We need to wise up

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

MALAYSIANS are gen­er­ally known for their po­lite­ness and obe­di­ent too, at times bend­ing back­ward to re­main so. This has led to har­mony among us with min­i­mal so­cial up­heaval rel­a­tive to other coun­tries. Some say this is the key rea­son why Malaysia sur­vives as a plu­ral so­ci­ety even though we know it is only skin deep at times.

This at­ti­tude can be likened to that of the Ja­panese who by and large want to make things “easy” and “com­fort­able” for oth­ers. Why they are punc­tual for ex­am­ple is to en­sure that the host or the per­sons in­volved are not kept wait­ing and in­con­ve­nienced. And at the slight­est slip in eti­quette they apol­o­gise un­re­servedly, and even re­sign if the act dam­ages their rep­u­ta­tion or causes em­bar­rass­ment pub­licly, what is more as pub­lic ser­vants. Malaysians have yet to em­brace this as­pect. The con­cept of “malu” has van­ished from our eti­quette.

The case in point was il­lus­trated dur­ing the re­cent stir that took place at a well­known hyper­mar­ket way south. Those pa­tro­n­is­ing the out­let were of­fered RM3,000 worth of gro­ceries per per­son to be carted home. This led to the out­let clos­ing early to re­plen­ish stocks. And ap­par­ently to clean up some of the mess caused by the fran­tic buy­ing. The out­let, how­ever, was po­lite enough to side­step the is­sue (typ­i­cally not to im­pli­cate oth­ers) but to the ra­tio­nal-minded it was not dif­fi­cult to fig­ure out why based on pho­tos pro­vided in the me­dia. The in­ci­dent con­firmed an “ugly” trait among Malaysians. It boils down to 2Gs: “gulli­bil­ity” and “greed”.

At the whiff of “free­bies”, crowds are drawn in droves. Open houses are not ex­cluded. Some bring along bags and con­tain­ers to tapau home their favourite del­i­ca­cies. So when a RM3,000 of­fer was dan­gled, one can imag­ine the scene. It was an op­por­tu­nity not to be missed.

A fel­low colum­nist summed it up well last Fri­day in the con­text of health­care: “It is in the Malaysian DNA to take all these ser­vices too much for granted with­out car­ing two hoots civilised. They main­tained deco­rum as they would have un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances and took only what they needed, leav­ing am­ple items for those who were queu­ing pa­tiently be­hind them. There was no re­port of crowds go­ing berserk to hog more than what they need or de­priv­ing oth­ers of their share. Be­cause of this they earned re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion the world over be­fit­ting the dig­nity of a bangsa so well de­served based on ac­tions, not mere im­pul­sive words.

That dis­ci­pline was kept at all times is a les­son to many. In con­trast, we were un­able to main­tain even sim­ple man­ners de­spite the fact food stocks were plen­ti­ful, and the sit­u­a­tion was nowhere near that of Fukushima.

In a nut­shell, be­ing “gullible” and “greedy” is a sign of weak­ness that could be ex­ploited at all lev­els: in­di­vid­ual, na­tional and global by just any­one. In par­tic­u­lar those with some vested in­ter­est not just eco­nom­ics and pol­i­tics. In a world in­clined to­wards global dom­i­na­tion through soft power play, the 2Gs in com­bi­na­tion be­come a strate­gic en­try point. The hyper­mar­ket stir taught us a vi­tal les­son about our vul­ner­a­bil­ity. We should have known bet­ter.

With some four decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in ed­u­ca­tion, the writer be­lieves that “an­other world is pos­si­ble”. Com­ments: let­ters@ the­sundaily.com

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