8 Ways Malaysians Can Do Our Part To Help Our Country Fulfill Its Full Potential Regardless Of Who Our Prime Minister May Be (Follow Up)
When I first wrote “12 Ways Malaysia Might Be Different Today If Lee Kuan Yew Had Been Our Prime Minister”, I never expected it to get much attention. It was just my simple way of paying tribute to a man I personally hold in high regard for his unique perspective, grit & vision (despite him using certain tactics that some people might not fully agree with, we could have another discussion on that over coffee).
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME & MESSAGES
Nevertheless, I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you amazing people who found my humble piece of writing interesting, for your kind shares, likes, time and effort put in to drop me comments, emails, whatsapp messages, friend requests and of course for voicing out your perspectives, disagreements & critiques as well.
I am truly humbled and would sincerely like to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to read my humble piece of writing.
I AM IN THE MIDST OF REPLYING EACH & EVERY ONE OF YOU INDIVIDUALLY
I am in the midst of replying each and every one of you individually right now, and if you have yet to hear from me, my sincerest apologies as I am trying my very best to reply as many of your emails & messages a day when I can find the time.
Thank you so much for your understanding and I would definitely get to replying your message soonest possible.
RESPONSES & THE WAY FORWARD
To those of you who enjoyed reading my piece & share my sentiments:
“Thank you so much!”
For the few of you who did not fully agree or have raised your respective criticisms or reservations, I just want you to know that I hear you, and value your insights a lot.
In general, most of the reservations & criticisms raised came along the lines of:
- It is pointless to dwell on the past & what ifs
- Malaysia is hopeless, on the path of no return & there’s nothing we can do about it
- It wouldn’t have been possible for Lee Kuan Yew to be Prime Minister & implement his vision because of our deeply rooted racial segregation
While I fully agree that it is pointless to dwell on the past & the what ifs, and am fully aware of the fact that Malaysia is a much bigger country with its unique set of challenges and circumstances at the time for something like that to happen, which is the reason why I mentioned in my previous piece that it would have taken “some miracle or another” for Lee Kuan Yew to become our Prime Minister and have a chance at trying to build Malaysia the way he envisioned it despite the challenges (it wasn’t going to be easy).
(I did not & am not going into the details of the challenges and the possible solutions to the challenges, along with their side effects & pros & cons here because of a lack of time, but if you are interested, we could have a lengthy and in-depth discussion about them over coffee)
EXPLORING THE POSSIBILITIES & THE LIMITS OF OUR POTENTIAL
Contrary to wanting to dwell on the past, the purpose of me writing that piece, besides commemorating Lee Kuan Yew & his ideas, was to explore the possibilities and limits of our potential, in hopes of inspiring us as a nation to do the little that we can to drive our nation forward towards one day realizing our full potential, little by little, and step by step, no matter how impossible it might seem.
It is not so much about what could have happened, but what can we do today to make the things we hope to see happen actually happen in the future, through knowing what we could have been and could still become today, or some day in the future.
HAVE HOPE FOR OUR FUTURE
For those of you who have given up hope. I want to tell you that I totally understand where you’re coming from and how you feel, because I have been there many times myself.
But I would also like to remind all of you that it is often during times of adversity and hopelessness that hope arises, and through the determination, actions and perseverance of a small group of people who somehow, still manage to hang on to the believe that there’s hope, slowly but surely, manage to inspire more and more people, even generations, to hope, and through many little actions, resulting in a chain of triggered events, and eventually a collective effort that slowly but steadily, through time, from hopelessness, brought a dream, vision or potential to reality.
IT TAKES TIME
There was a time in the United States, where it seemed totally hopeless for slavery to ever be abolished and for races to be treated equally (although there are still some factions of racism today), for African Americans to ever be able to be free-men, to vote, be treated equally, let alone have an African American president.
