from out of town happy to open a stall in Cheras selling nasi lemak when they could be doing the same in Kota Baru?
There are a lot of things going against living in cities – higher crime, high cost of living, transport costs, rental and even food compared to rural areas. And there is no space in cities to plant a sustainable garden.
So, why are people drawn to cities?
Cities give many opportunities that rural life does not, and that is the need to be human and seek out a sense of belonging among other Malaysians and even foreigners.
Cities provide the ability to mingle be it at a job, on a train, or even have a chat with Grab drivers. Of course in Kuala Lumpur, such chats about daily happenings are reserved for late night mamak sessions.
You will find similar discussions at a bistro in Paris or a pub in London.
Cities are teeming with events – forums, concerts, standup comedies, nightlife and even fundraisers.
The draw to a city is very much Sinatra-esque in the mindset of those who come here: “if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere” is not just a line of a song, it is a mentality of those believing that coming to a city and earning enough will make them happier.
Though, for those brought up in the cities and their suburbs, having more free time seems to be catching up with the need to earn more money as the city draws in more and more people.
The rat race is no longer about earning enough, but more about finding the best schools for children, the latest trends among the youth, the newest fad and restaurant, or even seeking out the latest bargain in warehouse sales.
Fret not, it’s the same in every cosmopolitan city in the world, even if the items are different.
But more importantly, cities drown out individuality and allow people to get lost in the crowd. Away from the gossiping neighbours who would tell your parents of your behaviour, away from prying eyes who would insist that it is a communal issue that requires the intervention of a local imam or bomoh, or even a visiting preacher from India with permanent residence.
Cities give you the opportunity to be yourself and not alert the entire population of your transgressions, and find people who actually do the same thing. Thus, whatever quirkiness you have individually will be acceptable and even find those who are in the same category.
This is the major draw of cities – it allows people to be themselves, in a crowd of like-minded people, without the same fear of being the black sheep of a village or even be treated like someone in need of an exorcism.
That is why youths continue to come to cities it isn’t about the want of a job, it is in spite of the need for one to make ends meet even if it means renting a single room in a cheap flat and sharing it with three other Malaysians.
There is a draw to the hustle and bustle of city life, looking for like-minded people from all around the country and the world, in the hope of finding a place to belong. You won’t find that just by creating jobs in rural areas.
Hafidz Baharom is a public relations practitioner. Comments: email@example.com