The time has come for Malaysians to seriously decide which way they want to go. They can choose to become an enlightened society that is far-sighted and mature, or one that is retrogressive and emotional. They can match the country’s rapid infrastructural development with a dynamic mind-set, or remain within the narrow confines of parochial insecurities. They can persist in circular political negativism, or opt to build a fresh optimism to face the new challenges.
Whether we are seen as a progressive and stable nation depends as much on the economic inroads we make on our journey towards becoming a fully industrialised nation as the socio-cultural and political wisdom of the people. They are measured by their moral and intellectual development as much as their achievements in commerce, industry and technological development. While we present ourselves as enthusiastic and capable business partners at negotiating tables abroad, we must be able to demonstrate the same positiveness in our domestic interactions. As we chart upward trends in our work efforts we must be able to project a thinking capacity that is commensurate.
It is ironic that while we are positioning ourselves as a dynamic people internationally we remain in the backwaters of socio-cultural and political development at home. While we demonstrate anti-war and humanitarian concerns on world platforms, at the local front we are squabbling about our ethnic differences. While we welcome the idea of an inclusive, all-encompassing global village we are still mentally confined within the narrow walls of our tempurung. It is sad that having achieved tremendous physical development in our first fifty years as a nation, we should allow our old insecurities to overwhelm us. When we should be consolidating our numerous strengths as a people, we continue to guard and promote selfish interests.
It is time for Malaysians to take stock of their priorities as they move into the next era of development. We must be prepared to put aside our differences for the common good. Sacrifices are inevitable for change to happen as individuals and groups accomodate one another’s needs. Obviously the nation’s leaders and role models must take the initiative and be the examples people will follow. In this nothing is more outstanding than the language and communication strategies that they use.
In their statements, press releases, comments, speeches, political rhetoric and formal discourses they must make positive affirmations and give concrete suggestions rather than dwell on the problems. While the public has the right to know what went wrong and who were responsible, no solutions will emerge if the strategy is to be defensive and apportion blame (to others). What effective leaders must do is to reassure the people as to how these issues are going to be solved and what policies are in place to govern their rights, within the most reasonable time frame.
Instead of opening old wounds and harping on the past mismanagement and abuses of their predecessors, the present leadership of corporations, agencies, political parties and other partisan groupings must map out their policies and programmes on how to move their achievements a notch higher. There is no need to decry the efforts of others if we are confident that we are providing the best for our organisation.
Simply translated, what this means in the political sphere is that the politician and party bashing must stop and be replaced by rational, well thought- out arguments that the people can accept. Politicians must stop decrying one another’s efforts just to be popular and win votes. They must adopt the more positive stance of acknowledging good work albeit by their opponents. They must give credit where credit is due. Where discrepencies are noticed, proper rules and regulations must be established in order to prevent office and management abuses. Wherever the people’s integrity is expected, the leaders themselves must uphold the highest ethical standards.
There is no point blaming the people for their corruption and negative attitudes when those they look up to are displaying bad behaviour and spewing unsavoury rhetoric in their talks and speeches. The destructive trends that are emerging in the conduct and behaviour of Malaysians including their use of language on the internet can no longer be blamed on western influences. It is we ourselves who are creating the “ugly Malaysian” led by irresponsible and irrational leaders and role models.
It is time for positive affirmations to bring about the change we want for the nation to move forward!