AMERICA TOOK CLOSE TO 250 YEARS & A CIVIL WAR
It took America close to 250 years for that to happen, close to 100 years since their independence in 1776 for the north to abolish slavery, having to go through a civil war in the 1860s where many lives were lost, and through the leadership & grit of Abraham Lincoln (who was assassinated after), managed to keep America united and on the right path towards being slave-free and racial equality, another 100 years for Martin Luther King Jr to speak out and inspire another movement in 1963 with his famous speech of “I dream a dream”, to the day an African American finally became President of the United States when Barack Obama took office in 2008.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR “I DREAM A DREAM” SPEECH
When Lee Kuan Yew & Singapore first separated from Malaysia, it also seemed like there wasn’t any hope for Singapore to survive, let alone develop into a thriving metropolis, being a small island with no natural resources and even sufficient fresh water to supply itself. It almost seemed clear that Singapore would one day have to crawl back to Malaysia for survival back then.
WE ARE ONLY TURNING 58 THIS YEAR
Malaysia gained its independence in 1957, and we’re only turning 58 this year. Comparatively, we are still a very very young country. While I hope that we do not have to go through a civil war of any sort to achieve our full potential, the point I am trying to make is that change can take a long time, and in many cases generations, how fast it can happen would depend on the little things each generation does, and that would mean the little things that all of us, as a generation, do; right here, right now.
OUR LITTLE BELIEFS AND ACTIONS MATTER
We might feel that what we believe or what we do as individuals is too insignificant to matter, but that’s where we’re wrong, because every little thing that we believe or do has a collective effect on our country, which might trigger many little chain events that might filter down to future generations & could have a huge impact one day.
HAVE HOPE, DO WHAT WE CAN, AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS
Hence, I’ve come up with a list of ways that I believe all of us could contribute to and slowly but surely help drive our country towards fulfilling our full potential.
1. BE THE BEST IN WHAT WE DO, WHEREVER WE MAY BE
Years ago, I attended a seminar in which the then managing partner of one of Malaysia’s top law firms shared his view on solving the brain-drain problem, which I found to be interesting and extremely viable.
HAVE MALAYSIAN BUSINESSES EXPAND GLOBALLY & HIRE TALENTED MALAYSIANS BASED OVERSEAS
He believes that he could help solve the brain-drain problem by expanding his businesses internationally, and through his businesses hire talented Malaysians who have chosen to migrate abroad to run his businesses in the respective countries that his businesses has expanded to.
That way, these talented Malaysians would still be working for a Malaysian company and indirectly contributing to the Malaysian economy and Malaysian success story by helping a Malaysian company expand globally although they are based overseas.
YOU CAN STILL HELP MALAYSIA FULFILL ITS FULL POTENTIAL BY BEING THE BEST YOU CAN BE
With more Malaysian companies expanding globally, you can be based overseas but still be helping Malaysia fulfill our full potential by working for a Malaysian company that has a branch overseas.
BUILD GLOBAL BUSINESSES
If you are a businessperson or entrepreneur, you could try to expand your businesses to as many countries as possible and make an effort to hire talented Malaysians whenever possible.
Even if you do not work for a Malaysian company, as long as you are the best at what you do, you would still be able to shine for Malaysia and share your experiences with Malaysians back home when the opportunity presents itself someday.
MENTORING & PASSING ON YOUR EXPERTISE WHEN THE OPPORTUNITY PRESENTS ITSELF
Hence, even if you have chosen to migrate or be based overseas (which I can totally understand and believe is necessary if your talents are not appreciated here or if there is a lack of opportunity to further & develop your skills locally), you could still help Malaysia fulfill our full potential by being the best at what you do by passing on your skills, experience and mentoring Malaysians back home when the opportunity presents itself.
