An Open Letter to Malaysian-Tamil Society: Trapped in a Culture of Dependency, Entitlement and the De-Valuation of Social Service


Dr. Bairavee Balasubramaniam, PhD speaking on ´Re-wiring The Human Brain´ at University Malaya,  2013

I am the daughter of Mr. Thannambikai Balasubramaniam, the man who introduced the phrase ´Thanmunaippu Payirtchi´ (Motivational Seminar) to the Malaysian-Tamil people. He pioneered most of the techniques, formats and even developed the conceptual language that acts as the basis of most of what we see in the motivational scene today. Over the past few decades, since my father´s time, that industry has sadly become far more commercialized whilst our society – for the most part – is still struggling to find its feet. Consequently, whilst there is a recognition of the need for this type of service, people don´t know who to go to, and when they do find someone decent – they demand their services for free.

I began speaking in Malaysia when I was 16, mostly on matters of education, learning paradigms and the consciousness of the brain. I was recognized as a Mensan Genius (172 IQ) and accelerated my own education by teaching myself most of secondary school syllabi in under a year at the age of 13. Three years down the line, I had developed my own modules and spoke to thousands of Malaysian-Tamil children through mass programs and on the radio alongside other speakers and my father, of course. I had to stop when my work began to raise too many uncomfortable questions, and it was then that I began my tertiary education overseas. Financed primarily by merit-based scholarships and a lot of hard work, I obtained my PhD at the University of Warwick, UK in Political Science just after I turned 25.


Me and my father, Mr. Thannambikai Balasubramaniam, the pioneer of Tamil-language motivational seminars in Malaysia, 2013

I still get invitations (and sometimes demands) from members of the concerned public to return to the work I once did – and to do so for free. I believe that social work and service should not be done for a commercial or profit motive (if so, get into business instead), but that the facilitator or trainer should receive something in exchange that is of use to them. Let them get paid – and as long as they do something useful for you – let it be a fair exchange.

A good service provider will give what they can without expectation, but try not to assume that they must always do so. Most people with integrity in this field struggle to even break even – and remember – they´re people, just like you. They have kids, or need to pay bills or debts – just like you.

In my experience I have seen that what is taken for free is never appreciated – and what is a heartfelt gift cannot be something that you shame, bully or guilt-trap someone else into giving. In all honesty that is one of the reasons why so many motivators have come and gone in this society, and even fewer of worth stay behind. Valuing the worth of the individual and the service that individual provides is one of the biggest lessons that our society has yet to learn.

There is a refusal to honor the time of people who genuinely want to do good work. And yet, we would cash out the same money for entertainment, luxuries and spiritual charlatans who claim to fix our lives but ultimately don´t – without a moment´s doubt or hesitation. There´s some good spiritualists out there, but a lot of quacks as well. The same applies to motivational speakers in this country, and in other parts of the world.

So really, it´s not a question of lacking resources. It´s a question of what we truly value and whether we´re willing to put the time into evaluating who or what we choose to seek help out from.

And if we do not value the help we seek, what use is there in providing it, except to feed the bottomless pit that says ´give me, give me, give me – or you´re a bad person´.

We, as a society, constantly expect someone else to come in and solve our problems for us, or show us a way to do so without developing the individual ability to do so. And that has created a culture of extreme dependency. We expect to be saved.

I still go back to public speaking and pro bono work here once in a while. What I´ve seen is that the mentality of entitlement, of individual inability, and of devaluing work and service has all but intensified.

The gap between the haves and the have-nots in our society has all but widened. And that scream that says ´give me, give me, give me´just keeps getting louder and louder. And no matter how much you do give, it´s just never enough.

And that cycle needs to be broken.

But here´s the simple fact of the matter:

Until we learn to value our teachers and facilitators – whoever they may be, we will not learn to grow. We will not even be ready to begin to learn.

I am thinking about ways to contribute, but it´s really got to be something new. Otherwise it´s just going to be feeding into the same old thing, over and over and over again.

Just as it is pointless to throw salt into the sea, it is pointless to try and drain away the people who can (and are willing to help) in the name of ´social service´. Believe me, if this society spent just a fraction of the amount it spends on other things (beauty treatments, entertainment, luxury goods), we wouldn´t need to be having this conversation.

If I do decide that I want to work with the people here, it will be in a way that honors my time and commitment as a professional – and that allows an individual to actually empower themselves, rather than to simply make them dependent on yet another motivator, course or training program.

Dr Bairavee Balasubramaniam

7 Comments on “An Open Letter to Malaysian-Tamil Society: Trapped in a Culture of Dependency, Entitlement and the De-Valuation of Social Service

  1. Wonderful article. I’d like to add that this is a worldwide trend. People want things for free and devalue authenticity and genuine caring and goodness of heart. I believe, the problem lies in religious dogma telling us that rich people are bad and exploiting others and good, saintly people don’t have any worldly possessions and rely on the charity of others. We, as a global society have a sociological bender in our expectations. We want to be good, so we fight against affluence inwardly and mostly subconsciously, and at the same time, we expect alms from other good people. Yes, we are willing to pay for entertainment and luxury – and charlatans – because that is not good and saintly. But evil is. In this entire construct, however, there are some vital parts missing. First of all, there is no good or bad. Those are human definitions designed to have points of reference in a physical world. What is good for one person is deemed evil in another’s eyes. There is no absolute. At the same time, we ought to describe it better as what is in harmony with the flow of energy through us which creates our physical reality and consciousness and what is blocking that flow and thus depleting us of life force/energy (also called Spirit/God/Goddess, etc).
    The next great misunderstanding is “renouncing worldly possessions.” It is not meant as a forceful deprivation, a taking away and changing affluence to economic poverty which results in suffering. People believe often that suffering makes them a better person and thus keep creating experiences where they suffer through illness, abuse and many other things which makes them feel “holier than thou,” but is in fact a blockage of life force/energy flowing freely. The reason spiritually advanced people see no need to follow consumerist society is because they don’t need to define themselves and their own value through external means, like people, places and things. When someone feels the need to define their value through external sources, there is an underlying lack mentality which means they deny themselves to take full responsibility for being the creators of their own lives. When you truly know that you have value just because you exist and love yourself unconditionally, you will never be lonely, forelorn, poor or in lack of anything ever again. As you said in a previous article about the people you stayed with in the UK, people who are master creators know that there is never lack and all needs will be provided for easily and effortlessly. To sum it up, renunciation of worldly things should be termed renunciation of lack mentality and the need to define one’s value through external means. The people that want everything good for free create themselves to be charity cases. They wallow in victimhood and refuse to embrace their own power. Then they (try to) use others to affirm their chosen state of being.
    Beautiful article, my sister, as always. Much love to you and never allow anyone else to try and take away your freedom which enables you to be empowered and embrace your own power as creator of your own life!!! 💖

    Liked by 1 person

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