Discard mediocrity, aim for excellence

Mediocrity may be the right word to describe the sorry state of affairs in Malaysia now.

Turn to whichever side, or flip to whichever socio-political, economic or religious pages in the annals of Malaysia’s current situation, and it is evident we have stooped to mediocrity.

Take for example, the political quadrant. Can you now find someone who can be identified as a top-notch leader, who is duty bound to the people, who always keeps his conscience clear and whose hands are “clean” and is of sterling character?

You will need to really think very hard to even name one person who can fit into this definition.

To Aristotle, “Politics is a noble activity in which men decide the rules they will live by and the goals they will collectively pursue”. Going by Aristotle’s definition, politics should be a “noble activity”.

How noble is politics now and how noble is politics in Malaysia now? Are we living by the rules we have decided on or are we pursuing goals collectively?

Each politician is only thinking about him or herself. They would go round echoing Mahatma Gandhi’s words that “Politics without ethics is a sin” and yet every day commit unethical and sinful acts.

They are only keen in confirming whether they can survive another term in office and how much money they can make while they are still in office. Is this not simply gutter politics? Is this not mediocrity by any standard?

Flip to social issues affecting Malaysian society now, especially issues involving race, religion or politics. You will rarely find someone in Malaysia who genuinely believes that all Malaysians are equal, regardless of race, religion or political inclination.

Everything in Malaysia gets connected or muddled with race or religion. Even the country’s major political parties are mainly race-based.

Ideally, religion should be a tool for the adherent to help understand his or her own inner nature. And race, being a cultural element, should help one understand the world and adapt to the discordant and diverse social environment.

However, we have forgotten the good ideals of our race or religions, but instead are turning more ethnocentric and more religiously shallow. Is not gauging a person by race or religion mediocrity? Is not the practice of race-based politics mediocrity?

In the daily conduct of our lives, we are also mediocre. We always think only about ourselves, our interests, our jobs, our families and our welfare.

Never for once do the fortunate ones ponder about people out there who do not enjoy the luxury of good-paying jobs, a good house, good food or good garments that they are gifted with.

At least they can be courteous enough to spread a smile and say comforting words to those who deserve them. Such kind gestures are praiseworthy deeds indeed.

Pathetic driving habits on Malaysian roads, for example, are concrete testimony of how low we can stoop to unruly conduct or mediocrity. Only on Malaysian roads can one see an explicit display of total disregard for civility and courtesy.

Even the educated and the highly placed are no exception to unbecoming road behaviour. Aren’t being uncourteous and uncivil on the road mediocre?

Whatever aspects of the Malaysian life we scan through, we see mediocrity all around. It all starts from individuals and in the small things that we do.

Let’s for once, sincerely and honestly, cut through the racial, religious and political barriers and aim for excellence.

Be it in politics, governance, managing the economy, maintaining human relationships or our daily lives, we are all capable of rising above mediocrity.

Let’s live up to the phrase “Let noble thoughts come from all sides” and be open to constructive ideas from wherever or whoever they come from.

Let’s be not mediocre.

V Chandrasekaran in an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the group and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.