2. BE THE CHANGE WE SEEK TO SEE, STARTING WITH OURSELVES
There is a saying which goes:
“Do not do unto others what you do not want others to do to you”
I find that it is only fair that we start being to others who we hope others would be to us. Even if others do the opposite to you, it does not give you the license to do the same (things you don’t want them to do to you) to them, that is because by doing so you would be no different from them, and any change we hope to see in our nation should always start with ourselves.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
For example, if you believe that Malaysians should not be discriminated against based on our race or religion, then we should also make sure that we do not do so to our fellow Malaysians of other races ourselves.
LITTLE THOUGHTS CAN INFLUENCE YOUR ACTIONS
We shouldn’t even allow ourselves to think that way in our minds, this is because even though you only keep it to yourself, it will subconsciously show in your actions, inaction and influence you to make certain decisions and take certain actions that reflect your thoughts.
THE EXAMPLE OF RACIAL STEREOTYPING
Let’s face it, most of us would probably have at some point in our lives as Malaysians been swayed or persuaded to pre-judge or make an assumption of someone based on their race and associated stereotypes.
If stereotypical thoughts like “Chinese are rich, greedy & selfish”, “Malays are lazy & religious extremists”, “Indians are cunning & cheats” or “Kadazans & Ibans are uneducated” ever crossed your mind, then you would have been guilty of that too.
The truth is, race and religion has NOTHING to do with how someone is.
THERE ARE RICH & POOR, GOOD & BAD PEOPLE FROM ALL RACES & RELIGIONS
As there are rich Chinese, there are also plenty of rich Malays, Indians & Kadazans. Similarly, I have also seen my fair share of lazy Chinese, extremist Chinese, dishonest Chinese as well as such people from each race. But there are also generous and kind people from each race & religion.
IT IS UNFAIR TO ASSUME SOMETHING OF SOMEONE JUST BASED ON THEIR RACE OR RELIGION
I am of Chinese descent myself, and I feel that it is extremely unfair when a Chinese Malaysian conveniently assumes that all Malays are lazy and reliant on the government or all Indians are conmen and cannot be trusted.
Sure, there are some or even a number of people who are like that who belong to these races, but I also have plenty of extremely talented and hardworking Malay friends who are extremely successful at what they do today. I also have Malay friends who are among the kindest, friendliest and easy-going people I know.
GET TO KNOW PEOPLE ON A CASE BY CASE BASIS
My best friend is Indian, and he is one of the most sincere & honest people I’ve ever known. I also have a group of close friends who are largely of Indian descent, and they are all honest and hardworking people, amazing people just like you & me.
Similarly, I also know people of Chinese descent who are lazy & directionless, or only know how to pick fights, bully and complain.
The point I am trying to make here is that race & religion DOES NOT determine what kind of person someone is. There are awesome people from every race & religion, and there are also not so awesome people from each of them.
DO NOT RETALIATE BY DOING THE SAME, BE & STAY DIFFERENT
So, we should not pre-judge and pre-determine what kind of person someone is just based on their religion or race. Even if others are doing that to us, we should not retaliate by doing the same, because that would just make us no different from them.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE & BE THE LIGHT & CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THIS WORLD
Similarly for other values & beliefs that you might have, start by acting them out and being that person you think people should be yourself. Trust me, over time, people will be able to see and feel it and be influenced by you. Even if they might not agree with you, they would still grow to respect your values & beliefs.
You can change the world, one person at a time, starting from yourself.
3. DO WHATEVER WE CAN TO HELP OUR RURAL & UNDERPREVILEGED FELLOW MALAYSIANS PROGRESS TOGETHER AS A NATION
It is my humble opinion that in order for us to progress as a country, we need to progress TOGETHER, both rural & urban.
WE NEED OUR RURAL FRIENDS TO MATURE TOGETHER WITH US
This is because only with a fully mature electorate where almost every single person in the country is educated & equipped sufficiently with the necessary analytical & critical thinking skills to make well-informed decisions, can we elect into power a capable government based on the strength of their proposed policies and be united in implementing them and drive our country forward together as a nation.
