Malaysia Has No Shortcuts to Success
After Where is Malaysia on the World Stage?, Say Lee responds:
Actually, traditionally USA has been quite parochial in outlook, despite their "forays" into Korea and Vietnam. And her geopolitical awareness and international worldview are dictated by keeping tab on countries that are of strategic importance to them, either in military terms or in terms of natural resources. So the slant in international news coverage domestically has contributed to the ignorance of a large portion of her citizenry as regards occurrences beyond her shore.
The Internet has helped ameliorated this situation somewhat but Malaysia still ranks behind Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, and even Indonesia as far as knowing a country in SE Asia is concerned.
To that extent, pegging whether Malaysia is a global player known on the world's stage to the knowledge of the US populace on Malaysia may perhaps be unfair. But I have no reason to think that we will be more widely known in the EU circle, our former status as a British colony notwithstanding, except for the prowess of our sportsmen/women in Badminton and Squash, both games being much less popular in US.
Whatever it is, your entreaty to focus on the peopleware is right on the mark, provided we can shed our edifice mentality in time and in earnest.
It is indisputably true that most Americans are truly ignorant of what goes on outside their country.
But at the same time, there are many educated and knowledgeable Americans. They are not many, but they do keep tabs on things that go beyond the headlines on CNN.
Many of these people, for example, will be able to talk with you about the problem of Darfur, or about the nascent democratic movement in China. They are well-versed in geopolitics.
Down the line, there are those who can't claim to be so well-acquainted with issues of global importance, but still do know more than the average American.
Both of these two groups can somehow have a rough idea of what and where Singapore is. But most, if not all of them have no idea of what or where Malaysia is.
As noted, it's difficult to argue that the situation is any better in Europe, considering our circumstances and lack of substantial achievements. Singapore is known as a world-class tourist destination, hub for biomedicine, a dynamic capitalist state, and an authoritarian nanny state.
Malaysia can't lay claim to a single one of these titles. We can't even oppress our people properly enough for the world to sit up and take notice.
Our sporting prowess in badminton and squash is indeed something to be proud of — and interestingly, we haven't had to build any megaprojects like a new sports complex in England to nurture these athletes. All we had to do was focus on developing their talents the oldfashioned way.
That's the problem with Malaysia — we would rather settle for easy oil money and use it to find false shortcuts to success. If we want to make it in the world, there really is no substitute for human resource development.
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