A son is born

This excerption is from Agnes Keith Newton famous writing—Land below the Wind. Yes! I am reading it. A book that describes pre-war North Borneo (Sabah) life by a Hollywood born female author.

I was impressed by the so-called The White Man Burden, which usually is a negative terminology in our Sejarah textbook. But I saw the positive side of this responsibility from Agnes. How Agnes loves her family servant’s baby, a Murut. Agnes called this baby: “Hope of this vanishing tribes”.

Here is the excerption. My comment is within the bracket [].


The following morning I [Agnes, the author] called at the office of Dr. Lo Mat. As I was shown into his  private office the little doctor arose to his feet with a slight bow and said quickly, “I was about to telephone you to ask how the child is to-day.”

“The child is dead. He died in my arms while I was talking to you yesterday,” I said abruptly.

“I am indeed very sorry, madame,” the doctor answered. He did not show by his face whether the news was a surprise to him or whether, as I suspected, rumor had already informed him of the facts. “But the babies die very suddenly, you know.”

“So I have found out,” I answered sadly. “But I cannot help feeling that if it had been a European baby he need not have died so suddenly. Doctor, do you assure me that everything possible was done to save that child?”

At the crude directness of the question the professional affability of Dr. Lo Mat’s face set like a jelly pudding in a mold. The expression remained but the doctor seemed to have disowned it. “Madame,” said he stiffly, “if he had been a European child he would not have been fed improper food and have become ill from it. All these natives feed their babies improper food. Every day babies are dying here with gastric enteritis. If the mother gives the infant tainted food the doctor cannot save him.”

I know they are hopeless about food,” I admitted. “But no matter what caused the baby to be ill, you saw him only an hour before he died and he must have been seriously ill then. Why did you not call me? [The Murut family lived very near to their master house.] You know that Arusap and Kuta [names of Murut parents] have lost three babies, and you know that we have tried to do everything possible to save this child. You know that natives are ignorant and irresponsible in the care of illness. How could you give medicine to Arusap to administer to the baby and then leave my house without any warning to me or to him of the baby’s condition? Oh, I feel sure that child could have been saved with the proper care! How I hate this Eastern attitude which even you Chinese yourselves have that a European life is percious and an Asiatic life valueless!

“Dear madame, why worry! Where three children have been lost before why blame ourselves for the death of a fourth!

I looked at him hopelessly.

“The natives are very shiftless, here. Perhaps it is better if they do die off and leave the country for more civilized people,” suggested Dr. Lo Mat gently.

Civilized!” I snorted. “Civilized! When all we civilized people have destroyed ourselves there will still be savages living happily in the hills of uncivilized countries!” [Strongly agree :)]

“That statement is not borne out by scientific facts, madame,” said the little doctor urbanely.

I struggled with a desire to shout “To hell with scientific facts!” and left the office.

I share this not because to show that how nice this European is/ how careless the Murut is/ how ignorant this Chinese is.

As I myself, show a very strong disagreement towards discrimination, no matter language, race, religion, age or sex. I always “point out” to myself that, it is the character/ personality that made one like/dislike another.

I dislike the ignorance of the doctor.

I like the unconditional love of master towards servant’s son.

It is good to clarify and observe the real reason that create our emotion.

How can we differentiate discrimination and non-discrimination?

The reason is the keyword.

If the reason is unchangeable, so called “original sin”, then I would categorize it as “discrimination” and vice-versa.

True? Hope so~





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