On a warm breezy day in tropical Malaysia, heaven seems not so elusive.
More so if you are on holiday.
All things idyllic until you notice the amount of garbage people mount on any, I mean on any tourist attraction. Malaysians have a knack of making any spot a dump with the least amount of effort.
Effort. Now there is a word for reflection.
It is most true that things don’t get clean or kept clean without effort. Nothing is spared here in tranquil Malaysia.
The central question is not why Malaysians litter
Or why Malaysians don’t make an effort to clean
The question is, what do Malaysians think of the effort t clean.
The community rationale
You cannot ask people to act, if they are not made to rationalise the act.
In Malaysia, people expect people to, and in that lies the collapse of action.
Most politicians, administrator and all the way to the teacher – the closest connector of the state to its people at their formative years – here in our tropical haven have been raised or trained to tell, not facilitate our community’s ability to rationalise its choices.
So my immediate reaction to people who think the way to a solution is about having more civic classes or nilai-nilai murni, that they have lost the plot and seven tones of dung on a football pitch.
Our population has a major disconnect with its ownership of itself.
In my standard four class, my headmaster would teach civic and hygiene. Most of the teaching revolved around him telling us how wonderful it is to fry ikan bilis and peanuts together and keep them in a jar for constant consumption.
And in secondary school they had the loathsome gotong-royong exercise. Kids would throw themselves on barbed-wire walls to escape the ludicrous experience of cleaning the school’s drains.
Because no where, really no where, did any teacher took on the task of engaging the students.
We talk to each other – teachers and students, but really it was not real talking. They say and we are supposed to do.
Do as we say, not what we do.
The do culture
Teenagers don’t unwillingly stuff plastic cups, wood or major appliances inside drains, toilets and sinks. They know what they are doing.
How many teachers ask their kids why they care not to exert the effort to do something for their community? Better still, how many want to hear honestly what the student feels and thinks?
The top down culture in this country (yes, yes Umno fostered it as much as they could) is bleeding the nation’s ability to understand its own existence.
If you want people to keep things clean, you got to ask them if it is worth it to keep it clean – because we are asking them to expand their energy.
They are likely to quickly establish the benefits of cleanliness; however they will have concerns on if the burden is going to be shared equally by all classmates, and then all of the school’s population.
And once they establish a relationship equilibrium, they will want to be involved in the resolution of it, since they are forwarding their answer to the problem.
Plus the solution might fail, but if they feel their ideas are disregarded from the word go as it is the case now, then they rather not bother to involve, to express or even listen.
You only get your community involved if they are allowed to be wrong just as much as the people in higher echelons of power.
Judge the merit of their method as much as the result.
Suffice to say, the starting point is real involvement of all your stakeholders, not just a set of orders designed by technocrats.
Talking – two way talking – is the path to solutions for most of, if not all our problems.