15 June 2013

Politics is not going to solve all our problems. Our dirty toilet habits are our own and we only have ourselves to blame, not others, nor the Government.

ONLY in Malaysia can I talk about toilets and still get a political response.
I was visiting Japan and commented about the super high-tech toilets there that do everything except make coffee (although that may well be coming soon) and some people still responded by blaming the Government for our dirty public toilets.
It’s enough to make any person get off social media before we lose our sanity permanently but this obsession with everything political is surely unhealthy and often misplaced.
Our dirty toilet habits are our own and we only have ourselves to blame, not others, nor the Government. Even if the Opposition became the government, we are not going to turn overnight into conscientious public toilet users.
That is, pun intended, a pipe dream.
Any visitor to Japan will not help noticing the extreme civic consciousness that the Japanese have.
On every train, there are signs and announcements reminding you to not talk on your mobile phones because it is likely to annoy others.
There are reminders that smoking can be irritating to non-smokers, even in special smoking rooms.
There is no litter to be seen anywhere and public toilets have special sound effects to mask your personal sounds, should you have any.
The service in restaurants and stores is beyond exemplary.
I left something in a restaurant restroom and only realised this an hour later.
A quick call to the restaurant elicited a promise to look for it once they get a chance (it’s a very popular restaurant).
An hour later, I got a call back to say that they found it.
On another occasion, the hotel concierge walked us to a nearby restaurant so we would not get lost.
Any question we asked was responded to with excruciating detail so we could not possibly misunderstand instructions or directions.
Sales assistants walked us out their front doors and bowed us farewell, even if we bought very little compared to others.
All pavements have yellow pathways for the convenience of the sight-disabled.
It is enough to make any visitor to Japan want to return often.
It is safe, clean and hassle-free.
Trains and buses arrive and depart at exactly when they say they will.
The only problem with Japan is the language.
If you don’t speak Japanese, you miss a lot of fine details.
Still, there is more English spoken and written today compared to when I lived there 27 years ago.
Furthermore, all you have to do is to look lost and someone is bound to offer help in perfect English.
The other problem is cost.
No matter how you look at it, and no matter what economic crisis Japan goes through, it is an expensive country to visit.
It is possible to eat and move about cheaply but by Japanese standards, not ours.
Still, for the many advantages of visiting the country, it’s probably worth it.
Which brings me back to our own. What would it take to become a country like Japan?
If it’s a lack of corrupt leaders, Japan has its fair share.
If it’s a political system that keeps one party in power, except for a brief stint out of power recently, they have the LDP back.
They are governed by a bunch of men in dark suits, and diversity among them is a distant dream.
Japan is one of the most conformist societies in the world; everyone wears a uniform of some kind.
Perhaps it is the simple Japanese need to get along when so many people are squeezed into a small space, and constantly face threats both natural and unnatural.
If you have to share that space with 127 million others every day, then perhaps it makes you work harder at getting along with one another.
What more, when at any time, an earthquake, volcano or tsunami may suddenly strike and everything you have is gone.
Being all in the same predicament, I suppose, makes you more considerate of each other.
Our problem, on the other hand, is perhaps that we are geographically lucky, having a relatively small population with still a lot of space around us.
Having suffered no major disasters, we live our lives just for ourselves, caring little about how others feel.
We dirty public spaces, drive dangerously, provide sullen service and treat our inferiors, especially if they are from poorer foreign countries, like slaves.
When we say we want change, it has to be about more than politics. Politics is not going to solve all our problems.
Corruption or election cheating has nothing to do with dirty toilets or road bullying, for example.
Maybe we should just own up to responsibility for our own behaviour before we can really change.
And we can start by simply being mindful of others.