We, a nation of zombies

3 Jun

Today a tragedy occurred because two Malaysians were unable to think for themselves.

Rather than hand over a fire extinguisher, staff at a BHP petrol station cited directives not to open the kiosk’s doors after hours.

Their caution did have some basis. Holdups are common occurrences at petrol station kiosks and mini-marts in Malaysia.

The reality, though, is that a woman’s life might have been saved if a fire extinguisher had been on hand. Instead, she burned alive while helpless onlookers watched.

It’s a sad reflection of how Malaysians have become so used to not using their heads. We toe the line, we play it safe.

“Oh, so now you’re blaming the government.”

Yes, I am. Its heavy-handed approach to public governance has led to a nation of citizens unwilling to move without directives or think for themselves. Whether it will admit it or not, by discouraging independent non-government sanctioned thought, Malaysia is encouraging its citizens to act like zombies.

How could I not be critical of our leaders as I read an interview with our former international trade minister, where she blames the ‘rebels’ of society for our slow march to developed nation status and share such gems like the following:

““When I became a politician, I never dared to speak out against my seniors… I was in awe of them and I wanted to learn from them,” she said.”

What Rafidah fails to remember is that it is healthy and necessary to question the status quo. Before the age of enlightenment, people believed bathing was bad for you. That everything could be cured by leeching. You could be executed for saying that the earth revolved around the sun, instead of the other way around.

Martin Luther questioned the authority of the Roman Catholic church. Gandhi questioned the British’s claim to rule in India. Nelson Mandela questioned the rule of apartheid.

The only place where absolute subservience is a given is in a dictatorship.

We want great things for our country but until we can make space for discussion, healthy debate and the right to question the authorities, we’re not going anywhere.

Look at our sorry excuse of an education system, where our future generations are force-fed information and expected to regurgitate it all at exams.

Malaysia claims to desire innovation and creativity, but effectively kills it in its schools.

The solution is not, like Pakatan keeps ’suggesting’, to change the government. The key here is to change ourselves. As citizens, we need to step up to the plate and demand our rights. No political platform or ideology can claim that for us.

So my countrymen, you know that thing between your ears? Learn to use it. Give it some exercise.

As a nation, we can choose to stop being stupid. Or at the very least, elect people who will stop treating us as if we are.

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3 Responses to “We, a nation of zombies”

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  1. Global Voices in English » Malaysia: Petrol station blamed over girl’s death - June 7, 2010

    […] Erna Mahyuni provides her thoughts on this issue: Rather than hand over a fire extinguisher, staff at a BHP petrol station cited directives not to open the kiosk’s doors after hours. Their caution did have some basis. Holdups are common occurrences at petrol station kiosks and mini-marts in Malaysia. The reality, though, is that a woman’s life might have been saved if a fire extinguisher had been on hand. Instead, she burned alive while helpless onlookers watched. It’s a sad reflection of how Malaysians have become so used to not using their heads. We toe the line, we play it safe. […]

  2. Malaysia: Petrol station blamed over girl’s death :: Elites TV - June 7, 2010

    […] Erna Mahyuni provides her thoughts on this issue: Rather than hand over a fire extinguisher, staff at a BHP petrol station cited directives not to open the kiosk’s doors after hours. Their caution did have some basis. Holdups are common occurrences at petrol station kiosks and mini-marts in Malaysia. The reality, though, is that a woman’s life might have been saved if a fire extinguisher had been on hand. Instead, she burned alive while helpless onlookers watched. It’s a sad reflection of how Malaysians have become so used to not using their heads. We toe the line, we play it safe. […]

  3. Global Voices на македонски » Малазија: Бензиска станица обвинета за смртта на девојка - June 9, 2010

    […] Ерна Махиуни ги споделува своите мисли за ова прашање: Наместо да го дадат апаратот, персоналот на БХП бензиска станица ги поддржале директивите со часови да не ја отвараат вратата на киоскот. Нивната претпазливост не е безоснова. Грабежите се честа појава на киосците од бензиските станици и мини маркетите во Малазија. Реалноста е дека животот на жената можеби ќе беше спасен ако при рака имало апарат противпожарен. Наместо тоа таа изгорела жива додека беспомошните поминувачи гледале. Тоа е тажен одраз на тоа како Малазијците станале навикнати на тоа да не ги користа главите. Ние ја повлековме линијата, ние игравме безбедно. […]

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