Jul 03, 2015

    Malaysians should focus on the things that matter

    I AM usually quite difficult to shock but, occasionally, I see something that really blows me away. That was my reaction upon seeing a video recently. It was not pornography or anything remotely like it, but it was still horrifying.

    In the video, two Caucasian men found that their car had been blocked by a pasar Ramadan stall.

    Understandably, they asked the stall owner how they might get the car back.

    Less understandably, the stall owner started shoving and screaming at them.

    Others joined in, and all were shouting and manhandling these two men.

    Some even yelled at them to "balik lah" (go home), although it is unclear where to.

    What was shocking to me, besides the fact that this was obviously during Ramadan when we are meant to exercise restraint, was the sheer overreaction to something which could have been resolved so easily.

    Surely it is reasonable to ask someone who is blocking your car what to do about it?

    Surely the response should have been an apology, followed by an explanation of when the stall would pack up for the night, thereby releasing the car.

    Why the need for all the shouting, screaming and shoving?

    I do not think any civilised person watching this video could have felt anything but embarrassed, as I did.

    What happened to the manners that we are known for, more so during Ramadan?

    If you are polite, it is not news and you do not become famous.

    But if you are crass and crude, you get headlines and everyone remembers your name.

    There may be reasons for rage, but what I do not get is the infantile way it gets expressed.

    Name-calling, jeering and shoving is the way of juvenile hooligans, not mature adults.

    Have we regressed to such a childlike state that those are the only ways we can express rage?

    What next, mass foot-stomping?

    Everything today points towards a society that is encouraged to express itself in mob-like behaviour.

    One person just needs to say that he is offended by something and, for no rhyme or reason, hordes of people decide that they should be offended too.

    Indeed, they even look at ways to be offended.

    And when you have leaders who say that the onus is on minorities to behave in a certain way so as not to offend the majority, what else could you expect in response?

    Are we all supposed to live in such a way that we constantly have to look out for offences imagined in other people's heads?

    Every time we go out, are we supposed to always be on the lookout for ways to avoid offending total strangers?

    We might go to a Malaysian government department where, as taxpayers, we may reasonably expect fast and efficient service.

    Instead, we are treated as if we are offensive creatures because of our choice of clothes.

    How does the sight of anyone's legs affect the efficiency of service?

    If such a sight is too distracting, even through an opaque desk, then there is something wrong with the person serving the customer, not the customer herself.

    Why do people whose salaries depend on us paying our taxes get to play both fashion and moral police?

    All this could be solved so easily if Malaysians had the type of leadership which would come out and say that we should all stop this nonsense about petty things and focus instead on more important issues.

    For example, how to get our currency to rise again, how to manage the high cost of living or how we can work on bringing people together, rather than tearing them apart.

    But obviously, with a leadership so silent that they might as well not exist, the anarchy of bad manners continues unabated. Is it a symptom of something?

    Do people get ruder because they feel rudderless?

    Doesn't anyone want to know?


    The writer is a human-rights activist who works on women's, children's and HIV/Aids issues.