Living at the bottom of a well

How far our country has drifted apart can be seen from the hoo-ha over the celebration of Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day is not a religious occasion, even though the practice starts from the West. It is not a Christian tradition, nor related to any pagan activity.

I read a news report that the Tunisians are using roses and the Valentine Occasion to celebrate the disposal of Ben Ali one month ago. They must understand Valentine’s Day better.

It is of course up to any preacher or any religious person to stop his or her own followers from celebrating such an occasion, since that is what religious freedom is about. It is also the duty of a religious teacher to show his followers the right path.

But to attach the word ‘sin’ to that day and attribute that day to another religion without knowing how the occasion started in history and how most people celebrate it is really laughable.

I, myself, have not celebrated Valentine’s Day for a long time, but I will never stop my children or other people from celebrating the occasion.

How does a typical young couple celebrate the occasion? I asked my children and their friends, mainly in their 20s, how they celebrated the occasion this year as well as year before. I received the following answer.

Normally, it is just a way of showing love (“showing love” is different from “making love”, I must stress);  a typical boy goes to a typical girl’s house and presents her with flowers or a gift. They then proceed to dinner, and given the high price of food, not necessarily will choose to patronise a posh hotel restaurant. Most of them will go to a mid-range but decent restaurant, and after dinner, they head to the cinema, and after that, the boy sends the girl home.

Out of all the people I asked, no one went dancing after dinner. It is not like those college graduation balls where you may have dancing after dinner. Those occasions are organised en mass; Valentine’s is between two persons only.

Of course, I am just middle-class, and the friends of my children are all middle-class as well. I do not know what those in the higher echelons of society, like the children of ministers, top government servants or big tycoons, do. But if I am not wrong, there are more middle-class people than upper class, and therefore, the middle-class experience may be a better barometer of how Valentine’s Day is usually spent.

Remember Mother’s Day and Father’s Day — also practices that originate from the west but not religion-related — where working children will take their parents out for a meal, not so much for the food, but as a token of appreciation and a mark of respect, indirectly telling their parents that however busy they are, they still have a place in their heart for their parents.

My late parents used to tell me that I did not need to take them to posh restaurant. Just the restaurant down the road would do. My late father would say it was not the food that mattered, but the thought that counts.

Valentine’s Day is one such occasion. An occasion where a husband can show his love for and appreciation to his wife and a couple in a relationship show each other that they have a place in their heart for their loved ones.

It is the thought of taking their loved ones out that counts; not the food. I do not know about the dancing and sinful act part, since none as far as I know would do such a thing. “Sinful acts” resulting in unwed babies can actually be done on any other day, not necessary on Valentine’s Day, as long as the moral values of the people involved are low.

To equate love and sinful activities is naive, and demonstrates a real breakdown in understanding of another person’s value system and culture. Over 50 years after attaining nationhood, it is really a shame that the people have drifted so much further apart.

What is the point of having open houses when we do not even make an effort to understand the culture, and belief and value systems of another person?

I blame this on education. Our education has failed to produce thinking, intelligent, liberal, analytical and tolerant individuals.

Instead, we, as a nation, have become increasingly narrow-minded.  The sky that we view from the bottom of our well is unfortunately — to too many of us — the whole world.


(This article is also posted in the breaking view section of TMI ,  click here)


17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. genesispassion
    Feb 16, 2011 @ 12:26:53

    in the schools u have monkeys producing more monkeys…each time i send my kids to school ..i noticed these teachers tend to wear tudungs, some extremely faced covered like those turtle ninjas …something must be wrong a world of science and technology..we have teachers here caged by these religious practices. what we have here in this education system is garbage in garbage out! less said the better…we have to work harder longer hours to send our kids overseas


  2. klm
    Feb 16, 2011 @ 12:31:11

    Maybe that lady preacher was sex starved and equated Valentine day with sex and sins. 🙂


  3. Haris Abdul Rahman
    Feb 16, 2011 @ 14:01:01

    Well written as always, Sir.


  4. Ah Wong
    Feb 16, 2011 @ 19:30:07

    A person interested in sports will see a woman swimmer as an athelete with good stamina and great talent.
    A pervert will see a woman swimmer as wearing bikini, distraction to his mind, forbidden object, etc.


