To love our coun­try, we must first learn to love and care for our fel­low cit­i­zens

New Straits Times - - Opinion - With more than 15 years in jour­nal­ism and hav­ing a Mas­ters in coun­selling psy­chol­ogy, the writer is al­ways drawn to the mys­tery of the hu­man mind and be­hav­iour

IT is al­most a daily rou­tine. The cal­ico cat, to­gether with an or­ange tabby, would wan­der around my of­fice in Pu­tra­jaya. They would purr and meow loudly when they see fa­mil­iar faces, and oc­ca­sion­ally, brush their bod­ies against my legs to ex­press af­fec­tion.

This dis­play of friend­li­ness is the re­sult of years of know­ing that there are al­ways kind-hearted hu­mans around to pro­vide a scrump­tious grub or put out a bowl of clean wa­ter for them, and oc­ca­sion­ally their friends as well.

We Malaysians — at least most of us as I like to be­lieve — have al­ways ex­hib­ited com­pas­sion for an­i­mals, as well as ex­tend­ing help to un­der­priv­i­leged seg­ments of so­ci­ety.

More so when it comes to fes­tive sea­sons, when cor­po­ra­tions do their share of char­ity work for or­phans, the el­derly and the poor.

But that is when the me­dia cam­eras are click­ing away and the com­pa­nies are driven by cor­po­rate tax in­cen­tives.

When there is no in­cen­tive to make our­selves look good, we will give in to our self­ish na­ture.

Just ob­serve how many peo­ple will hold the lift door as you try to catch up with your shop­ping cart, or how of­ten car driv­ers will ex­press grat­i­tude af­ter be­ing al­lowed to go first.

The re­cent spate of ve­hi­cles caught driv­ing against traf­fic fur­ther high­lights the bur­geon­ing con­cern over our self­ish be­hav­iour.

The case of the 19-year-old part-time model, who caused a fa­tal ac­ci­dent by driv­ing against traf­fic on the North-South Ex­press­way in Pe­nang, is some­what re­flec­tive of our ap­a­thy and lack of con­cern for the safety of oth­ers. Her ac­tion caused the death of one mo­torist and dam­aged five other ve­hi­cles.

Another in­fa­mous woe of Malaysian road users is the seem­ingly ac­cept­able prac­tice of double park­ing, some­times even triple park­ing.

To curb il­le­gal park­ing in Pu­tra­jaya, ef­fec­tive April 1, the lo­cal au­thor­ity will clamp or tow away il­le­gally parked ve­hi­cles on 45 roads in nine precincts.

It was re­ported that be­tween Jan­uary and March 12 this year, the au­thor­i­ties had is­sued 18,622 sum­monses and towed away 93 ve­hi­cles.

Through­out my life work­ing in Pu­tra­jaya and go­ing around its gov­ern­ment build­ings and com­mer­cial of­fices, I ob­served that park­ing spa­ces are aplenty.

It is just that these driv­ers are not keen to walk and choose to re­main obliv­i­ous to the dif­fi­cul­ties caused by their in­con­sid­er­ate ac­tions.

Even as some driv­ers leave their call­ing cards on the wind­shield, they are sim­ply as­sum­ing that ev­ery­one has a mo­bile phone to call them to move their cars.

Re­cently, just as a ill-man­nered mo­tor­cy­clist al­most failed to beat the traf­fic light, the pop­u­lar tune

by Tim McGraw, which re­minds lis­ten­ers to “al­ways stay hum­ble and kind”, to “hold the door”, “say please” and “thank you”, oddly enough res­onated through­out my car cabin.

I found my­self pay­ing closer at­ten­tion to the lyrics of the like­able song, which also re­minded me not to steal, cheat and lie, as well as to stay hum­ble once I achieved suc­cess, never giv­ing up on help­ing oth­ers.

Sadly, songs such as this are too far and few in be­tween amid the cur­rent crop of hol­low mu­sic.

It al­ways baf­fles me when I pon­der how pro­gres­sively im­po­lite we be­come as we get older.

In al­most ev­ery oc­ca­sion, I hear moth­ers and fa­thers re­mind­ing their kids to say “please” and “thank you” to strangers they meet, be it the sales­girl in the retail shop, the cleaner in the build­ing or the se­cu­rity guards at their res­i­den­tial ar­eas.

Yet, when they grow up, their cour­tesy and po­lite­ness mys­te­ri­ously dis­ap­pear.

Which is why it was heart­en­ing for me to read the com­ments of top-scor­ing stu­dents in last year’s Si­jil Pe­la­jaran Malaysia ex­am­i­na­tion.

Many of these tal­ented teens re­sponded with hu­mil­ity when asked about their achieve­ments.

The val­ues of be­ing hum­ble and kind, how­ever, seem to be miss­ing among Ne­ti­zens who trolled Natasha Qisty Mohd Ridzuan, a straight 9A+ stu­dent of Kolej Tunku Kur­shiah in Ni­lai, Ne­gri Sem­bi­lan, just be­cause she has beauty and the brains.

It was ap­palling to see how mean and jeal­ous the on­line com­men­ta­tors were. If this is the kind of at­ti­tude that most Malaysians have, we are in deep trou­ble.

When Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Na­jib Razak launched the Ek­spresi Ne­garaku pro­gramme last Saturday, it was in­deed a timely call for us to safe­guard our na­tion’s progress.

How­ever, in my view, build­ing the spirit of pa­tri­o­tism and fan­ning our love for the coun­try is much more than just proudly singing the na­tional an­them and pledg­ing our loy­alty to the moth­er­land.

It must be about gen­uinely want­ing to en­rich our way of think­ing and de­vel­op­ing our civic con­scious­ness. To love our coun­try, we must first learn to love and care for our fel­low cit­i­zens.

Per­haps, one way, we can start this jour­ney is by lis­ten­ing to Tim McGraw's song, and truly em­brace the mean­ing of its lyrics.

An in­fa­mous woe of Malaysian road users is the seem­ingly ac­cept­able prac­tice of double park­ing, some­times even triple park­ing.

Natasha Qisty Mohd Ridzuan with her par­ents. She was trolled by Ne­ti­zens af­ter scor­ing 9A+ in the SPM ex­am­i­na­tion.

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