Deficit of values in Malaysia – who is to be blamed?

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Mat Rempits rounded up - Photograph: The Star

The goal of becoming a developed country should not only focus on economic accomplishments; it should also include political and social transformation so that we become a mature society, says Benedict Lopez.

Even for someone like me who refers to himself as an eternal optimist and always strives to see a rainbow on the horizon in the most pessimistic situations, I am objectively unable to do so at times.

I must confess that on a number of occasions it was just impractical for me to visualise with even an iota of optimism, especially when I continually witness the blatant disregard for the law and norms of social behaviour by ‘Ugly Malaysians’.

Common to both rural folks and urbanites, these negative traits seem to be continually manifesting themselves among the Ugly Malaysians, who have brazen disregard for their fellow citizens. It really demeans us as a society in the eyes of outsiders to the country, whether residents or visitors.

Loss of our moral compass

Just take a walk in an affluent residential area like Bangsar and you can see dogs’ droppings along the roads and lanes. Don’t these pet owners have even a little grey matter upstairs to realise the nauseating effect this has on pedestrians and passers-by, particularly at night? And look at the rubbish thrown all over the place; the culprits expecting DBKL or Alam Flora to clean up the mess.

Quite common in a place like Bangsar are youngsters riding motorcycles recklessly in residential areas, most of them without their helmets. Many of them are schoolchildren who most likely do not have a motorcycle licence. Where are the adults who permit these pupils to ride motorcycles illegally, endangering the safety of others?

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Not to be outdone by these schoolchildren are equally irresponsible motorists who deliberately disregard pedestrians crossing at the traffic lights. Just the other day as I was about to cross the road at the traffic lights with a friend in Jalan Maarof, Bangsar a female motorist tried to beat the lights and hit my friend.

Luckily, my spontaneous reaction in pulling my friend away resulted in only his hand being slightly hit, not requiring the attention of a doctor.

At the same spot a few weeks ago, while crossing the road after the pedestrians’ crossing lights had flashed, two young women on a motorcycle tried to beat the traffic lights and just missed hitting me by a few feet.

When I called out to them, the pillion rider responded with a vulgar sign towards me. I was appalled at the woman’s uncouth and uncivilised manner towards someone much older than her.

A short while later, I witnessed a motorcyclist in Jalan Bangsar getting off his motorcycle at the traffic lights. Using his helmet, he smashed the windscreen of a tourist coach. Apparently, the coach driver had honked at him earlier to reproach him for his careless riding.

I was shocked at this road rage. Someone like him definitely needs to be sent for psychiatric therapy on anger management.

Dearth of ethics in society

Try driving slowly, carefully abiding by the traffic rules along ordinary roads or the highways, and you face the wrath of lunatic drivers honkin and flashing their lights at you. The police should charge them in court and request the magistrate to send them for psychoanalysis.

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Take a trip on the LRT in KL and observe the behaviour of our youngsters. With unashamed indifference, they occupy seats reserved for senior citizens, expectant mothers and people with disabilities, completely ignoring them even when they are standing right in front of them inside the train.

Often they appear oblivious to the presence of their fellow citizens or are busy texting on their cellphones or engrossed in a book! What a shame and a disgrace they are.

If at one time we faced the problem of drug addiction, today it is the cellphone obsession. I am aghast to see motorists texting while driving with one hand on the steering wheel and the other on the phone. Even motorcyclists do the same with one hand on the motorcycle and the other messaging on the mobile.

Even pedestrians while crossing the road are focussed on their phones instead of looking at the traffic. Sheer insanity.

Consumer protection seems to have taken a backseat today. Only if you go to retail establishments and check on the prices of goods will you know what I mean.

There are two supermarkets in Bangsar where the prices are high in comparison with a sundry shop in Bangsar Park, when it should be vice versa. Sometimes, the price difference is as much as RM3 on a particular product.

At times, I wonder where are our enforcement agencies and the consumers associations are, when they should be checking on these supermarkets to prevent the exploitation of customers. Even after I had informed the management of these supermarkets about the vast differences in their prices, no action was taken to reduce the prices.

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The key question is, who is to be blamed for the apathy in our society? I am not sure who is responsible for the lack of civic-mindedness in society – the relevant authorities or the pathetic upbringing of children by parents lacking in parenting skills. Or has our education system failed to inculcate basic noble values in our children?

Perhaps, the print and electronic media must also bear responsibility for failing to highlight the negative aspects of our society and to propose remedial measures.

The goal of becoming a developed and high-income country should not only focus on economic accomplishments. It should also include political and social transformation so that we become a mature society.

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Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. A pragmatic optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits and privileges found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one that he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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Dr. SNaidu
Dr. SNaidu
15 Oct 2018 11.54am

A good article. Thank you. Concerned,’educated’ parents and Malaysians commonly feel this is indeed a serious social phenomenon in OUR nation. We have often advocated that it is primarily through ‘education’ in all education institutions, starting at the early school levels, that this ‘disease’ and hopefully, not a social epidemic still, can be gradualistically minimised. Teacher education, parental nurturance, public and governmental media resources- these and other appropriate avenues have to be objectively studied with lucid, universal-values based common sense, towards the REALISATION of new Malaysia. We have model nations like some of the Nordic,European nations like Norway, Finland, Switzerland and Japan to learn from.And, soon.