In line with Vision 2020, Malaysians should aspire to improve their social skills and behaviour to enjoy a higher quality of life.
It was a splendid idea but unfortunately did not pay off well enough as evidenced by the extent and nature of discourtesy we are witnessing in the country nowadays.
It is not necessary for me, perhaps, to list the litany of ill behaviour or the “kurang ajar” mentality that appears to be part of the psyche and nature of a growing number of Malaysians who, in their quest to get ahead in life, often fail to consider that they offend others terribly in the process.
Is it really necessary for us to succeed so desperately in life that oftentimes, while trying to move on and move up in life, there are transgressions committed by us towards others that almost nullifies or negates whatever “success or gains” made in life?
The intention is not to preach about displaying exemplary behaviour at all times; if this can be achieved, fine and well. But the important message to get across to Malaysians is to monitor and observe ourselves and how we come across to others around us through the sharing of our thoughts, our action and, probably most important of all, the use of words – both in written and spoken form.
The idea basically is for us to live with thought and consideration for not only ourselves and our loved ones but also for those we come into contact with in our daily life. This is a tall order and difficult to achieve but something Malaysians must learn to apply themselves in doing.
Why? This is because if we don’t learn to live with thought and consideration for others, being civic-minded, then whatever development and progress we make in this country cannot be enjoyed in full.
The struggle to achieve a developed nation status will all not amount to much if, in this country, we live our lives as if we have absolutely no regard or respect for others.
The need to behave, and the need to behave well at all times, is very important in attaining the quality of life we all aspire and dream and cherish. It is only when we put into practice and instil in us the values, manners and behaviour in keeping with a civilised society will we be able to safely say we have become an advanced and developed nation.
Otherwise, we will just be fooling ourselves into thinking that we have really become developed and advanced as a country although the physical infrastructures might all be in place and in line with developed status.
A meeting of minds
Being developed is more than putting in place the physical infrastructure of modernity. There is more to becoming a developed state and what is important is for each individual to encompass a mind, body and soul that is aligned to suit and meet the expectations of the future as it unfolds to us day-by-day.
The emphasis therefore is on the individual as a part of the state, of human capital and human development.
It also about how each individual, in an expected state of wellness, interact and communicate with others around them to bring about and enjoy greater benefits in life and living for everyone.
Perhaps the best option to begin in developing ourselves is for us to react and response to the human condition in this country in an appropriate and more meaningful way.
Instead of being quick to jump the gun and vent our anger on the authorities and our fellow human beings, perhaps we need to reflect more deeply and engage others with a sound knowledge, understanding and thoughts and ideas on the issues that affect Malaysian society today.
In doing so, in engaging in sound communication and open dialogue, perhaps there might be able to be “a meeting of minds” and in the process much of the ill-will that affects us Malaysians can be solved and settled in an open and transparent manner to the satisfaction of all.
The idea each Malaysian must come to embrace is that they should aspire to be part of the solution and not be part of the problems that confront us.
Offer solutions and don’t be mischievous or a menace by adding or creating problems in the country.
Revive the courtesy campaign and put more effective and pragmatic activities and programmes into it. Offer free public courses in communication skills as a means of getting Malaysians to understand and appreciate the unity that is achievable despite the diversity we live in that makes us different.
It is in developing the communication skills of the people in the various languages – both written and spoken – that Malaysians will be able to forge a common bond and, for this purpose, it is inevitable and imperative that the English Language be used as the medium of communication though the national language can still be retained as Bahasa Malaysia.
Further, try observing how Malaysians speak and communicate nowadays with each other in public places in a language you understand and you will notice that the use of P’s and Q’s is hardly ever present.
Besides the need to brush up the behaviour of Malaysians in public and their social skills, there is really a dire need to improve on communication skills.
Poor or bad communication in public is usually the cause of tempers flaring and quarrels or even fights breaking out. By communicating better, misunderstandings can easily be avoided.
Pleasant and enjoyable
While it is unrealistic to expect the entire Malaysian population to be on their best behaviour, it is high time we disapproved of the ugly behaviour of a significant number of Malaysians.
The government should be urged and encouraged to lead the way by implementing social etiquette in schools, institutions of higher learning, and in the civil service.
The government should also work together with the private sector to create ways and means whereby Malaysians may behave better at home, in schools, colleges and universities or at the workplace and while in public.
This way, the atmosphere of the nation will be pleasant and enjoyable for all and a real welcome to visitors and a boost to tourism.
For all – Malaysians and the rest of the world – there will then be a much higher and truly richer quality of life to appreciate in this country.
Christopher Fernandez has been teaching and writing throughout Asia since 1984.