31 December 2015

Instead of waiting for others to make improvements, maybe we should start by changing ourselves first.

It is finally the end of a very long year. As I meet with friends and others at various gatherings over the holidays, the mood is sober and pessimistic.

A year ago, we all wished for a better year in 2015 after the disastrous year that was 2014. But sadly, 2015 has not proven to be uplifting.

The hole we find ourselves in has been dug even deeper and we cannot see how we are to get out of it. Despite the seemingly bright outlook our leaders would have us believe, ordinary people everywhere, especially the young, know that things are tough.

Life in the city is expensive, more so if your salary barely keeps your head above water. Your hopes of living close to your job are slim, so you are forced to live further out, which means having to pay more for transport. Each month ends with very little spare change.

That is, if you have a job. For our graduates coming out of university, real life is a shock. Nothing they learnt in our public universities has prepared them for workplaces that value soft skills that they have not been taught.

The good jobs are the ones that require working fluency in English. Yet they are being told that they are a superior community that does not need it. Such a disconnect with the realities of life leads to frustration.

To divert attention from these frustrations, they are told that it’s someone else’s fault and the only way to ease the pain is to turn to God.

Other less devout people may annoyingly have better jobs and lives but they are at least not going to heaven, while you are assured.

It is this type of thinking that leads to even more resentment, which perhaps makes people unable to think clearly and see what is truly the problem. That those who keep telling you that you are unjustly suffering are actually the ones who are causing it. And that they can provide you with few answers beyond that redemption will come in the afterlife. Meanwhile, you have to feed your family.

This is the real dilemma we are in today –those we rely on to lead us into the future are in fact dragging us backwards and justifying it as salvation.

The more insecure our futures, the more they try to secure theirs by telling us that we are constantly in danger from outside forces and only they can protect us.

Foolishly, we believe them and hand over even more of our lives.

Perhaps I am being overly pessimistic. Perhaps things can be better. I hope so and I pray the following wishes for 2016 will come true:

1. That ordinary people will finally wake up from their stupor and realise that if we do nothing to save our country now, we’ll be looking at decades of misery.

2. That while some people’s ideas of how things will be better may sound fine in theory, real life may not pan out quite that way. History has shown that when you buy too much into politicians’ promises and give up any checks and balances, it will be really difficult to undo these later.

3. That greed and hypocrisy, the hallmarks of 2015, will finally be recognised and called out on, regardless of who it is. When people blithely insist that there is nothing wrong with taking money meant for orphans to pay for their trips abroad, or use people’s savings to pay dubious loans, then you know that honesty has become extinct.

4. That we return to the values that used to be considered good. Values such as honesty, trustworthiness, integrity and even courtesy and respect are now no longer considered values to be upheld. Instead, we see blatant dishonesty being exalted while those who dare to speak the truth are punished.

5. That we realise this constant need to prohibit and punish those who give alternative opinions and perspectives will eventually bite us back. Not just because the world is watching but because there are so many examples of countries that do this and are totally miserable places to live in.

Unless, of course, our leaders truly don’t care whether we are happy or not.

6. That we stop believing the constant lies and fantastical stories that we are being told. Our leaders live in parallel universes from us, where agencies that have done their utmost to divide people are praised for bringing “unity and peace”, where the greatest danger to us are liberals rather than the greedy and dishonest politicians.

7. That we start being a more considerate and thoughtful society, rather than one that is quick to condemn anyone who is different.

I hope we become a kinder society where we empathise more with those who have less and are proud of those who do well, rather than finding fault with them. I would love to see our society become more big-hearted rather than be so judgmental.

I don’t know if any of these are too much to ask. Perhaps change can only happen when we change ourselves, when we stop waiting for others to make the change for us.

Today our beloved Malaysia needs us, the people, more than ever. Let us not let her down.

Try and have a happy new year, folks!