Tidapathy is 'biasa lah'

BY MARINA MAHATHIR

Musings

Published: Thursday April 10, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday April 10, 2014 MYT 7:56:19 AM

================================
IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR ALL
The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). 
SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. 
Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.
Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
==================================

Shoddy work is considered normal and we now accept standards which are much lowered.
SOME years ago, I remember there was a lot of discussion on the “tidak apaattitude” in our country.
Many Malaysians, it seems, had a very nonchalant outlook on their work. If anything was not quite working well, “tidak apa lah”. It doesn’t matter. If someone hadn’t finished their work but it was time to go home, “tidak apa lah”. When something is made shoddily, “tak apa lah”.
We put up with below par products, attitudes and work because they all still functioned, more or less. So why put in the extra mile to do something properly?
After years of the “tidak apa attitude”, we now have the logical follow-up catchphrase: “biasa lah”. That’s normal. And usually it refers to when something goes wrong.
Let me give two illustrations.
Some years ago after I had moved into a new house, there was a huge power surge which blew out a total of 27 electrical appliances and lights. One power outlet melted and burnt a patch of my parquet floor. Phones that were being charged were all fried.
When the technicians from the power company turned up, their explanation for this phenomenon which could have burned my house down was “biasa lah”.
Apparently it is perfectly normal for the earth wire on the electrical poles outside houses to be so badly fixed that there is nothing to stop power surges that are so strong, we could still get a shock from the microwave oven even after the power had been turned off.
After I made some noise, the power company told me to claim compensation from them for all the repairs that needed to be done.
To cut a long story short, it took me nine months to be compensated but not before we had to endure many unanswered emails and made to feel as if we were claiming more than we should have.
When I complained about this, I was told the same thing: “Biasa lah.
Another story: When I needed to fix broadband in my house, five young men turned up from the phone company. They were dressed as if they were going to hang out at the 7-Eleven.
It soon became clear that only one young man was doing the work while the other four stood around to watch.
Things naturally did not proceed at jet speed. It soon got dark, making it difficult to see the cables they were trying to lay in my garden.
Did they have a torchlight so they could continue to work? Of course not. Instead they innovated. Four of them stood around the sole worker and used their mobile phones to give him light to work in.
Seeing their plight and feeling a bit frustrated by now, I lent them my torchlight. When they finally completed their job, they packed up and went home, torchlight and all. I had to spend another two days tracking them down to get them to bring it back. But, “biasa lah”.
What all this means is that after years of tidak apa, we have come to a situation where shoddy work is considered normal.
We have become so inured to it that we accept standards which are much lowered. People now tell you that they didn’t reply your email from two months ago but provide no excuse for it. That’s just the way it is.
I really wonder where this is going to lead. Are our standards going to deteriorate further until, despite our fancy buildings, we truly become a Third World country again?
The street sign where I live displays one street name on one side and another street on the other side. How could that have happened in this bureaucracy-obsessed country? Doesn’t anybody supervise their subordinates’ work?
I am afraid that if this “biasa lah” attitude carries on, we will see a real deterioration in all our services and professions.
Already, sales people who can’t answer any questions have a tendency to disappear rather than face an irritated customer.
Sooner or later, our trains will be even later, roads will go unrepaired and more strange radar blips will be ignored.
Compare this with my recent experience in Japan. I was buying a T-shirt in a boutique. When I went to pay, the cashier looked at it, left and returned with another T-shirt identical to the one I had picked.
“The one you chose,” she told me, “is from this season and therefore has no discount. The one I brought is from last season and is 30% off. Which would you like?”
I can be excused for gaping for a while at such beyond-the-call-of-service honesty. But that is the mark of a really advanced country. In Japan, “biasa lah” means you just received exemplary service.
Marina Mahathir is a human rights activist who works on women, children and HIV/AIDS issues. Her column in this newspaper goes back 25 years and has likewise evolved because, in her own words, “she probably thinks too much for her own good”. Marina continues to speak out and crusade for causes that she passionately believes in. The views expressed here are entirely her own.

A watershed moment

BY MARINA MAHATHIR

Musings

Published: Thursday March 27, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday March 27, 2014 MYT 7:04:06 AM

================================
IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR ALL
The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
==================================

MH370 HAS THROWN UP A HUGE MIRROR UPON WHICH WE CAN SEE MUCH THAT IS WRONG WITH US, AS WELL AS SOME THAT IS RIGHT.

