Back in the 70s, Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) aired several short films by The National Film Department of Malaysia (FNM) about cleanliness and tolerance. The black and white transmission at that time left a good impact on the population. The baby boomers generation will surely remember this.
The communications and multimedia ministry needs to revive FNM’s role to place more emphasis on educating Malaysians, emulating the awareness campaigns in Thailand and other countries to instil moral and social values among their citizens. Perhaps this will also draw some level of integration among Malaysians.
Judging by our current circumstances, there is a dire need to bring back those short films to address the various poor habits of Malaysians (and foreign guests) including road rage and racial intolerance that are going viral on social media on an almost daily basis. This negative exposure is not doing our government’s reputation any good, let alone helping Malaysians out of our third-world mentality in running a country.
1. Lack of common sense
Come election time, we Malaysians are pretty good at demanding infinite things from politicians and/or the government. Legal professionals can take a backseat when we talk about our rights. Yet common sense on basic matters is not aligned with the way we talk. There seems to be a gross lack of common sense among the millennial generation, and the disease will likely be inherited by Gen Z if we let things go on as they are.
Case in point: we can still witness parents letting their kids urinate by the roadside, or along the emergency lanes of highways, when there are ample public toilets and R&R areas.
Other examples are the ways in which we use public toilets and dump our garbage, including used mattresses and sofas by the roadside in our neighbourhoods. Never mind the smell and the pests that our good neighbours must endure, as long as our houses look clean. To make it worse, we set an example for our children to follow. How and where did we learn to do this so well – to be self-centred, with a gross lack of common sense?
When it comes to road traffic, we are glad to have at least one minister other than our prime minister who does his job. Loke Siew Fook has been active in creating awareness while others seem to be paying more attention to political mudslinging – at least that’s what I see.
Malaysians’ driving habits is another major area to look at. Almost half of highway users appear to have no clue what “ikut kiri jika tidak memotong” means. Or, they just don’t care. They hog the lanes meant for overtaking as if it is a national parade, endangering others who have to overtake from the left.
Haphazard and careless parking habits and other driving offences are also raising the stress of driving in the Klang Valley. On PLUS highways, e.g. south-bound commuters on a Sunday, it used to be that jams would start just before the Nilai interchange. Five years ago, the jams extended to Seremban, then to Senawang. Now, they start from Linggi even on regular weekends with no public holiday.
This stretch of the highway has been widened to accommodate the increasing number of vehicles on the road, but the lack of basic common sense among drivers who drive all over the lanes is the main cause of highway congestion. This is without taking into account the dangers of those with phobias of traffic jams, who overtake from the left and drive on the emergency lane.
2. Educate parents to educate their children
In this dog-eat-dog economy, the millennial generation must be re-educated through other means, for a start through TV and radio commercials. Schools have not been effective in doing this – not when it comes to common sense. The Gen Z, obsessed with their gadgets, may only learn a thing or two in preschool, if the pre-school teachers themselves are competent.
Looking at society today, though, the lack of the latter appears obvious. With both fathers and mothers working to make ends meet, leaving home as early as 6am and returning home after 7pm, not only do they lack the time to teach their children, they are more focused on bonding with them, oblivious to the basic learning needs of being human.
Religious education is important, as are moral and social skills. Social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp are rapidly overtaking fundamental moral and social skills. Our generation is losing the ability to be humble and compassionate, to have patience and to be considerate and tolerant of others – basically, what it means to be human.
I appeal to the government to review the role of TVs and radios, to utilise them as an alternative medium to re-educate the people. Run short films during prime time on cleanliness, respecting neighbours, elders and motorists. Run short documentaries on how to drive and park. Repeat the lessons taught in driving classes. And do it quickly, before the next general election.
Mubarakh Ali is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.