‘Celebrating’ our work ethic
NOV 29 — We quite literally took to the streets that Monday night. Having spent the last two nail-biting hours chained to our television sets, cursing whenever the Indonesian players stole the ball, and waiting with bated breath as the ball was passed around, we watched in trepidation as the captain of our national football team fired his penalty kick and granted us sweet victory. Gold was ours.
From the balcony of my apartment, I watched as cheers and jubilations filled the streets outside, carried by ecstatic fans on revving motorcycles. Colourful fireworks shortly followed in the merrymaking.
Cyberspace was not spared from the fanfare. Hoorays and congratulations streamed down the news feeds of social networking sites. One could not help but to smile; it was certainly a welcome break to see everyone united and sharing the same sense of pride.
Equally eye-catching, however, was the inevitable string of calls for the following day to be declared a public holiday.
History has seen numerous occasions of a free day off being granted after winning a cup or medal. We saw it last year, when our football team took home the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup. We saw it in Kelantan, when the state government allowed a public holiday after the Kelantanese football team defeated the Negeri Sembilan team in the Malaysia Cup final last year.
What is the rationale for declaring a public holiday after a sporting victory?
It couldn’t possibly be in tribute of our football team; there would otherwise be a Harimau Malaya Day celebrated every year. This also doesn’t explain the inconsistency of this practice with regards to arguably bigger victories in other sports, such as squash and badminton.
Could there, perhaps, be a more practical purpose for having a day off? Back in June, earlier this year, a public holiday on the Sunday of the FA Cup final weekend was declared in Kelantan. The reason provided was to “ensure the safe return” of the state football fans from KL, the day after the match. [It is to be noted that the Kelantanese team ended up losing the final match to Terengganu, anyway.]
But this reason fails to hold water when you throw into the mixing pot the fact that not an overwhelming majority of the Kelantanese are fans diehard enough to travel all the way down to KL just to catch the FA Cup finals. For most other people in Kelantan, life goes on, football or not. Declaring a public holiday for that mere reason hardly seems justified.
We could, then, perhaps venture our favourite one-size-fits-all answer — that it all amounts to nothing but a political card. Play on public hype; declare a national holiday to ride along with the popular wave of elation. Political brownie points scored.
That may well be the reason why we do have public holidays declared whenever one of our national athletes or sports teams takes home a medal or cup. But this does not explain the more alarming phenomenon of the public asking for public holidays.
It seems rather preposterous to suggest that we would need a whole day off work to celebrate a win in a regional football competition. Some of the people wanting a public holiday are not even into football. We seem to be clamouring for excuses to not work.
Could it just be a case of plain laziness? We appear to have quite a way to go, where work ethics are concerned.
This isn’t all about wanting a free day off. All around, we hear rampant complaints about our workers being lackadaisical, sluggish and complacent.
A friend of mine recently expressed his frustration at the inefficiency of a local university’s administration.
He complained of the lackadaisical and unresponsive attitude of the front-line administrative staff, and how the only way he could ever get things done would be to carbon copy his e-mails to a higher authority in the university who happened to be his personal friend.
Another friend of mine noted the stark differences in work ethics in the workers of countries abroad, namely Indonesia and China. Competition is stiff; not everyone who wants a job gets it. Those who do, work hard and do their job well, for fear of getting replaced. He thus wonders if the reason for this disparity lies in the fact that jobs are far harder to come by in those countries than in our homeland.
According to him, everyone there works diligently and is thankful they even have a job. The employees you hire are respectful and don’t give you attitude each time you try to correct them. Businesses and establishments run smoothly and efficiently, because they would otherwise be run into the ground by the vicious competition around.
Maybe we have it a little too easy here.
In any event, our prime minister has already confirmed that there will be no public holiday for this occasion. So there will be no bonus off-day for us. We will all still have to get up early and brave the morning traffic to get to the office, but it is nonetheless worth spending a bit of time reflecting on whether our work ethic is anything to celebrate about.
* Yizhen has just completed her undergraduate law degree at the University of Oxford.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.