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Election Watch

Transformation within ourselves

Sin Chew Daily
May 25, 2017

By Voon Zhen Yi 


There has been much hype over TN50 - the brewing of Malaysia's new national blueprint and vision for the future (that future being year 2050). As with Vision 2020, the government is seeking to identify features and aspirations of what will make up a future Malaysian utopia.

While it is exciting and necessary to set goals for the future, we often only put our hopes in "physical things". Our wish list typically comes in the form wanting better infrastructure, advanced technology, higher salaries, and generally a comfortable standard of living. We think about wealth, zero poverty, equal opportunity, freedom, greater longevity, peace, an integrated society, and so on. While all these aspirations for development are well and good -- one thing was absent in Vision 2020 and from the tone of things, remains to be overlooked by TN50. I'm talking of course about people.

But doesn't all the above cater for the people? Sure, there are numerous initiatives looking into how to alleviate poverty, or introduction of affirmative action policies that tackle disparity, emphasis on the importance of education to build much needed skill and knowledge, loans and grants are available to enable entrepreneurship, and the list goes on. These initiatives are certainly necessary to improve the lives of each individual in society.

However, in a developed nation, society is not restricted to wealth, comforts, infrastructure, and technology. How people think, behave, and interact with one another are equally important. This comes in the form of developed attitudes and mindset, which in turn affect the way we behave and interact with one another. Unfortunately, there is little emphasis on this when it comes to any Vision or Transformation programme.

The society of a "developed nation" should display a high level of civic mindedness. That is the attitude and mindset of looking out for another member of society for mutual benefit, or perhaps without even expecting anything in return -- that we're just following a set of values which compel us to be more mindful of others.

This is something Malaysian should aspire to and is equally important if not more so than the other "wants" in TN50. Yet, we are still lacking far behind in this area. It is not difficult to find the woes stemming from the lack of civic mindedness. We regularly see it on the road, especially during traffic jams, where we can still constantly see drivers using the emergency lane or cutting in towards the end of a turning, causing a bottleneck and perhaps the jams themselves.

Observe how we are at the LRT or KTM stations, where passengers are seldom able alight without almost being forced back in by an incoming group of inconsiderate passengers. Despite 60 years of Merdeka, littering is still a common sight committed by all strata's of society -- even the rich and affluent. Though we proclaim to be a friendly society, simple manners are often forgotten when we deal with one another.

The fact that we tell ourselves that it is "not our problem" on an individual level has instead inflicted a larger problem overall upon society, and indeed on ourselves. The failure to realise that we are all tied together in society, that every small our action has a wider consequence is what's causing us to stumble.

Malaysia is still far behind in its civic behaviour. But why is having civic minded necessary in order to become a developed society? It is because this is the very thing that pushes back growth when the people as a society hold each other back. To sustain our drive to be a developed nation, it is necessary for us to thrive in a culture, environment, and mindset that spurs each other forward.

How do we achieve a higher level of civics and how can this be institutionalised? This can only be done if absolutely everyone plays a part. Not one institution nor government agency alone can be responsible, though the state is still required to play a leading role. Civic transformation begins from ourselves and it is our role to influence others to cultivate the same habits.

Yusuf Waghid, a philosophy professor at Stellenbosch University pointed out that attributes such as compassion, criticality and a sense of responsibility are necessary to enable he calls "civic reconciliation and transformation". The concept of civic mindedness holds that there needs to be a voluntary sense of responsibility towards the community. A strong sense of belonging to community must be cultivated for the roots of civic mindedness to take place. Identifying and cultivating these elements should also be part of TN50.

One of the identified aspirations in a TN50 overview document made public in January 2017 highlighted "inclusive, open, and vibrant society". This includes the areas for transformation in diversity, equality, arts, sports, and religion, which are the also the only indications thus far of a "human transformation". Perhaps developing a matured civic mindedness should be made one of the priorities.

We cannot be rich, possess machines of high technology and still behave no differently from the apes living on trees in terms of how to regard one another if we aspire to be a developed nation. Instead, it will be far more rewarding to become a developed and matured society that is able to treat one another with mutual respect, helping each other thrive together. Perhaps, this is the transformation we should seek.

MANDARIN VERSION:

虽然我们声称自己是一个友善的社会,但当我们与他人相处时却经常忘了简单的礼貌。

其实,当我们告诉自己那不是我们的问题的时候,这个个体层面的认知已经造成社会层面更大的问题。而事实上,问题就在我们自身。无法意识到社会中我们是紧密相连的,即我们的每一个小行动都会导致更广泛的後果。没有意识到这点是我们会被绊倒的原因。

马来西亚在公民行为方面还远远落後。但是为何拥有公民意识是成为发达社会的必要条件?这是因为当社会中的人们互相拖後腿的时候会抑制正常的成长。为了维持我们成为一个发达国家的驱动力,在互相推动彼此进步的文化丶环境以及思维意识里努力发展是有必要的。

我们要如何达到更高程度的公民意识,这可以如何被制度化?

只有在所有人都参与其中时才能办到。没有一个单独的机构或者政府机构可以负全责,尽管政府依然需要扮演领头羊的角色。公民转型需从我们自己开始,我们也应该扮演影响他人培养相同习惯的角色。

Stellenbosch大学的哲学教授Yusuf Waghid曾指出,如:同情丶批判以及责任感的特质对於公民和解以及转型都是有必要存在的。有关公民意识的概念包含了一种对社群自愿而生起的责任感。有必要培养起对社群的强烈归属感,才能让公民意识扎根。辨识以及培养这些元素应该是TN50的一部份。

在今年1月份发布的TN50概要文件中提到的其中一个愿景强调包容丶开放以及充满活力的社会。这包括了在多元丶平等丶艺术丶运动以及宗教方面的转型,也是唯一一个关於人的转型的指标。或许,发展一个成熟的公民意识也应被优先列入计划。

如果我们希望成为一个发达国家,我们不能只获取财富丶拥有高科技的机械,但却与住在树上的猿猴的行为表现,尤其在如何对待他人上没有分别。相反的,若能成为一个发达以及成熟的社会,人与人之间能够相互尊重,帮助彼此成长兴盛,那将会更有价值。也许,那才是我们应当追寻的转型。


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