We can disagree without being disagreeable

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 29 Jul 2012

WE must learn to view rankings in their proper perspective.

There are certain rankings that cannot be disputed because they are premised on specific parameters. And then there are rankings that are speculative and subjective.

Sports rankings fall in the former category because they have evolved over the years to measure, fairly accurately, how a team or an individual is ranked.

Which is why Datuk Nicol David is ranked No 1 in women's squash and Datuk Lee Chong Wei, our best bet to win our first gold medal in the Olympics, is ranked No 2, behind China's Lin Dan, in men's badminton.

In football, Spain is No 1 while Malaysia is currently at No 157, which is way below our highest ever spot of No 75 back in 1993 when the FIFA world rankings was first released.

Then there are the economic rankings, like GDP, which puts the United States in the lead, and China at No 2. But while GDP figures cannot be disputed, a ranking like the World's Richest Countries can become subjective depending on which factors are used.

So, if you look at how Forbes came out with its list, it is Qatar that is the world's richest country per capita thanks to a rebound in oil prices and its massive natural gas reserves. The United States is only No 7 on this list.

If you define “rich” beyond “wealth” and factor in “environment, contentment, happiness, etc”, the Richest Country in the World may be a real surprise.

But the rankings that seem to ruffle people the most are often times the most subjective ones, without clear statistical parameters.

Where is the best hawker food in the world?

Which is the rudest city?

What is the best goal ever scored in football?

Who is the most beautiful actress today?

Take hawker food for example. I am a Penangite and I believe that Penang hawker food is the best in the world. All the people in Penang will agree with me.

And so will the Penang diaspora in the Klang Valley, Singapore and all the way to Los Angeles.

Even politicians in Penang who disagree on just about everything are happy to put aside their differences and rise to the defence of the island's famous char kuey teow, assam laksa, hokkien mee, cendol, ice kacang, curry mee, chee cheong fun, popiah, nasi kandar, chicken rice, satay and wantan mee.

My wife, who is KL-born and bred, after years of listening to me wax poetic about Penang food, also agrees that Penang food is the best.

Except when her brothers from Singapore or Australia come to visit, in which case, she plays safe and says Ampang yong tau fu is the best.

As for being ranked 33 out of 35 cities in the Reader's Digest list of Least Courteous Cities, you can see from the ongoing debate that no one has the definitive answer.

If we are personally ruffled by such findings, we can perhaps start with ourselves and see if the person in the mirror needs to buck up.

So, really, friends, let's not get so worked up over a survey here or a survey there.

After all, if I declare that The Sound of Music is the greatest movie of all time and that P. Ramlee's Getaran Jiwa is No 1 on my list of greatest songs, many of you may not agree with me.

So, let's just disagree without being disagreeable.

Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin needs to work out his priority ranking list and place the daily morning walk, healthy food and ample rest in the top three spots.

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