I previously wrote about being the change we want to see in the world. I would like to further that concept and talk about individual responsibility and its wider implications on society as a whole.
Malaysians have a penchant for blaming everyone but themselves for everything that goes wrong, and one of the constant targets is the government.
If the price of crude oil goes up and consequently the price of petrol, it is government mismanagement.
If the price of chicken goes up because of demand and supply issues; it is the government’s fault because supply was not properly managed even though the government does not own a single chicken farm.
The basic rules of demand and supply seemingly do not apply in Malaysia because the government must ensure the prices of practically everything must be within a certain band.
This obsession with the expectations of the government are fanned by a rather callous opposition, which has fostered this concept of total governance. In other words, the opposition tells people that whatever happens or does not happen is the fault of the government.
However, when things go well, miraculously the laws of demand and supply come into play for those habitual critics. When the price of petrol decreases due to a corresponding drop in crude oil prices it is due to global factors and basic economics.
It is time to call out this blatant double standards and also foster the precept of individual or personal responsibility.
In an article by Ron Haskins that appeared on the website of the Brookings Institution, he defines individual or personal responsibility as “the willingness to both accept the importance of standards that society establishes for individual behaviour and to make strenuous personal efforts to live by those standards.
But personal responsibility also means that when individuals fail to meet expected standards, they should not look around for some factor outside themselves to blame.
The demise of personal responsibility occurs when individuals blame their family, their peers, their economic circumstances, or their society for their own failure to meet standards.
The three areas of personal decision-making in which the nation’s youth and young adults most need to learn and practice personal responsibility are education, sexual behaviour and marriage, and work.”
In other words, we have to ourselves be constrained by the standards we set for others and not blame others if we fall short of that standard but jointly take responsibility for such transgressions.
Let me illustrate. Selangor is infamous for its less than salubrious condition. The state government has completely failed in the management of waste, especially municipal waste.
Garbage collection is sporadic and disorientated. If you go to any food court in Petaling Jaya, you will be greeted by the squeaking sound of rats. So much so, that I avoid these places altogether.
However, as much as I feel the Selangor government has let us down, I also feel we have a responsibility to keep our surroundings clean.
Simple things like throwing our garbage properly and taking the effort to make complains over uncollected rubbish are important steps to manage this menace. We have to go the extra mile and keep the local and state administration on its toes.
Another example comes to mind. Everyone likes to make a quick buck as they say. Malaysians have become enamoured by money games that promise exorbitant and unrealistic returns.
JJ Poor To Rich (JJPTR) is one such scheme that has captured headlines recently. According to news reports, JJPTR has come 400,000 investors.
Many have invested between USD 25 to USD 4000 and have been promised returns of 20% a month, meaning a whopping 240% a year.
So if one would have invested USD 100 with JJPTR, after 12 month he or she would have got USD 240 in interest alone. Clearly it is too good to be true.
As usual, like every other issue in Malaysia, the opposition pounced on it and claimed that it was a result of government failure to regulate such schemes that JJPTR was able to get 400,000 investors.
To digress a little, JJPTR was doing rather well and investors were reportedly happy as they were receiving their returns of 20% a month on time.
However, things took a turn for the worst when the founder of JJPTR, Johnson Lee announced that some USD 400 million was lost due after its bank account was “hacked.” I found his claim completely outrageous.
Before we point fingers at Bank Negara (which had actually issued an advisory on so called money schemes citing JJPTR) or the police (which has to make its own report on the matter), what about us as Malaysians?
I am told professionals also invested in the scheme hence feigning financial ignorance clearly does not cut it for all JJPTR investors. So being personally responsible is fundamentally important.
One must ask themselves, how can it be so good? But then again, infamous American Ponzi scheme proponent Bernie Madoff also fooled the who’s who of Hollywood with his schemes but compared to Madoff who “gifted” his investors with returns between 12%-15%, Johnson went for the jugular with 20% returns
It is for the authorities to conclude if JJPTR was indeed a Ponzi scheme or a legitimate entity but it is important for us to ask ourselves this most important question, “is it too good to be true?”
It is time we take responsibility for our actions.
Ivanpal Singh Grewal is an Advocate & Solicitor. He was formerly Political Secretary to the Minister of Plantation Industries & Commodities.