Facing up to reality


There’s no need for us to think of the real reasons why we have so many problems in the country in the first place.


It has been a great week of golfing in Hanoi with my newfound tutor. He successfully turned my friend – a below-average golfer in his younger days – into a senior champion at a local golf club. I hope he can be equally successful with me, or at least help me bring my handicap down to 20. It hasn’t been just golf in Hanoi but also lots of great food and addictive Vietnamese coffee. More importantly, my brief encounter with the Vietnamese has taught me something worthwhile that I would like to share with you.

Life has been hard on them for far too long; in fact, no country has suffered as much as Vietnam in the last 1,000 years. First the Vietnamese endured subjugation from the Chinese, then the French and then the Japanese. They survived famines and severe food shortages until the end of World War II that killed millions of their countrymen. If that had not been enough, the Americans proceeded to blow them to bits with bombs and napalm in the Vietnam War, until they achieved liberation in 1975.

Now all they want to do is to work hard, day and night, rebuild their lives and make their beloved country an economic superpower like their nemeses China and America. They have no time for self-pity, fantasy or daydreaming. Young and old, they have a simple but honourable goal: to feed their families and to be self-sufficient so they can restore national pride and dignity.

It’s so different in Malaysia. We have had no such periods of difficulty and life was never that hard for us. Sure the Japanese Occupation was difficult, but it still pales in comparison to what the Vietnamese experienced. There was the British colonial period but it was largely peaceful, with hardly any battles worth recalling. The British also helped to build the country’s infrastructure and institutions, and there were most definitely no American bombings. Our natural resources have always been plentiful. This benign state of affairs, however, has proven to be a curse because it has made us lazy, stupid and greedy!

We now live in the world of fantasy. We think the country’s wealth will never come to an end and that our leaders can spend and spend as they like. We behave as if our leaders don’t need to be accountable, and it seems equally repulsive to expect the ulamaks and other holy men to be the same since they are already responsible to God. We believe only Malays must dominate the Civil Service, despite clear evidence that they are not the best gatekeepers.

Malays complain about their leaders, inside and outside Parliament, but somehow they still believe that only UMNO can save them. Other Malays believe that if they can find some holy men to be their leaders, life will be fine. Prayers and holy water can cure all ills. They believe that only the Barisan Nasional can rule effectively, despite the billions of Ringgit that have been lost in transit since this coalition came into power. Failing this, they believe the only alternatives are Abdul Hadi Awang or Anwar Ibrahim.

We fantasise that our moral enforcers like JAKIM and JAWI will make Malaysians lead honorable lives and be free from corruption. We fantasise that moralising is government business, and to gratify ourselves with a sense of power we believe that others are always less perfect than we are. We think it’s harmless to divide and rule the people as we have done since Independence, and that we can dispense with having national unity or a national identity.

Read more at: http://www.zaid.my/current/facing-up-to-reality/