Where Have the Decent People Gone?

by Aisha Rashid

Image courtesy of wallpaperaccess.com

Despite a cherished habit of reading the papers whilst enjoying my daily coffee after
breakfast, I hardly read or watch the news anymore these days – online, newspapers or television.

Most of the news I find rather discomforting. Heedless crimes, deceits, senseless murders and wars are some of the atrocities man wages on his fellow man. Where have all the decent people gone? I have, of late, often pondered this question.

The spate of banking scams, the cancer of corruption; financial and political scandals, as well as road rage violence that have rocked this nation to its foundation, begs this question.

There is also news abound about bad customer service, customers served unsanitary and rotten food, as well as restaurants over-charging customers.

Greed, lack of empathy and maximisation of profits at the expense of others rules the day. Where have the decent people gone?

When the Federation of Malaya attained independence from Britain in 1957, I was not yet seven years old. I remember overhearing my father and his friends speak of their ardent hopes for this new nation. Malaya was now ruled by its own people they proclaimed and things are going to get better from now on. Of course, at that time it was all beyond me.

Sixty-six years later, given the endemic corruption; the financial scams; the murders and the scandals, is there any hope for our beloved nation? Have things gotten better or are we regressing to a failed state?

The Malaya that I grew up in is no more. Malaysia has developed by leaps and bounds much to the joy of its burgeoning population. There are expressways and highways, tall buildings everywhere, skyscrapers that dot the skyline dynamically changing the landscape.

Sleepy towns have emerged into economic powerhouses. Infrastructure is world-class befitting a nation that aspires to achieve first-world economic status.

This is what one sees on the surface. Look a little deeper and one detects the cracks. Despite the first-world infrastructure, regrettably habits and mentality are lagging far behind – visibly third-world. Attitudes, clean habits and good manners are wanting, common courtesies have flown out of the window.

There is lack of empathy, lack of integrity and respect for an individual’s space and views seem to have taken a back seat.

Malaysia’s current population are enjoying better educational facilities as compared to their forefathers. After Independence there was only one university – University Malaya in Kuala Lumpur.

Sixty-six years down the road, there is a public university in each of Malaysia’s 14 states, training colleges, vocational institutions and private universities that provide education to the nation’s flourishing population and even students from abroad.

However, academic qualification alone does not make a better person if one is lacking in empathy, ethics and good manners. One cannot be a good citizen when one does not respect oneself or the rights of others.

Ethics, good manners and respect for others are soft skills that one should learn early in life. These skills should be honed at home – taught by responsible parents who want to raise responsible adults.

It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. Therefore, parents should not leave this responsibility only to teachers who are already weighed down by educational

Parents or guardians are the earliest nurturers and they can play a
significant role in planting the early seeds of cleanliness, good behaviour and integrity. The community too can play its part by encouraging courtesy and positive habits during community events.

The unethical behaviour that I often experience and witness, especially from service
providers who are younger Malaysians, is most disappointing. Yes, I am told that the Gen Y, Z and the millennials are generally quite rude but I fail to understand why.

Why are we giving excuses for them to be rude? Has being clean, helpful, honest and polite gone out of fashion?

On this matter I do not agree that we should give them excuses. I believe we should all work together to help fellow Malaysians build a better Malaysia – young or old.