The Malaysian spirit — TS Rave Ross
APRIL 20 — I have been a loyal fan of Malaysia but my enthusiasm and optimism has of late been waning.
I am not feeling so good about my country.
I am not just talking about Malaysia’s economic and financial well-being. There is enough being said about the ever increasing cost of living and our being caught in the middle-income trap; our worrying budget deficit coupled with the mounting costs of operating a hugely bloated civil service and covering subsidies; our decreasing global competitiveness; widening income disparities; our neverending economic reliance on race and political affiliations — of who you know rather than what you know; and, finally, of economic and social distributive policies that continue to be based on race and not need.
It’s not just the economy that worries me.
I believe there is more to a country than its economy. A country needs a spirit, a soul. What worries me deeply is that the spirit of this nation is being plundered by a serious lack of quality, integrity, fair play, meritocracy, vision and leadership.
I refer to the constant stoking by our politicians of repugnant issues which reek of racism and intolerance, and the superior manner in which they think can get away with it.
I refer to the many times the government has chosen to remain silent and placid while incendiary statements are being made by shallow bigots. To the common labelling of these incidences as “sensitive”, when in reality they are issues which the government is too politically afraid to address, preferring instead to permit the matter to fester as undercurrents within our communities.
I refer to our government’s paternalistic, patronising (some would argue feudal) approach to Malaysian citizens. Always telling us what they think we need with scant regard for what we actually need.
I refer to the manner in which legislative amendments are bulldozed through our Parliament without regard for proper debate and public consultation.
I refer to the selective prosecution of corrupt officials.
I refer to the arrogance of our leaders when they dismiss any difference in view or even constructive criticism as treason.
I refer to the frequent warnings not to question government policies while at the same time trumpeting that the age of “government knows best” is gone.
I refer to the tiresome reminders from our government of the dangers that lurk around the corner, of the bogeyman which will destroy the fabric of our nation if we were not to continue to trust the government and all that they say and do.
I refer to the lack of honour, integrity and transparency by which our politicians conduct themselves in their role as legislators and members of the executive. Of their disregard for accountability or responsibility for their actions and decisions. Of the legacy they are leaving for our children — that corruption and nepotism is the only way to survive in Malaysia. That you need not be held responsible for anything or be accountable to anybody.
I refer to the deepening belief that our government is all talk and little (or ineffective) action in matters pertaining to freedom of expression and basic civil liberties.
I refer to the narrow thinking of our bureaucrats and politicians who diminish the richness of artistic freedom which is made available in Malaysia.
I refer to the decay in our education system. The refusal to acknowledge or repair the continuing decline in the quality of our national syllabus. I refer to the calibre of the teachers who impart it. Of the increasing racial polarisation within our schools and tertiary institutions. The parochial and intolerant religious views being propagated by our educators to our future generations.
We have in the past too readily accepted subtle attacks on our nation’s spirit. To the extent that our politicians and other parties have taken full use of the latitude which this has accorded them. To the extent that the current attacks are not so subtle and indeed far more frequent and sinister.
I am tired of the politicians who tell us to practise selective amnesia. The leaders instigate or permit an assault on our country’s spirit which we are then told to forget.
It’s time Malaysians stopped standing on the sidelines and take a stand to protect our country’s spirit.
It’s not just the economy.
* TS Rave Ross reads The Malaysian Insider.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.