Thursday, 9 April 2009


Why it is that so many Malaysians claim they aren't racist, yet clearly treat people differently based on their ethnicity? How is it that we get extremely offended when someone insinuates about our race but we let it go when it's someone else's race? Surely if we aren't racists we should be offended either way?

Why do we complain about the pervasiveness of corruption and how it's destroying our country, yet we are willing to push some money to get things done faster or to curry favour, or pay a bribe to escape a penalty? Do we have a right to complain if we contribute to the very depravity we complain about?

Why is it that we wax lyrical about advanced countries and their progressive societies, yet refuse to speak up when our own country's authorities act in illiberal ways? Do we think those other countries got there by their people talking about how advanced other countries were? Why is it that we admire their advanced democracies and political maturity, yet refuse to go beyond thinking that Malaysian politics is, and always will be, solely about "Melayu, Cina, India dan lain-lain"? The Malays should be like this, the Chinese should do that, the Indians must be like so (and the lain-lain? What lain-lain?). Why is it that whenever we even talk about left or right policies, we only go a few steps before it's back to racial lines again?

Why is it that we debate about the merits and demerits of a monarchy, when really, it's obvious that there are countries with and without monarchies who enjoy prosperity, democracy and high standards of living? Why do we not talk instead about restoring faith in our judiciary, promoting the rule of law and separation of powers, preserving and championing our constitutional and human rights, dealing with sexism and racism, eradicating poverty and marginalisation, reforming the police and our prisons, improving law enforcement, promoting democratic practices in politics, taking steps towards environmental sustainability, encouraging entrepreneurship, taxation reform and increasing the quality and availability of higher education? Are these not plenty to talk about, and are these not more important and more pressing issues for the country? Surely all that is right or wrong about the country does not lie in the existence or non-existence of our monarchy, let alone our constitutional one? Why waste precious time and energy?

Why do we get riled up on what language to use in schools when, as a friend has pointed out, we do not talk about our inadequate and regressive education system, increasing public funding for our schools, our lack of transparency in examination-marking, our lack of skilled, motivated and well-trained teachers, our underprivileged kids either not getting into education or dropping out early, our Orang Asli children having relatively poor access to schools and educational resources, improving education for those with physical and learning disabilities, improving the quality of our university courses and the competitiveness of our graduates? Again, are these not more important and pressing?

Why it is that we proudly observe Earth Hour, but refuse to even walk a few extra steps to throw rubbish in a bin, or drive when we can simply walk a little, or pay a little more for environmentally sound products? Why is it that we say nothing when our recycling bins are used as waste dumps? Or when our local councils are insensitive to environmental needs? Or when logging of our rainforests is not strictly controlled? Isn't the idea of Earth Hour to promote more action?

Why it is that we claim we believe in human equality, but we treat those from our neighboring countries like dirt? Like sub-humans? Because they aren't Malaysian? Because they're poor? Why it is we tolerate poor living conditions for our construction workers, physical and verbal abuse of our foreign maids, and think nothing of the deprivation their basic needs and rights by their employers? Are they not our fellow men?

Why is it that we say we shouldn't allow them into the country because we need jobs for locals, when it's many of our countrymen who are too proud to sweep floors, flip burgers, collect rubbish or lay bricks in the sun? If they are unwilling because those jobs have low wages, then shouldn't we campaign for a decent minimum wage and wage regulation? And if we are not ready to do so, shouldn't we discard the idea that we don't need foreign workers?

Why is it we blame them (foreign workers) for crime, when it is our companies, developers and authorities who allow them to be brought in illegally or with minimal checks and restrictions, employ them at the lowest possible wage, give them virtually no rights or benefits, let them cramp 10 men to a bedroom, and then just fire them when we no longer need them or when the economy gets tough-going? What about crimes committed by locals, and what about white collar crime? And what about better law enforcement? Better border control? More comprehensive laws and regulations which fairly regulate immigration, employment, wages, living conditions and working conditions? What about a framework in which to enforce those laws?

We scapegoat them as criminals, yet we ourselves flaunt the law and common rules of courtesy when we double-park, make illegal U-turns, cut queues, evade taxes, bribe or 'exempt' ourselves from fees. We ourselves cheat or abuse systems and people but feel it's justified? We expect so much from others but we ourselves can barely observe the simplest, most basic forms of courtesy. Why do we feel we are exempted from our own censure, or that our poor behaviour can be justified, but others' is inexcusable?

These questions baffle me on a daily basis. We seem so preoccupied with arguing about things not worth arguing about that we practically ignore those which we should debate on. We bicker vehemently about the symptoms, but never care to look deeper at the root causes. Could it be because causes are often harder to eradicate than mere symptoms? Of perhaps looking deeper often implicates us, and forces us to confront fundamental truths about our country and ourselves: that developing the country requires from all of us hard work and dedication, a progressive vision and comprehensive approaches to problem solving, and that we need to practice what we preach, otherwise we'd better duduk diam. If we are unwilling to change ourselves, let us think twice about criticising. If we are unwilling to speak up when it counts, perhaps we should shut up when it doesn't.
Don't just wake up Malaysians, grow up!


ash said...

Have you ever considered sending these to the Editor of online newspapers? I think it makes for good reading...

Algy said...

No I haven't, actually. Maybe I should. Just to get a few minutes/megabytes of fame. :P

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