Get involved and do something for society

By John Lee (The Malaysian Insider)

AUG 14 — Apathy is a major problem in Malaysia. I don’t mean this just in a political sense, but in the sense of caring for our community, and in the sense of caring enough to take independent action. People just don’t care, and it’s time we changed that.

Some people complain that Malaysians are a politically apathetic lot. This may be true, but I have been working with several other American university students and alumni to hold information sessions and workshops for students eager to apply to American universities, and in the course of our work, we keep running up against a major problem: Malaysian kids simply do not care. It’s not just that they don’t care about politics; they don’t care about anything except getting good grades, and getting into a good university!

Now, the American university admissions process emphasises service to the community, and participation in a variety of extracurricular pursuits. The idea is that they want you to be more than a student in the classroom; they want you to be a young adult, who acts for himself or herself, both as an individual and as a part of the community. And so we urge young Malaysians to look for ways in which they too can serve their communities, and to look for things which they want to do and care intensely for — not just inside the classroom, but outside it.

The tepid response we often get is quite disheartening. You get people who ask “So how many hours of community service is enough to get me into an Ivy League university?” You get people who want to copy your CV just so they can look like a fantastic candidate. And you even have people who ask for a list of all the extracurricular activities you did in school so they can copy those and do the same. Rather than asking how they can best serve their own communities and pursue their own interests, these kids would prefer to just copy our identities and our lives.

Now, it’s not because they’re dumb, or because they’re malicious. No, I think Malaysian kids are apathetic for one simple reason.

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