We have heard the political leaders deliver volumes of speeches on “nation building”. Often times, we were ‘compelled’ to read unwanted advise from a politician holding some key government positions on the front page of a newspaper. I say unwanted because some of the ‘advise” given is not only mundane but equally puerile. I used to wonder whether the advice-giver knows that he is actually insulting our intelligence or probably he himself is lacking in grey matter. What shocks me is the audacity of being “courageous” in making public statements of such puerile nature. Where is the shame?
Then I realized, it is our Malaysian culture. In our culture it is polite to pretend to listen to what he is saying. It is also polite to report his puerile views on the front page because of his position. It does not matter that what he said is complete rubbish and affronts any reasonable person’s mind. The concept of “patronising”, “condescending” and “being talked down to” is alien to Malaysian culture. Can you find equivalent BM words for these concepts? Let me know if there is.
Because it appears that in our Malaysian culture, we accept being patronized, condescended and talked down to, we allow mediocre statements by political leaders to be published on front pages. This becomes a standard to be followed by the younger, unsuspecting minds. As this continues, we move towards a culture of mediocrity.
Then there is the psychological trap of those in power – any power, from civil service to political office. Over the past 10 years, I somehow end up having to meet high-ranking civil servants for meetings and to bring various problems to their attention (after those who came to seek my help have exhausted all avenues at the lower levels). Of course I have met some very decent, efficient, helpful and humble ones. But there are others who love the "upacara of mesyuarat". It is absolutely tiresome because I can see feudalism at work and very little real work! Somehow, I think this automatic granting of awards to these civil servants must stop as it does make their head grow bigger than their brains. Mediocrity. It is also unfair to the excellent ones in the civil service whom I know personally.
And of course one of my favorite topic – education. I personally feel that despite the technological advances of the 21st century, our educational standards are declining. I recall when I was in secondary school in Penang Free School, we started very early discussing topics which today are considered “heavy” by the same age group. My recent visit to that same school’s library gave me a shock – many quality books of general interest are missing! I had a chance to discuss with some of the form 6 students – they sounded like form 3 of my time. Why? Is it the teachers? Is the politics of education? Or is the Bahasa Malaysia language? We have to address these issues and not sweep it under the carpet with feeble excuses.
When was the last time any study on the quality of education in our country done and made public and discussed? My feeling is that even our educational standards are beginning to conform with the culture of mediocrity. I hope this is not a reflection of the kind of political leaders we have. EDUCATION CANNOT BE POLITICISED!
We often hear lamentations about the lack of good reading habits in the country. However, if you look at the book stores and the magazine stands, you will find plenty of reading material. Take a look at our newspapers. There is a whole cut-out section for “entertainment”. The magazine shops stock up much of what may described as trash material, including a lot of superstitious writings masquerading as “religion”. Do we know what books are being banned by whom and why? We need to consider the maturity and intellectual level of those who are given the task of vetting which books should be banned. Once again, a society that fears to allow the society members to think is cultivating a culture of mediocrity.
Someone told me that she sees mediocrity everywhere, the by-product of the education system of the past two decades. When I asked her, everywhere? She said, at every segment of the society.
One example of mediocre thinking is when a person is given a position, where the position comes with the power of decision making and she thinks that she is personally powerful. In other words, inability of the mind to distinguish between official responsibility and personal power. I find that quite a number of these mediocre minds unable to manage authority. Legal authority is also confused with feudalism.
Sometimes I wonder…is there a deliberate attempt to ensure that our society “excels” in the culture of mediocrity? What do you think?