by Candy Tay | 31 Dec, 09 6:11pm
I have recently returned to Kuala Lumpur after six years of studying and working in Vancouver, Canada. While I was there, I constantly battled with my internal struggles on deciding whether to stay on in a foreign country and make it my new home or to return to the place where I was born and raised. Even though I have adapted to Canadian culture and lifestyle fairly well to a point that even local Canadians think that I am Canadian-born, somewhere deep within me still felt like a stranger looking in from the outside.
Several factors influenced my decision to come home: 1. My aging parents, 2. My best friend who had returned to Malaysia a year ago after four years of living in the States, and 3. The March 8, 2008 general election, which presented me with a boost of optimism on the future of Malaysia.
For months, I was ecstatic at the thought of coming home and when I finally did, it did not fall short of my high expectations. It was great to be home again, to be with my family, to be around my friends, to be on familiar territory (although much has changed as I later realised), to be exposed to a vast range of local cuisine which I used to take for granted it was ultimately one of the happiest times that I had experienced in a long time.
It was only after several months that I realised that things were different that my friends had changed, that everything around me had changed, or rather, that I had changed. Before I was exposed to life in Canada, I cared little for the issues that were prevalent in our Malaysian society. Maybe it was because I was young and ignorant then. Maybe I had simply chosen to turn a blind eye to the rising concerns that smothered our country as long as it didn’t directly affect me.
Now I mentioned earlier that my best friend was one of the reasons why I returned. While she was living in the States, she was one of the avid readers of political blogs and sites that were sprouting like mushrooms on the Internet. She followed closely the Malaysian political scene, blogging about it herself, and had shown tremendous passion and a sound belief that change was possible for the future of Malaysia. A year ago, she returned to Kuala Lumpur and had been pleading for me to return as well, telling me how great her life has been since her return.
And she was right everything was undeniably great, until recently, when I had asked her and another friend (who had just returned from Sydney nine months ago) what they thought of the Malaysian political scene. I had noticed that my best friend rarely blogged now, claiming that she was too busy with work, family and her boyfriend to blog frequently.
Much to my utter disappointment, my best friend’s tone on the political scene has completely changed. No longer radical in her thinking, she now accepts corruption as a way of life in our society, and even endorses the indulgence of certain forms of corruption. My other friend believes that corruption allows businesses to be competitive, thus enabling them to survive in our cut-throat society.
‘If you were stopped by a cop and was caught for not wearing a seat belt, what would you do bribe, pay RM30 and move on with your life, or get a ticket, go through the hassle of appealing and pay a penalty of RM300? Obviously if you were smart, you’d bribe’.
‘Everyone else is doing it. If you don’t do it, you are the one who will suffer. Anybody who refuses to engage in corruption in our society is backward in thinking, and they will never succeed’.
And that was just the tip of the iceberg of our debate, which had left the three of us parting unhappily that night, an invisible yet apparent line drawn between myself and the both of them. It disappointed me to know that just a mere year had transformed my best friend from a self- professed political activist to her teenage self someone who couldn’t care less about what was going on in our country. It frustrated me to know that of all people, my two friends educated, informed and cultured would assume this sort of egocentric mentality.
It frightened me even more to think that with time, I could also be as ignorant about our societal problems, pretending that everything was okay when it truly wasn’t. As I related the night’s events to another close friend of mine, she advised that I was too idealistic and should probably accept Malaysia and the people for what they were that if there would be change, it would probably not happen during our generation or the next few generations for that matter.
I told her that I accepted Malaysia for who she was, but that did not mean that we should not recognise that there were issues prevalent in our country. How could corruption be ‘good’? I admit that there may be corruption on some level in even the most developed countries, but not to the extent of what our society is exposed to. That night, my friends had actually defended corruption, stating that, and I quote, ‘corruption helped boost the economy’. Corruption does not boost the economy, my friends, it only makes the rich richer, and the poor poorer.
And yes, I admit that change is hard to come by. That it will probably take a long time for change in our country to happen. But what distressed me the most were the younger generation like myself, who are supposedly more educated than our forefathers and well-informed to the extent of being able to distinguish right from wrong, and who were radical radical enough to believe and work towards change. If even the younger generation is not willing to change their mentality and actions, how will change ever happen?
‘If you hate Malaysia so much,” my friend had said that night, “Then maybe you should go back to Canada.’
And to be honest, for awhile, I had actually considered going back to Canada and escaping the ugly light that my friends had shed on our Malaysian society. I didn’t like the possibility that the same words my friends had said that night could potentially come out from my own lips a year later. I didn’t want my kids, if I ever had any, to grow up to become like me conflicted and torn between ‘a better life’ or home, sweet home.
But one doesn’t run away from her motherland when things seem to be going on a downward spiral. Your fate is not destined; you make your own destiny. Engaging in corruption even on a small scale is a conscious choice, not a fundamental of life. Change is only possible if the people of Malaysia believe in change, feels strongly about making it happen, and begin acting on it to make it happen.
Even the littlest and most insignificant basic act can contribute towards the change that we all hope for, such as refusing to bribe, maintaining a good driving etiquette or even setting a good example for your child by simply not littering.
An extremely idealistic thought but definitely not impossible. As preposterous as it sounds, for the future of Malaysia and the younger generations to come, Malaysia needs all the help she can get. Try and imagine yourself in a situation when you are frustrated over the issues in our country, then maybe, it might motivate you to start changing your actions.
And here I am one more idealistic, hopeful soul who believes that change is possible. I refuse to sit back and hope that change will happen. I will not succumb to peer pressure and indulge in immoral and illegal activities. I will do all I can to work towards a better Malaysia because at the end of the day, I can say I tried. And I will start by sharing my story, in hopes that I have inspired you.