THE news we had been dreading came on Monday night. MH370 is gone. The grief of the families is unbearable.
The pain is no less so for the very many of us who have followed the story every step of the way, and who have tried to provide hope and support to the families either directly or indirectly through our prayers.
I extend my deepest condolences to all the mothers, fathers, children, other relatives, friends and colleagues of those who were lost.
May the souls of the passengers and crew of MH370 rest in peace.
The writer Tash Aw, in an op-ed for the New York Times, described this incident as a watershed moment for Malaysia.
While not all our reasons synchronise, I do agree that MH370 has thrown up a huge mirror upon which we can see much that is wrong with us, as well as some that is right.
I think this moment changed some things here in Malaysia and hopefully will also lead to some more changes.
The initial handling of the crisis was bumbling and inept but we can see that this changed very quickly.
Airline disasters cannot be confined to just domestic news.
By its nature, it is instantly international news and therefore the world’s focus is immediately on us.
There could not be a worse way to get our name known. But we have a crisis and we need to handle it in the full glare of international media.
This necessitates a totally different way of working than our officials are used to. For one thing, it throws up the dire need for our officials to be able to speak English clearly and precisely and to not get defensive when faced with tougher questions than they are used to.
For another it also shows up the quality of our media compared to the foreign media (except for that French reporter). Couldn’t the reporter from the Islamic TV channel have looked at a map first before asking the minister if there was any city nearer to the search site in the southern Indian Ocean than Perth?
Why do vernacular media send reporters who do not speak English and then complain that they did not understand what was said? Is this our flip-flop education policy on English coming to roost?
Coming to roost also is a certain complacency that has resulted in what one overseas academic’s observation (before this happened) that there is a “reduction in capacity” among Malaysian officials.
It is a lowering of standards which leads to a slowness in grasping a situation and then responding, which in this case, may have led to fatal results. It is the same with everything here; we don’t react until something bad happens.
Then we make a lot of noise about changing systems but don’t actually implement them.
We can never be considered serious about this complacency if we never hold anyone responsible for mistakes and missteps.
This points also to a lack of empathy on the part of some people for the suffering of those closest to the tragedy.
Although thousands of Malaysians have shown their sympathy and kind­ness to the families by writing their messages on the Walls of Hope around the country, some saw fit by defacing them by writing unrelated slogans.
Their issue may well have its merits but this act displays a lack of sensitivity to the families in terrible pain right now. Not a great way to win over people to your cause.
Disgusting is the only word for the insensitive tweet sent to the daughter of one of the MH370 cabin crew harshly telling her to accept the loss of her father.
Many have done little more than condemn every single action done by MAS almost as if this tragedy is something it welcomed.
I’ve had many complaints about MAS before but who would want to be in their shoes right now and say they can do a better job at handling this? They are also a bereaved party after all. Certainly there is no lack of opportunists taking advantage of MH370 for their own ends.
That would include some of the foreign media who seem intent on painting our government as completely inept. Certainly they are deficient in many aspects but I don’t think they were wrong to be cautious with information. One reporter actually saw fit to ask the MAS chairman if they had been heartless. Did they expect an affirmative answer?
For now, there is not a lot we laypersons can do other than to pray and hope that MH370 will reveal it­self soon and that its discovery will provide us with some answers. Then we would know how to move on to the next phase of this watershed moment.
That next phase has to involve much introspection and self-critical analysis. We need to reflect very deeply on what we want for our country now that this incident has reminded us that we are part of the world, and not some isolated opaque inward-looking nation.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Our blood is all the same red colour

================================
IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR ALL
The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
==================================

BY MARINA MAHATHIR

Musings

Published: Thursday March 13, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday March 13, 2014 MYT 7:37:14 AM

Malaysians have turned to their own talents to express both their grief and support for the people on MH370, and their families and friends.

