10 Things to Do if You Want to Be a Better Malaysian

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Thomas Fann invites us to fly the standard and actively campaign for a better Malaysia by striving to become better versions of ourselves. This article first appeared at www.newmalaysia.org where he blogs.

This article isn’t about Steve Jobs but I’d like to start with a quote he uttered in 1994 during a TV interview:

“When you grow up, you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life.

Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

There you have it, a glimpse into the reason why Steve Jobs is, in my humble opinion, one of the very few people who ever lived who can claim that he has changed the world for the better.

Maybe not many of us will get to change the world the way Steve did, but we all certainly have the potential to make our nation a better place. We simply need to shake off the erroneous notion that our sole duty as Malaysians is to live a peaceful life, have a nice family, make some money, pay our taxes, and try not to break any law.

We need to believe that “if we push in, something will pop out the other side”, that we can actually make a difference in this nation by becoming better Malaysians.

I’d like to propose the following 10 things to do if we want to be better Malaysians:

1.  Be Malaysian First – If we’re serious about wanting a better future for this nation and making this the best home for all, then we have to start thinking of ourselves as Malaysians and not whatever race or identity based on our forefathers’ homelands. We’re all migrants, it just depends on how far we want to roll back history. But due to various circumstances in history, our forefathers’ boats landed on this fair shore and made this land their home. Being Malaysian first doesn’t mean we cease to be Malay, Indian, Chinese, Iban, Kadazan, etc., but that our identity is now firmly anchored to our nation.

We are always Malaysian first | Source: http://bit.ly/RMUfQg

2.  Uphold the Federal Constitution – There are many laws that cover all aspects of life but the Federal Constitution (FC) is the big one. Every Malaysian who can read should read it at least once in their lifetime. It doesn’t matter which Tun or Tan Sri or Professor says what; if it isn’t said in the FC, it doesn’t count. This document spells out our fundamental rights as citizens and it is empowering to know it.  Fear comes from ignorance.  So don’t be ignorant and we’ll fear less. After we’ve read and know what the FC guarantees, we need to defend it and use it to defend our fellow Malaysians.  Also, we need to obey all laws (if they don’t contradict the FC), even the minor ones like putting on our seat belts.

3. Remember Who the Boss Is: You! – That’s right, if we’re citizens, we’re the boss in our democracy, a word of Greek origin which incidentally means ‘people’ (demo) ‘power’ (kratos). What about the Prime Minister (PM), I hear you say. Well, the word ‘minister’ is an old English word for ‘servant’. So, there you have it, another phrase for Prime Minister is ‘Chief Servant’, and all the other ministers are, thus, servants. After all, we’re the ones paying their salaries. A caveat: If you’re one of those Malaysians who treat your servants badly, don’t forget that the PM’s also a fellow citizen.

4.  Start Building Bridges – Let’s get out of our own community and start building friendships with Malaysians of a different race and religion. Let’s invite each other to festivals, anniversaries and birthday celebrations. We may be pleasantly surprised to find out that there’s much in their culture and traditions that we admire and many more prejudices that we have that are unfounded. We may even find out that underneath all our differences, we’re simply human beings who share common values and aspirations. We need to start tearing down those false barriers put up by politicians who can only stay in power by dividing us.

Underneath the differences, we share the same values and aspirations | Source: http://bit.ly/RMTs1H

5. Be an Active Citizen – Stop complaining and start doing something. If we feel unhappy about the way this country is being run and that we should be much better off, then we should get off our behinds, (or keyboards) and make a decision now. Think this way: Things are going to change and it’s going to start with ME! We need to stop looking to the government – present or future – to solve all our problems because that just ain’t gonna happen. We must believe we can do our bit to change our corner of the world.  It doesn’t have to be things like taking part in the next big protest, but something as simple as reminding our town council to collect the rubbish or cut the grass in the parks. Oh and we mustn’t forget to vote.

6.  Use the National Language (and Other Languages) – We need to talk to each other. And suspicions and strained relationships will creep in if we don’t understand each other. We need to take pride in our National Language, Bahasa Malaysia. If we aren’t fluent in it, we should learn it and use it. This won’t mean that we neglect our mother tongue or English. The way God wired us, we’re capable of being fluent in multiple languages and we should go for it. Also, remember that learning doesn’t stop with schooling so it’s never too late to learn anything, the National Language included. What’s more, it’s one of the easiest languages to grasp.

7.  Be Well-informed – In order to assess accurately, think critically and decide correctly, we need to have good and reliable information. So, gather information from different sources, cross check them and then act on them. We’re in the Information Age after all and information’s just a click away. Read both pro-establishment and alternative media. Read both local and international news. Talk to people who are well-informed and get their perspective. James Madison once said:

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

8.  Reject Corruption – Corruption is the scourge of any society and we must have zero tolerance for it (or, as the PM put it – “…have a natural abhorrence of corruption”).  The guilty is not just the person receiving the bribe or abusing his power, but the one who gives or allows someone to abuse his power.  We need to make a commitment to never offer a bride and if we’ve done it before, admit it to ourselves or someone close to us that it’s wrong and commit to never doing it again. We must report every corrupt person regardless of whether we believe action will be taken or not, from the junior officer to the most senior leader . To offer a bribe or do nothing to stop it is to be an accomplice to a crime and betray our country.

9.  Be a Giver and Not Just a Taker – Look for ways to go beyond earning a living for ourselves and our families. Start a business, invest in one, have a farm or factory, provide a service, export your products and create jobs. We need to ‘add to’ and not just ‘take out’ of our economy. Whatever we do, consider the social and environmental impact of our decisions. Will we give people fair wages and not just a minimum wage?  Will our working hours and conditions cause hardship for those working for us? Will what we do pollute the environment? Will it be sustainable? Success is not just about the money but the legacy we leave behind.

10. Care for Those Less Fortunate Than Us – We’re less than nothing as a society if we don’t have compassion for the less fortunate among us.  If we don’t rush to the aid of the weak, sick and dying, not only are we demonstrating our lack of cohesiveness as a society but our lack of a heart and soul. Being a community means looking after each other through thick and thin. So, get involved with charities and organisations that reach out to the poor and needy. By doing so, we’re not only better Malaysians for it but also better human beings.

Reach out to those who need us | Source: http://bit.ly/XFQsrR

The above suggestions are by no means comprehensive, but they should be a good guide for our journey in making a mark on our nation.  It may be just pure idealism to believe that we can change the world but hoping (that comes with action, of course) is better than just existing.

In closing, here’s another of Steve Jobs’ famous quotes:

“The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Will you join me and be crazy enough to think that we can make Malaysia a better place for our children by becoming better Malaysians?

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Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Some 25 years ago I made a decision to be counted amongst the good men and in many small ways attempted to make this world a better place for those around me. Currently I am involved in several NGOs that provide services to those infected and affected by HIV, food and environmental issues, education and political reformation. I maintain a blog called "Towards A New Malaysia" - ideas and thoughts about nation-building at www.newmalaysia.org.

Posted on 21 October 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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