All upside down

  • Musings
  • Sunday, 24 Feb 2019

I REMEMBER more than a year ago feeling dizzy because I thought the world had turned upside down. Things that used to be true were then declared fake, values that used to be upheld were discarded and their opposites lauded instead.

I remember feeling disorientated; something felt very wrong but it was not discussed out in the open.

Turned out I was not the only one who felt that way.

Enough of us couldn’t ignore that niggling feeling in our gut and decided enough was enough and threw the people with confused values out. I thank the Almighty every day for saving us from that disaster.

But it looks like things have not changed at all for some people. Instead of feeling insaf, that is, to comprehend the situation and what needs to change in order to benefit from it, those people still think that the old values are relevant.

I read about an incident when a young minister who had gone to campaign for the Semenyih by-election had been verbally abused and attacked.

That was bad enough but when I read the comments, I realised that for some people, their values are totally based on their loyalties, rather than principles, and these can get very warped.

Many suggested that if you venture into “enemy territory”, then you should expect violence. Really? This is news to me. Unless of course our politics scene is now ruled by that sort of gangster mentality.

Previously anyone could go and campaign during an election or by-election without expecting violence. That was the sort of country and people we were. Now has violence become the norm?

Worse still, some people were actually proud of it. Poor things, nothing else in their lives to be proud of perhaps? (And all this coming from self-proclaimed champions of the Malay race, the race that used to be lauded for our good manners.)

This is not the only upside-down value we are seeing these days. Some people see nothing wrong in promoting their colleagues’ wives to special positions, even excusing this as “women empowerment”.

If this is to support the 30% allocation for women on boards and other decision-making positions, then they must show the total number of women appointed and what their qualifications are.

I have no doubt that some very qualified women are married to public figures. In that case, publish the candidate’s full CV and the requirements of the position and let the public judge.

Building a wall between those candidates and their husbands might be a good idea too.

As children we are often told to think before we speak, so that we don’t say anything offensive to others. I do think that it’s equally offensive when people open their mouths and say things that are completely tone-deaf.

When women find themselves victims of abuse and violence, there should be outrage.

Instead, often there is victim-blaming, including that she should not have been out alone. Women frequently have no choice but to go out on their own. And when you need to get into a lift, are you supposed to wait until there are lots of people in it? Especially so early in the morning?

Another case of upside-down values: misrepresenting one’s qualifications. First of all, have we as a society put so much premium on having a degree that we don’t care anymore what quality is involved? Is this why all that our folks care about is getting their children into universities and not what sort of education they are getting?

Apart from that, for whatever reason a person needs to misrepresent their qualifications, I have to wonder what they tell their children. We constantly remind our children to study hard in school, scold them when they don’t do well and celebrate when they do. We expect them to burn the midnight oil when they go to university because we know that a good degree gives them a head start in life.

But if you get your degree without doing any of these, how do you explain this to your own children? Or do you tell them that it’s okay not to work hard because they can still get a good position anyway, by embellishing their educational credentials?

That only works in certain fields but in the private sector at least, or indeed in any company or organisation that cares about the quality of its employees, those credentials will be scrutinised very closely.

I once went to Harvard Business School on a short course where they were trying to see if business principles can be applied to the running of non-governmental organisations. It was a great experience and I learnt a lot. But I cannot say I got a degree from Harvard Business School.

Such warped thinking needs to be corrected. It is a hundred times better to say that you have no degree but have the savvy and street smarts to rise up in the world than to pretend that you have a non-existent degree.

There is nothing wrong with not having a degree; lots of amazing people have made it without one. The degree you get from the university of real life is sometimes better than any paper one.

Of course, if you have a degree, and, even better, a post-graduate one, then you are expected to think and speak at a level that should be more sophisticated than the pedestrian one that most people do.

Which makes me wonder if we should scrutinise every public figure’s academic credentials, given the whimsical way they often speak.

The new Malaysia has no room for thugs, fakes, conmen, snake oil salesmen and all the other charlatans we see coming out of the woodwork these days.

We need people who have integrity, who know their stuff, who have principles and who are unafraid to act on them. Good leaders set the tone for the country, they provide the moral examples that the rest of us follow.

We have already had the leaders who bent the rules to their advantage, who made lying permissible and naturally their followers slithered in their footsteps.

But we’re tired of all that. We’ve seen where dishonesty has taken us, as it has so many countries around the world. We deserve better than that.

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