IN the past few days, the shock of the disappearance of MH370 has been overwhelming.
Undoubtedly the families have suffered the greatest shock of all, especially when not even the tiniest explanation (at the time of writing) is forthcoming.
Hopes are built up and then dashed. Theories are put forth but none are yet proven.
Everyone seems to have an opinion regardless of whether they know anything about jet planes or aeronautics.
And let’s not forget those who take opportunity to place blame based on the most outlandish reasons. A bit like when some blamed the Indian Ocean tsunami on people partying on beaches.
The wiser among us keep our own counsel and instead turn our efforts to offering words of comfort to those who are missing their families.
This also includes colleagues of the flight crew who have known them a long time and worked alongside them.
So many people are grieving over this incident, and that’s only on this side.
We don’t even know what’s truly happening among the families of the Chinese passengers, and all the other nationalities involved and what support they might need. (And it occurred to me that our children are also aware of what happened and need some gentle explanations.)
But if anything exemplifies how small a country we are, it is the incredible fact that although there were only 38 Malaysians on MH370, so many people know them either firsthand or secondhand.
I read my Facebook timeline and it was incredible how many people either knew the passengers or crew directly or knew their relatives or someone else close to them.
A colleague reported that the wife of one of the cabin crew is her daughter’s kindergarten teacher. Seems so random but yet not.
Perhaps this is why Malaysians are sharing this shock and grief so keenly.
It’s been hard to read the many sad posts and tweets from family members without imagining that it could have happened to any of us.
As a result, Malaysians have turned to their own talents to express both their grief and support.
So many beautiful images inviting people to pray for MH370 have been created and shared by people on social media. They are invitations to us all to do something together.
Many prayer events of different faiths have been organised for people to pray for the safe return of the plane, crew and passengers.
Several religious groups have gone to KLIA to provide spiritual support to the families.
I think in times like these, nobody is going to be particular about religious territoriality.
A group of citizens calling themselves Malaysians for Malaysia, that has been promoting peace and unity, and which I’m very proud to be part of, decided on a simple initiative called Walls of Hope.
We approached various shopping malls around the Klang Valley to ask if they could put up something where the public can put up messages of hope and support for the families of MH370.
Unsurprisingly the malls agreed almost immediately and got their art departments to design something and put them up at a prominent position on their premises.
Pavilion KL was the first to put up theirs and within an hour, 1,000 people had put messages up.
Fahrenheit 88 followed soon after and they too found the public responding enthusiastically.
At this time of writing, several other malls are organising themselves to do the same and we hope others around the country will do so too.
These walls or trees of hope provide an outlet for Malaysians and foreigners to express their grief but also their hopes and wishes for those on board the flight as well as the families.
Just reading so many heartfelt messages is a moving experience.
But if anything exemplifies how Malaysians are a compassionate and caring people, it is the poem written by a woman called Pnut Syafinaz which I had the privilege of reading out on TV.
To quote from it, in reference to the grieving families of the passengers on MH370:
Jiwa kami dan jiwa mereka tidak sama,
Kami sedih tetapi tidak akan ada yang lebih sedih dari mereka,
Mereka dan kami mungkin bukan sebangsa, seagama,
Tetapi darah kami sama merah pekat warnanya”.
“Our souls and their souls are not the same,
We are sad but can’t be as sad as they,
They and we may not be the same race or religion,
But our blood is all the same red colour.”
And that’s the crux of the matter. Ultimately in times like these, it really doesn’t matter who anyone is, where they came from or what they believed in. Their families and friends all suffer pain just the same.
Let’s continue to pray for MH370.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Uniformity is not unity

BY MARINA MAHATHIR

Musings

Published: Thursday February 27, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday February 27, 2014 MYT 1:32:35 PM

================================
IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR ALL
The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
==================================
In this journey of life, we are all fellow passengers, even though we come from different backgrounds.
I HAD occasion to fly on three very bumpy flights recently and had a macabre thought: even though everyone on the flight was a stranger to me, my destiny then was tied to theirs.
If we arrived safely at our destination, our shared destiny was to survive. If not, then… well, I would not be here writing this.
It got me thinking that however briefly, all the passengers on the flight, and on any flight, are united by this shared destiny.
Whatever happens, will happen almost equally to every single one.
If an accident happens, different people may have different fates but none of them can actually avoid going through the accident and none of them can be privileged enough to ensure a better outcome.
For instance, no one on the plane can insist on a different fate because they are of an elite class or race or religion.
Just because you’re seated in first class doesn’t mean that you will be spared any injury in the event of a crash.
I’ve never heard of anyone escaping unscathed just because they belong to any particular faith.
So basically, all passengers on the plane, regardless of who they are, where they are from or what they believe in, are united by their shared fate.
Our country is like that plane too.
All of us are on the same plane and our destiny is a shared one.
Some of us may be sitting in the front of the plane and most of us will be at the back.
But we’re all hopefully going to the same place.
If the flight gets bumpy, all of us will feel it. If it is smooth, we can all take a snooze.
The concept of unity espoused by some people, however, puzzles me.
First, they think that all the people on that plane should be entirely the same.
I suppose you can charter a plane to take you somewhere but if something happens to that plane, it leaves behind lots of people who aren’t the same as you.
Secondly, if everyone is the same on that plane, what could possibly be new and different to talk about on the flight?
One journey would be all you would need and then you basically remove any need for any more flights ever again.
Whereas if you had lots of different people onboard, then there would always be something to talk about – where to go, how to get there, what to do once you’re there – so you give yourselves many opportunities to fly to all sorts of exciting destinations.
Some people seem to mistake uniformity for unity. Everyone would not only look the same but also think and act the same.
I don’t know of any country where everyone is forced to be the same that also develops in a forward-looking way.
North Korea would be the best example.
Other countries like Japan or South Korea may look homogenous but in fact they are not.
That’s why they can be very creative. They also have no qualms about borrowing ideas from other countries and improving on them in their own way.
Their people, however, do understand that they’re all on that same plane together.
But over here, some people’s idea of unity is for half the country to come together and the other half to dumbly sit back and wait for scraps.
Or to belabour that airplane analogy, half the plane is first class while the rest are in cattle class.
But I read somewhere that the front of the plane isn’t necessarily the safest place to be if anything should happen.
What’s more if you have an unskilled pilot, or one who is asleep in the cockpit, then everyone’s fate depends on what he does or doesn’t do.
Even if the most advanced jets today can virtually fly themselves, they still need human brains and hands to land them safely.
So the passengers can argue all they want but none of them will be able to fly that aircraft.
So we need to be clear about what unity means, and that the reason we need to have unity is because we have diversity.
That diversity is a given and we can’t wish it away no matter how much we want to.
But diversity is actually an asset because it is in managing our differences that we learn how to negotiate, compromise and respect one another. No innovation ever came out of uniformity.
We, therefore, have a choice. Get onboard the flight together and accept our common destiny. Or fight over where you’re going to sit and who’s going to get the best food.
Buckle your seat belts please!
The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Lessons from the animals


