Malaysia, a nation with no shame?

As a nation, we have no shame.

We are a nation that celebrates convicted criminals, turning them into cause célèbres.

We are a nation where convicted felons get five-star preferential treatment, and are invited to speak at business forums after being charged with criminal breach of trust, abuse of power, and money laundering.

We are a nation where politicians facing a mountain of charges can still hold office, are escorted by police outriders – not to prison – but to attend state functions and to shamelessly welcome visiting heads of state.

We are a nation that shamelessly expects, and doles out handouts, creating a culture of unfettered entitlement that spans every facet of Malaysian life – from business, to education, to illegal street racing.

We are a nation that rewards bad behaviour, and embraces slogans extolling the virtues of shamelessness. We celebrate thieves and thievery. One slogan that for a while became the national mantra of sorts loosely translated to “What Is There To Be Ashamed of, My Dear Boss?”

We are a nation that rewards mediocrity. We excel at coming up with excuses, justifying the unjustifiable, sugar-coating the harsh realities of the outcome (football, hockey, badminton, take your pick), and propping up the losers with hollow “Attaboys” and “Kita sudah buat yang terbaik demi bangsa dan negara”.

It doesn’t detract from the fact that we can’t seem to do anything right.

Malaysia’s disastrous outings in both the men’s and women’s Olympic hockey qualifiers recently were hard to stomach, but the results were not unexpected. Once a hockey powerhouse, Malaysia’s national teams have now been reduced to a shadow of their former self, instilling paralysing fear and abject terror only in an opponent’s girls’ Under-12 team.

Our national football team, carrying the fierce moniker of ‘Harimau Malaya’ came home to a heroes’ welcome – and an additional funding of RM5 million of taxpayers’ hard-earned money, on top of the RM10 million given by the government in 2022 – this, after being mauled and torn apart 4-0 by Jordan, and losing 1-0 to Bahrain in the AFC Asian Cup 2023 group matches. Go figure.

When it drew 3-3 with South Korea and was sent home packing, one would think that Harimau Malaya had qualified for the World Cup, going by the euphoria that swept the nation, and the headlines in the local press, which had the audacity to put Malaysia on a par with football juggernauts Brazil and Ghana.

Badminton ‘legend’ Lee Zii Jia has turned crashing out early from tournaments into a precise and exact science. His consistency in this regard is simply mind-blowingly astonishing. As a nation, and as a people, I believe that we need to be consistent in everything we do. But to consistently lose … Perhaps a career change is in order. Perhaps, badminton just isn’t his thing.

We are a nation that takes pride in circumventing and beating the system, in cutting corners, and using back doors, loopholes, and technicalities, to get what we want. Some even go to the extent of poking holes through the roof. All, while screaming about the sanctity of the rule of law. Shameless.

A system that rewards incompetence and mediocrity will do nothing to spur us as a nation, to greater heights. It only reinforces the belief that there’s no need to excel, since even those placing dead last will be hailed as heroes. You get the medals, cash rewards, and all the accolades simply for showing up.

This only breeds a culture of entitlement, evident by the number of financial aid handouts the government has had to dish out under a litany of creative and catchy-sounding names over the years. A rose by any other name is still a cash handout. The end result is the social engineering of a people who just sit and wait – no need to work – for the next round of disbursements. Malaysia’s ‘subsidy mentality’ shows no sign of being consigned to the scrapheap of history anytime soon.

What have we become? What used to be right is now wrong, and what is wrong, “kita boleh ejas”. When motorists refuse to yield to ambulances and emergency services vehicles with the regularity with which it occurs in this country, you know that Malaysia’s ‘collective conscience’ is dead and buried, its epitaph a sad indictment of the true state of the nation.

Facts and evidence no longer matter. What matters is the tensile strength of your ‘cable’. As a nation, we are hopelessly rudderless, our moral compass completely askew. And that, is a crying shame.

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