“Much has been written on Dean Alfange’s poem “I do not chose to be a common man” which was originally published in This Week Magazine. Later printed in The Reader’s Digest, October 1952 and January 1954.
This is a simple & yet powerful poem depicting the individualistic principle of man, his right to freedom & choice, to live a life of his own choosing, to enjoy the fruits of his own labour, to stand tall & be counted for all his actions, to do the right things by his conscience, to undertake all things big & small in the final reckoning of what it means to be a Man! It shows the strength of character – a citizen that any nation would be proud to have!
In the 70s when I burned off my academic bridges & plunge right in the field of life insurance sales in Malaysia . . . from a secured salaried man to that of strictly depending on commissions, this wonderful poem was my creed . . . my guiding light & principle. It enabled me to be well motivated, strong & independent and earning an unlimited income. This was an income truly commensurate with your time & effort – the sky’s the limit. On the reverse, the negative danger is zero income!
As the District Manager stationed in Ipoh, Malaysia for as then the fledging Malaysian American Assurance Co. Bhd., I had clients & agents of every colour, race or creed. Many of them were Malays. They were my friends & buddies, including high officials in the government service & the military. But I have been away from Malaysia since 1982 & have lost touch with lots of dear old friends.
There’s a group of my former HSC students from Anderson School, Ipoh (1966/67) that I still kept in touch through emailing. Many of them have succeeded well in life & even well decorated & honoured with distinguished titles of Dato/Datuk & Tan Sri/Puan Sri. I believe many of them attained their wealth & fame on “meritocracy”.
However, my heart bleeds to see both plight & flight of the new generations of Malay. The poor have remained way down in the economic scale . . . unable to compete with those with UMNO/BN connections or are bogged down in the political-social-economic quagmire designed & created by the elite UMNOputra group. The flight of the fortunate Malays to the economic “throne” is nothing to be admired . . . with their dignity in both flight & plight!
Looking in from outside, anyone can conjure the vision of “generations loss” – a situation that will further deteriorate the dignity & pride of the common Malays. None of them will ever be able to stand tall & erect, proud & dignified, to be able to face the world & say “This I have done!”
Needless for me to say why Malaysia despite its wonderfully natural rich resources is falling behind the rest of its neighbouring cousins in Southeast Asia or the Pacific Rim.
The UMNO/BN government has to go! A change must come about! That change has to begin with the people themselves. It’s not a violent revolution like the “Arab Spring” that is advocated but that of a “mental revolution”
If under the same circumstances, the rest of the population like the Chinese & the Indians can still struggle & survive, how is it that the so-called “elite” Malays cannot compete?
Read Dean Alfange’s poem. Memorise & internalise until it becomes part of yourselves.
I do not choose to be a common man,
It is my right to be uncommon if I can
I seek opportunity not security
I do not wish to be a kept citizen,
humble & deluded
by having the State to look after me.
I want to take the calculated risk,
to dream & to build, to fail & to succeed.
I refuse to barter incentive for a dole
I prefer the challenges of life to dole
I prefer the challenges of life
to the guaranteed existence;
the thrill of fulfilment
instead of a stale Utopia.
I will not trade freedom for beneficence
nor my dignity for a handout.
I will not cower before any master
nor bend to any threat.
It is my heritage to stand erect, proud & unafraid,
to think & act for myself,
to enjoy the benefits of my creations
and to face the world boldly,
and to say: “This I have done”.
All this is what it means to be a MAN.
Dean Alfange – An American statesman born December 2, 1899, in Constantinople (now Istanbul). He was raised in upstate New York. He was Professor Emeritus at UMass Amherst and a leading figure in various pro-Zionist organizations (between other actions, in November 1943, he appeared before the House of Representatives and addressed them on the rescue of the Jewish people of Europe). He died in Manhattan at the age of 91 on October 27, 1989.