BY MARINA MAHATHIR

Musings

Published: Thursday February 13, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday February 13, 2014 MYT 7:06:41 AM

================================
IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR ALL
The articles are captured from the original writer, MsMarina (with her permission). SambalBelacan is just compiling articles to make easier to find. Any comments received will remain un-respond because it's not mine.Reach her at her very own blog at http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/ Please.
==================================

The difference between the violent chimpanzees and the peace-loving bonobos appears to be linked to the role of their females.
I’VE just watched a fascinating lecture on whether animals have morals. In various laboratory experiments, it’s been shown that capuchin monkeys and dogs do care about how their friends feel.
If they see a friend in pain, they will try and comfort them.
If they see that getting a food reward means that their friend will suffer from an electric shock, they will forego food rather than subject their friend to such pain.
They will help one another to get the same rewards, although they won’t help someone they don’t know.
And they seem to have an inherent sense of fairness, rejecting attempts to being differently rewarded for the same tasks.
So in many ways, they are the same as human beings.
What’s different of course is that they don’t tend to sit around and analyse why all this happens.
The other big difference is that they also don’t tend to punish those who transgress these rules. So they might protest at unfair treatment or go on a hunger strike in support of a friend, but they don’t seek to punish perpetrators of such unfairness.
The experiments also found that capuchin monkeys are quite willing to support other capuchin monkeys that they know and can see, but not those they don’t know and can’t see.
Their first priority is their kith and kin and not strangers, especially anonymous ones. This also differentiates them from humans who will extend a hand to total strangers such as we did during the tsunami and Typhoon Haiyan, with no expectation of reward.
These studies show that although sometimes we claim that morality in humans is determined by culture and religion, some things are probably hard wired into us.
We all have an innate aversion to harm, an inherent sense of fairness, respect for authority and care for our young.
Studies on babies and toddlers have shown that they will cooperate and help others without being asked.
This tends to dissipate though as they get older, though never really disappears since we do see the same traits in adults too. One explanation is that, if we stopped cooperating with one another, pretty soon the human race would simply die off because we do need one another to survive.
The lecture also compared not just morality in animals and humans, but also immorality, specifically violence against others.
I presume violence was chosen because it’s a bit difficult to assess lying and cheating in animals since we don’t speak their language.
And in some things, such as sexual behaviour, we can’t really impose our human values onto them.
The best comparisons are with our closest genetic relatives, chimpanzees and bonobo monkeys. These two groups of animals may seem similar, but behave in very different ways. Chimpanzee society is an extremely violent one.
They not only fight each other within their own community, but also others in other communities and are prone to physical abuse of the female members of their community and infanticide.
The primate expert Jane Goodall studied two communities of chimpanzees in Gombe, Tanzania, which engaged in a four-year war which ended with all the males in the smaller community being killed and the females absorbed into the larger community.
The war was not limited to skirmishes when the two communities chanced upon one another.
The larger one would actually send out raiding parties to seek out and viciously attack members of the smaller one, especially those seen as weak.
Bonobos, on the other hand, are an extremely peaceful society, preferring, literally, to make love and not war.
They never attack each other or outsiders and seem to spend most of their time being very affectionate with one another.
The explanation for this is that female bonobos, unlike chimpanzee females, bond with one another very tightly and stand in solidarity with one another.
As a result, they are able to temper the male instinct for violence and this results in an overall peaceful society.
There may well be many traits we might recognise in ourselves in our primate cousins. It’s worth noting that the only two species that actually wage war on others are chimpanzees and humans.
But there are some differences. For while chimpanzees rely only on their own strength for warfare, humans go on to develop very sophisticated weapons that can kill thousands of strangers thousands of miles away, often without even leaving home.
And if we learn anything from our bonobo cousins, it’s that a society that gives their females a big say in how things are run tends to be a more peaceful one. Easy to see which type of society is likely to advance.
Given the recent monkey-like behaviour we are seeing in our country, we should ask ourselves: are we chimpanzees or bonobos?
> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.