By Thomas Fann
This article is not about Steve Jobs but I would like to start with a quote by him, made in 1994 during a TV interview.
“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life.
Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.
The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mould it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.
I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
There you have it, a glimpse into the reason why Steve Jobs is, in my humble opinion, one of the very few people who ever lived who can claim that he has changed the world for the better.
Maybe not many of us will get to change the world the way Steve did, but all of us certainly has the potential to make our nation a better place. We need to shake off the erroneous notion that our sole duty as a Malaysian is to live a peaceful life, have a nice family, make some money, pay our taxes, and try not to break any law.
We need to believe that “if we push in, something will pop out the other side”, that we can actually make a difference in this nation by becoming a better Malaysian.
I would like to propose the following 10 things to do if we want to be a better Malaysian.
1. Be a Malaysian first – If you are serious about wanting a better future for this nation and making this the best home for all, then start thinking of yourself as a Malaysian and not as a whatever race or the identity of your grandfather’s homeland. All of us are migrants, it just depends on how far you want to roll back history. But due to various circumstances in history, our forefathers’ boats landed on this fair shore and made this their home. By being Malaysian first doesn’t mean we cease to be Malay, Indian, Chinese, Iban, Kadazan, etc., but that our identity is now firmly anchored to our nation.
2. Uphold the Federal Constitution – There are many laws to cover all aspects of life but the Federal Constitution is the big one. Every Malaysian who can read should read it at least once in their lifetime. It doesn’t matter which Tun or Tan Sri or Prof say what, if it doesn’t say it in the FC, it doesn’t count. This document spells out our fundamental rights as a citizen and it is empowering to know it. Fear comes from ignorance. Don’t be ignorant and you will fear less. After you read and know what it guarantees, defend it and use it to defend others. Also, obey all the laws (if it doesn’t contradict the FC), even the minor ones like putting on your seat belts.
3. Remember who’s the boss: You! – That’s right, if you are a citizen, you are the boss in our democracy, which incidentally means “people” (demo) “power” (kratos) from the Greek origin. What about the Prime Minister, I hear you say. Well, the word “minister” is an old English word for servant. So, there you have it, another phrase for Prime Minister is Chief Servant, and all the other ministers are servants. After all, we are the ones paying their salaries. A caveat, if you are one of those Malaysians who treat your servants badly, don’t forget that the PM is also a fellow citizen.
4. Start building bridges – Let’s get out of our own community and start building friendships with other Malaysians of a different race and religion from your own. Invite each other to festivals, anniversaries and birthday celebrations. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that there is a lot in their culture and traditions that you admire and prejudices you had were unfounded. You would probably find out that underneath all our differences we are just human beings who share common values and aspirations. Start tearing down those false barriers put up by politicians who can only stay in power by dividing us.
5. Be an active citizen – Stop complaining and start doing something. If you are feeling unhappy about the way this country is run and feel that we should be much better off, then get off your b*tt, (or your keyboard) and make a decision now – things are going to change and it is going to start with ME! Stop looking to the government, present or future, to solve all our problems because it ain’t gonna happen. Believe that you can do your bit to change your corner of the world. It doesn’t have to be things like taking part in the next big protest but it can be something as simple as reminding your town council to collect the rubbish or cut the grass at the park. And don’t forget to vote.
6. Use the national language (and other languages) – We need to talk to each other. Suspicions and strained relationships creep in when we don’t understand each other. We need to take pride in our National Language, Bahasa Malaysia. If you are not fluent in it, learn it and use it. It doesn’t mean we neglect our mother tongue or English. The way God wired us, we are capable of being fluent in multiple languages and we should go for it. Also, remember that learning doesn’t stop with schooling and it is never too late to learn the National Language, after all, it is one of the easiest languages to learn.
7. Be well-informed – In order to assess accurately, think critically and decide correctly, we need to have good and reliable information. Gather information from different sources, cross check them and then act on them. We are in the Information Age after all and information is just a click away. Read both pro-establishment and alternative media; read both local and international news; talk to people who are well-informed and get their perspective. James Madison said, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
8. Reject corruption – Corruption is the scourge of any society and we must have zero tolerance for it or as the PM said, “…have a natural abhorrence of corruption”. The guilty is not just the person receiving the bribe or abusing his power but the one who gives or allows someone to abuse his power. We need to make a commitment to never offer a bride and if we have done it before, admit it to yourself or someone close to you that it is wrong and you won’t be doing it again. Report every corrupt person, from the junior officer to the most senior leader whether you believe action would be taken or not. To give bribe or do nothing to stop it is to be an accomplice to a crime and we are betraying our country.
9. Be a giver and not just a taker – Look for ways to go beyond earning a living for yourself or your family. Start a business, invest in one, have a farm or factory, provide a service, export your products and create jobs. We need to “add to” and not just “take out” of our economy. Whatever we do, consider the social and environmental impact of decisions. Will we give people fair wages and not just minimum wage? Will our working hours and conditions cause hardship for those working for us? Will what we do pollute the environment? Will it be sustainable? Success is not just about the money but the legacy we leave behind.
10. Care for those less fortunate than us – We are less than nothing as a society if we have not compassion for the less fortunate among us. If we do not rush to the aid of the weak, sick and dying, not only are we demonstrating our lack of cohesiveness as a society but our lack of a heart and soul. Being a family means to look after each other through thick and thin. Get involved with charities and organisation that reach out to the poor and needy. By doing so, you are not only a better Malaysian but also a better human being.
The above are by no means comprehensive but they should be a good guide on our journey to make a mark on our nation, however big or small. It may be just pure idealism to belief that we can change the world but it is better than just existing.
In closing, another of Steve Jobs’ famous quote – “The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Will you join me and be crazy enough to think that we can make Malaysia a better place for our children by becoming a better Malaysian?