Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Malaysians Only Care About Themselves

Written by johnleemk on 12:59:24 pm May 23, 2007.
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A major problem with Malaysians is that, simply put, we aren't civic-minded. We don't care about the greater good, about the common benefit. All we care about is ourselves.

This seems a bit counterintuitive, considering how we stereotype Asians as putting the society above self, and stereotype Westerners as self-interested individualists.

But consider things for a moment. Rank the following countries from most kiasu to least: Britain, Singapore, Malaysia, and the United States.

The fact is, Westerners have a history of considering the greater good for society. They love their institutions and traditions not because it means they can buy a Datukship (okay, Britain and the House of Lords excluded, considering their numerous peerage scandals), but because these institutions and traditions are for the good of all.

In our corner of the world, everything revolves around us. Everything has to be done our way, for us. We pay lip service to the collective, but when nobody is looking, we stab the collective in the back.

Ironically, this benefits us in the short term, but in the long run, we all wind up worser off as individuals. When we have a culture of not queueing up, of bribing our way around, who loses out in the end?

When you are elbowed aside by others, when you are forced to pay duit kopi to expedite even simple bureaucratic tasks, who loses? It's you. But who has caused it? You have — by contributing your own small bit to a culture of short-term individualism.

On the rare occasion when we do think beyond ourselves, what do we shortsightedly care about? Our own racial community, rather than the national benefit.

It doesn't matter if our policy of de facto school segregation or blatant apartheid will harm the country in the long run. As long as our race benefits in the short run, we are all for it.

It's time we stopped lying to ourselves about our supposed caring nature. We don't give a damn about the common benefit, even if the commons includes us. As far as we concerned, we want everything for ourselves, even if it means holding 100% of an ever-shrinking pie.


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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.


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