Merdeka/National/Independence Day this year came and went with not much fanfare, at least on my side. My past three Merdekas were spent in Pulau Perhentian. So this is the first time in four years that I was in KL for the occasion. I was at Putrajaya for the fireworks show. The pyrotechnic display by the Japanese team was dazzling, although I was hoping for a few big bursts instead of many small flashes. It took two hours to get home, thanks to the traffic jam. I didn't know Putrajaya had such a bad traffic dispersal system.
My brief reflections the nation as we pass the 50th anniversary of independence from the British:
1. Malaysia has done far better than other developing countries, but the point is, we could be doing better. We shouldn't make direct comparisons with Ghana, which achieved independence on the same day as Malaysia. They have their issues to grapple with. We shouldn't compare with others just to feel smug about ourselves. We should benchmark against ourselves, and see how much higher we can actually jump.
2. I still can't get over the fact that ordinary Malaysians could be owning Toyotas, Hondas and Nissans, if not for Proton. A Vios would be the entry-level basic car for the man on the street, instead of being a dream. I don't believe in status symbols. Cars should never be status symbols. What's the big deal about having a national car? A Perodua is essentially a Daihatsu. A Naza is a rebadged Kia. A Proton used to be a Mitsubishi. Do you think Americans are any less patriotic just because they like Toyota more than Chevrolet? And I wonder if Malaysia's auto industry could ever catch up with Thailand's.
3. A lot has been said about the issue of freedom of religion and speech. All this is the result of the weakening of social institutions and political structures brought about by the lopsided policies of the past administration, and conveniently continued by the present regime. The development of human capital and civil society were overlooked in the headlong rush for modernity. So now, with things slowing down a bit, and FDIs being channeled elsewhere, it's time to ask where we're going next. Siapa makan cili, dia rasa pedas. You reap what you sow. Granted, Malaysia is not in immediate danger of sinking, but the ship is definitely leaking in critical areas.
4. After all the hype about the IT boom, we're still short of real IT engineers. Industry still complains that the education system is not producing the people they need. And suddenly we've realized that we have neglected agriculture. Like, we can eat computer chips? But developing agriculture is not just about building a research institute here and there, only to be staffed by foreign researchers. It's about growing our own technology. In plantation crops, Malaysia is a world leader. But in food crops, I'm afraid we're playing catch-up with other "less developed" countries.
Now now, it's not all gloom and doom. I'm still glad to call this place home. I mean, where else in the world can you get durians and sambal petai udang? It's just that, this home could do with some improvement. How?
1. Register as a voter and make sure you make your point in the next elections. Some of the present politicians have exceeded their shelf life and should be replaced before we get into further trouble. We need to give them a run for their money, since they are making us run for ours.
2. Be part of the solution, not the problem. Deal with the log in your eye before harping on the speck in your neighbour's eye. Mix with your friends of other races and cultures. Convert the extremists with your broader-minded thinking. This is a global village. There's no room for isolationist thinking. Stamp out your own prejudices. Well, if only it were that easy. Truth must be spoken in the streets, not swept under the carpet. Speak the truth with love. I believe in affirmative action. When someone does well, we should affirm them.
3. Say no to corruption, and yes to integrity. The rule of law must prevail. Fine, if you want to drive above 110 km/h, go ahead. But please pay your dues when you're caught. The problem with bribery is that the highest bidder wins. So, who's gonna defend you one day when the crooks can pay the higher price? On that note, buying pirated DVDs is an indirect way of funding criminals. I know, this is a tricky issue. Should you give your money to the rich fat Hollywood studios, or to the scrawny peddler on the sidewalk? The web thickens.
4. Pray for righteousnss and justice to prevail at the highest levels of the government. The fear of God is lacking among certain sections of the ruling elite, sad to say. And after you have prayed, act on it.
Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go practice what I preach. :)