Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Incremental Change?

Written by johnleemk on 3:29:40 pm May 28, 2007.
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Some might recall that I am a fan of incremental change. I don't think you can effect a total revolution overnight without causing massive social upheaval, and possibly bloodshed.

That's why I think the only sensible way to approach change is to accept it, step by step. Have a long-term goal in mind, but implement it in the short term so there are small (even possibly imperceptible) changes immediately; over time allow these small changes to accumulate so the long-term objective is reached.

By its very nature, incremental change is often difficult to see. You don't realise change has occurred until a long while after it has began — just as the frog who lands in a pot of water just starting to boil does not realise he is being scalded until it is too late. (I would wish for an analogy with more positive connotations, but alas, such is the spectre of change to many.)

Now, our country looks like it is set in its ways. But I would like us to play the devil's advocate for a moment, and try to see how it is changing. I will put a few of my ideas on the table, but I hope you, the readers, will throw your own comments in. (There is a public commenting system now — just scroll all the way to the real botoom of the page.)

One area I've heard there could be incremental change in is the civil service. As I've remarked before, it's a slow, inefficient and bureaucratically obese institution — but another of its hallmarks is its utter domination by Malays.

However, I heard recently that there are non-Malays starting to pop up at the lower levels of the civil service — this appears to have started around the time Mahathir left office and Abdullah took power.

I don't know about this personally, so I can't comment. The last time I dealt with the civil service was when I was taking my driving written test, and the clerk was a Malay. I'm sure there are readers who are familiar with the civil service, so perhaps they can comment.

Another thing I am wondering about is the Malay tudung (headdress). I've heard many people from the older generation complain that in their time, hardly anyone wore it, but now it is the custom.

I think, though, that there might be signs of this reversing itself. It's obviously not very obvious, nor is it a massive change; it is just that I have noticed that in places where once everyone might wear a tudung, now there is one not donning it; in places where only one did not wear it, now there are two; and so on.

Obviously, I am not taking a random sample of the population, so my findings are hardly scientific. But it's something else to discuss.

What are your thoughts about incremental change in Malaysian society and government? Are we going anywhere? If so, where are we going? (Remember, the comments section is at the very bottom — below the form where you can email me a private comment.)


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