THE RURAL URBAN DIVIDE
Did you know that according to World Bank data, Malaysia’s rural population stood at almost 50% back in 1990 and still stands at around 27-30% in 2014? While many villages & kampungs have been upgraded to townships and hence considered “urban”, the infrastructure that they have there in terms of access to knowledge, education, opportunities to see the world and what is happening outside of their town is still pretty much of a rural standard.
According to recent report from World Bank, only 15.9% of 25-29 year olds in Malaysia hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2012. (read more here) So, if you’re reading this and you have a bachelor’s degree, you should know that you’re one of the more fortunate ones in the 15.9% of Malaysians who had the privilege to access higher education. If you’re older than 29, the percentage you represent is probably even smaller.
WHAT MY PLKN EXPERIENCE TAUGHT ME
When I came back from Singapore in 2009, I re-enlisted into our very own PLKN or Khidmat Negara (national service) program that I had to defer before because I was still doing my ‘A’ levels in Singapore when I got selected when I was 17.
At PLKN, I met plenty of fellow Malaysians from rural areas, especially from Sabah & Sarawak where a lot of them still live in longhouses and villages deep inside rural areas.
They were among the most friendly, nice & inquisitive people I’ve ever met!
PEOPLE ARE CURIOUS, MOTIVATED & HUNGRY FOR KNOWLEDGE
Probably because of my experience studying overseas, many of them kept asking me questions on how the outside world was like and many more. They were curious, motivated and hungry for knowledge and to learn more!
IF ONLY THEY HAD ACCESS TO THE INFRASTRUCTURE REQUIRED
If only they had access to the infrastructure and systems required for them to find these troves of knowledge by themselves, or had someone to guide them and impart these knowledge & know how to them. Imagine how far they could do and how much they could all become!
If you’re reading this, you’re probably from an urban area or an area which at least has access to the internet and would also have had the privilege to access a good enough education to be able to be fluent enough in English to understand what I am writing.
HELP THEM GROW TOGETHER AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
But please bear in mind that there are still plenty of our fellow Malaysians in the rural areas who might not be as fortunate as us to have access to such privileges and do whatever we can to help them as much as you can through the various volunteer programs that we have around.
4. EXERCISE SOUND JUDGMENT & MAKE CAREFULLY ANALYZED, WELL-RESEARCHED & WELL-INFORMED DECISIONS ON ALL MATTERS TO OUR BEST ABILITY
Sometimes, it is easy for us to get too carried away by our emotions, but as a mature and intelligent electorate, we should always keep a calm mind and analyze each situation thoroughly before making a decision and taking a stand.
DO NOT BLINDLY OPPOSE JUST FOR THE SAKE OF OPPOSING
We should not blindly oppose for the sake of opposing because we do not like a certain party or a certain person. Sometimes, they might be right and may have a point. We should learn to view things on a case by case basis.
It is great that we have plenty of social media tools today, which is a powerful way to spread and get access to information. However, it is important to remember that there are also many people who use it to spin stories and half-truths to incite people’s emotions that’ll spread like wildfire, because we humans are ultimately emotional beings.
Granted, there are many stories and information which are true and credible. But we have to remember that there’s always 2 sides to a coin. It is important for us to do some additional research on both sides of an issue before coming to a conclusion. Every piece of information or story should be corroborated with other reliable sources.
ALWAYS MAKE WELL-INFORMED DECISIONS
In order for us to truly progress as a nation, a significant portion of our people would need to be able to make well-informed and well-researched decisions on various matters and be able to see through the all the incendiary gimmicks that people might be pulling off.
If a US styled Presidential Debate like the one between President Obama & Mitt Romney on the various policies and issues Malaysia faces were to ever happen, our electorate should be able to understand the complex arguments involved and make a sound judgment based on that and support from our own research, and it should not be a face-off that’s based purely on emotions.
