Today is the 46th Malaysia Day. We have come a long way from 1963. Malaysia today is vastly different from 1963, at least in West Malaysia and especially in urban areas like Klang Valley. Even between early 1980s and now, there are alot of changes.
Remember the stretch of LDP in front of 1 utama? It was only a narrow road and part of the windy Jalan damansara in the early 80s , one lane going and one lane coming. There were not many cars travelling on this road, and Taman Tun was just being leveled and built stage by stage.
Today , this stretch of LDP is so busy that often there is massive jam especially along the 1 Utama and Ikea stretch, even though the 2 lane road has been upgraded to a multi-laned expressway. . There are many housing estates developed along this stretch, among them are Bandar Utama, Damansara Mutiara, Damansara Perdana, Kota Damansara, Sri damansara and so on. The stretch also has a few big shopping centres: 1 Utama, Ikano, Ikea , the curve and 2 cinemas.
The development there typifies the physical progress of our country. We have grown, definitely, even though not as much as some of our contemporaries and, perhaps many people would like to add, we have not lived up to our potentials.
We have one of the tallest buildings ( it was the highest once) in the world. We have good roads in West malaysia and the North South Highway is as good as any highway in the world, even though the the tolls can be killing and the increase in tolls comes as regularly and predictable as the common colds.
While physical development has been impressive, human development has not always been positive. Academically, we have many more universities and many more graduates than before, but some of the products are not as knowledgeable and analytical as those products of an earlier era.
Social behaviour wise, we having taken a turn for the worse.
I will quote an incidence here which I saw with my own eyes as an example to substantiate my statement above.
A truck, the type with an enclosed box-like structure with 2 doors latched at the back , was some distance in front of me at Jalan University heading towards the Rothsman Roundabout. It was already 7.30pm and traffic at this time of the puasa month is light; the earlier jam has resolved. Suddenly, it made a turning through a no entry sign and went into the road leading to Section 17 of PJ. By right, it should have gone into the roundabout and came back through the opposite side of Jalan University to make the turning into Section17.
This happened a few days ago. There were a few cars waiting to come out from Section 17, and most of the drivers must have been shocked by the behaviour of this truck.
This type of incidence would have been uncommon just 5 years back. But now, it is almost a daily affairs, if you care to observe.
The driver’s attitude typifies many of the Malaysian attitude now. While before, we were very scared of the law and would never break any traffic rules knowingly, like turning into a no entry area, nowadays people are not scared to break traffic rules simply because they know that there would not be any actions taken.
In the morning rush hours, many junctions are manned by police, and at these junctions, it is not uncommon to see motorcyclists defying police and sneak through the junction while police is allowing the other side to move. This blatant defiance of law goes unpunished even when there are 2 or 3 traffic policemen at that junction. Why this type of lackadaisical attitude?
I have seen able bodied people parking their cars in bays reserved for the disabled. I have seen a car with 4 young men parked in a bay reserved for single lady. I have seen people smoking in an enclosed space in restaurants and hospitals when there are clear signs that say ” no smoking”.
Sometimes when I take LRT home, I can see healthy young people sitting comfortably in seats reserved for “kurang upaya” while pregnant women in their 8th month pregnancy standing and swaying dangerously in the aisle, and old ladies performing acrobatic acts to keep themselves from falling.
When law breakers are not punished and people around them observing these law breakers going unpunished, people’s mentality changes and become emboldened. More will behave in such lawless manners. With peer influences, more and more rule breakers are going around breaking rules and laws, and the end result is that a culture slowly evolves that disregard rules and laws; a culture that is slowly making everyone so self-centered that eventually leads to a whatever-i-do-cannot-be-wrong type of attitude evolving. Malaysians have become more selfish and self centred as a result.
While the material comfort level of the nation has gone up , social behaviour has gone from good to bad.
The evolvement of this type of behaviour is of course multifactorial; partly because of the education system , partly because of parents who do not bother much about correct behaviour, and partly because the law enforcers are too busy doing something else and tends to turn a blind eyes to minor offences.
I have driven in overseas roads on a few occasions, and traffic rules are followed so strictly that it is rare to see anyone doing faster than official speed limits. In NZ and Australia, sometimes the road speed limit is only 30km along those stretches where road works are being done, and not a single car would dare to go above 30, even during after office hour, when there would be no policemen around. When most of your peers do that, you tend to follow.
In another 11 years, we hope to become an advanced developed nation. We may become a first world country by wealth and income level, but we will never become a first world country by mentality and behaviour if we go on like this. I feel sad and helpless because 11 years is too short time to change a culture and a habit that has become so ingrained in many of us.