Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The problem with Malaysians is...

...that we’re always in a rush to get things to done. We have grand plans and ambitions for the country’s development, but we’re also constantly pitting the measure of our success to that of other developing countries. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course – it’s always good to have other countries to draw examples and inspiration from. But for crying out loud, why are we so sadly desperate about our image? Why are we so caught up in looking good to other nations that the actual development of the country becomes stunted?

I was reading the Star paper today and Najib was quoted as saying about some program or another: “We must go step by step. Don’t run before we can walk.” Sorry, but we’ve been overrunning our steps since independence. There are just too many instances of projects being planned and then scrapped last minute, or done half-way and never finished. Bring down black metal. Bring down snatch thieves. Provide better administration service. Provide better roads. Reduce poverty, better the education system. Stop politicking, start to actually do something for the country for once. Kiss my cynical ass (though they probably won’t follow through with that either).

It seems to be that nowadays, image is taking top priority over everything else. So the substance is gone, and all we’re left with is delusions of grandeur every time we achieve just one thing. All the hoo-haa about sending a Malaysian into the space, with the merchandising, endless celebrations and hype was really unnecessary, unless he was going to bring the dead back to life or do something truly remarkable in his time in all that vacuum.

What is it that they say about the road to hell being paved with good intentions? Just ask us. The government aimed to –and still do – become a developed country to create better lifestyles and opportunities for its people. But on the way their attitudes changed, and suddenly other countries’ perceptions of us took the top slot over the people’s better interests. How many more shopping malls do we need to attract tourists? They don’t want to come here to shop for things that they can already get in their native homelands. How many attractions do we need? Eye on Malaysia is doing much less well than anticipated. Does it matter that we sent a man into space when we could have used the money to breathe some life into the flaccid education system that has produced even more flaccid graduates for years? Or use it to accelerate the reduction of poverty rates? Those are things that would truly make other countries look up to us.

The clothes don’t always make the man, guys. And having other countries think we’re all that when we’re actually far from it is the act of an insecure administration that enjoys instant success without the ability to think beyond and correctly estimate long-term effects. With all the conflict that is happening between our own leaders these days, the dream of a focused, cohesive Malaysia seems to be hovering uncertainly somewhere between “Sell” and “Shelve”. So come on and buck up at least a little.

I’m too damn young to be feeling this damn cynical.