5. EXERCISE OUR RIGHT TO CHOOSE A CAPABLE GOVERNMENT (BASED ON OUR RESPECTIVE SOUND JUDGMENTS)
While it is important to keep a calm & analytical mind, we should also exercise our right to vote, choose and voice out peacefully once we’ve made up our mind after much careful consideration. If we do not even bother to exercise our right to choose a capable government, then we should not complain when we get shortchanged or when our rights get infringed upon, because we would have in a way brought them upon ourselves by not exercising our right to choose in the first place.
6. FOCUS ON IMPLEMENTIG CREATIVE SOLUTIONS, INSTEAD OF SOLELY COMPLAINING ABOUT PROBLEMS
Most people tend to resort to complaining and blaming others when problems arise. While it is important to find out who is accountable if certain people have a duty to carry out their tasks well, it is also important for us to not add to the problem by purely complaining and spread negative emotions around.
While it is good to do our part to voice out our opinions and hold those parties at fault accountable, we also have to understand the sad reality that sometimes, for whatever reasons or circumstances, these parties in question would never admit fault or even if they did, won’t do anything about it or take a long time to do so.
FOCUS ON FINDING SOLUTIONS
Hence, to set ourselves apart, and for the greater good of our country, we could try focusing our energy into coming out with creative solutions that would solve the problems instead, creative solutions that we ourselves, a small group of us, or various organizations or private companies would be able to carry out.
For example, if we believe that the welfare system in our country is not good enough and the poor aren’t being taken cared of enough, then organize your own Feed The Poor Sessions; if you believe that our rural brethren do not have safe houses to live in, the start or join something like the EPIC Homes Program; if you believe that the service industry is really lousy in Malaysia or that employees are not being compensated enough, then find a way to make changes in your own companies by training staff better, hence making more money and being able to pay your staff more.
EPIC HOMES PROGRAM – BUILD VIDEO
It is the little things like these that makes a difference, and more often than not, it is also what will set you apart and make you more successful individually, because successful people are often those who focus on being positive amidst adversity and come up with solutions to solve the problem instead of purely complaining.
7. LEARN TO APPRECIATE THE BEAUTY OF WHAT WE HAVE AND MAKE THE BEST OUT OF IT
There is no use crying over spilt milk.
Life would be much better and more progress can be made if we chose to focus on the positives instead. Every challenge and bad situation is an opportunity for us to shine & innovate.
WE ARE AN EXTREMELY BLESSED COUNTRY
To be honest, Malaysia is blessed with many amazing things despite our many shortcomings. We have no wars, no serious natural disasters like earthquakes or typhoons, have an abundance of natural resources, land and good food!
Sometimes, I feel that we are too blessed for our own good because countries usually rise up after they’ve been through the worst.
Furthermore, the happiest people are often those who are grateful for what they have and make the best out of it.
8. KEEP OUR LOVE FOR MALAYSIA BURNING AMIDST THE ADVERSITY. HAVE HOPE.
Most countries usually emerge stronger through adversity, they unite and come back even stronger after the worst periods in their history.
IT IS THROUGH TIMES OF ADVERSITY THAT NATIONS EMERGE STRONGER
Communist China finally rose up after a dark period of backwardness after World War II, Indonesia went through their fair share of struggles from the killings of 1965-66, America grew stronger with each war it went through from the American Revolutionary War for Independence, to its Civil War and Word War II. Likewise, Japan & Germany also came back stronger to become major economic powers after their lost in World War II.
WE CAN DO IT AS LONG AS WE HAVE HOPE
While I hope that we do not have to go through any wars or major instances of adversity (which in some cases can be too serious for a country to recover from in a short time), my point is that we should keep our love for Malaysia strong and most importantly, have hope, because hope is what gives us the strength to soldier on in hopes of a better day.
“Have hope, because hope will give us the strength required to rise up from adversity to build a better tomorrow, which will definitely come as long as we never lose hope.”