  5. vivien
    Feb 16, 2011 @ 20:38:24

    i’m hardly surprised with my daughter’s decision to take up pr down under. each day, bolehland seems to be stumbling backwards while others are striding forwards. what have we to show after more than 50 years of independence? so-called progress in terms of skyscrapers and tolled highways. some even scoffed when the sleepy pm pushed for agriculture. but look at global food prices now. where are our priorities?


  6. Jong
    Feb 16, 2011 @ 22:34:23

    I tend to agree, what KLM says may be true!
    It’s a shame this BN govt seems to be churning out religious bigots under pretext of ‘religious duty’ to go knocking on hotel rooms in the middle of the night thus legalising “peeping”?

    “Peeping” is a perversion classed in same category as “paedophilia” similiar to that of “sodomy”, and it’s ok coming from this BN govt?

    If they are as conscientious and deligent on issues of corruption, imagine how many BN corrupt would have had their hands chopped for digging deep into nation’s coffer?


  7. wisely
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 08:37:35

    Dr. Hsu,

    I just want to comment on two points:

    1. First, I feel leaders should get their facts right. Valentine from Bible? What a joke! Bible is against pre-marriage sex.

    2. U blame it on education. Is not education but education system-3 streams or 4 if include agama school. Each race has its own and doesn’t mix well. Only in mission schools children can really mix with other races. The teachers who taught them also come from that particular race and some instill the child from young with racist thoughts. Now people talks about Interlok and history books, content is one thing but atmosphere children grow up, to me , play the most important role in the making of a person and one’s belief!


  8. KK
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 11:57:50

    The rot in BolehLand started with the Old Horse and continue until today.
    We are going the way of Zimbabwe.


  9. disgusted
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 12:28:43

    Religious matters. Sensitive. So always a one-way traffic. You can learn about Islam but they don’t give a hoot understanding other religions, not even a tiny weeny bit. Always talk about tolerance. How can you tolerate other religions without a basic knowledge especially on enforcement and policies. This is a typical “Truly Froggie” nation which should be the banner on tourism and “Truly Tragic”.


  10. CYC
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 13:01:08

    Religious pluralism will not exists as long as one adopts a supreme stand on his/her religion. Religion is the most innovative creation man ever had, but can we safeguard ourselves by not being destroyed by our own creation ? That’s the greatest challenge of mankind.


  11. Jong
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 13:22:40

    All religion teaches good moral. No one religion encourage immoral activities amongst its followers. Whatever deviation there is, should be between man and his god and who are they these BN’s religious bigots to impose their values(as if they have any, of any good?) and claim to be the people’s moral guardian?


  12. klm
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 13:32:11

    The statement that galvanised the Egyptian Revolution.

    “That’s why we have to destroy the system, which is based on the theory that people shouldn’t speak out, that this country is their country, so it’s not your right to ask. No, it is my right to ask you. If you’re a minister, you are a civil servant, you are an employee of the government. With all due respect, my taxes pay for your salary.” Wael Ghonim.

    (see profile in

    Don’t it sound familiar.


  13. Meng
    Feb 17, 2011 @ 21:04:29

    Reasons can be found here :


  14. BabaNyonya
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 03:11:33

    Dr Hsu,

    You’re correct that the education system is to blame. And getting rid of the English Language from our schools is part of the problem.

    See this article about English in India titled: “India Faces a Linguistic Truth: English Spoken Here”.

    Some quotes:

    ” There is not a single well-paying job in the country that does not require a good understanding of the language. Higher education here is conducted entirely in English.”

    “In the years that followed the nation’s independence from the British in 1947, there were efforts to hoist Hindi as the national language, but regional linguistic sentiments were high. In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, men immolated themselves to protest what they thought was the colonizing power of Hindi. As a compromise, Hindi was downgraded to one of the two official languages in which the government would conduct its business.”
    “The other official language was English, which has long been considered a default language, a foreign language. But this is no longer true. Since independence, the influence and reach of English have grown immensely. It is impossible to arrive at a credible figure for the number of Indians who understand English (a lot), who can read it (many) or who can write it (very few). But what is indisputable is that in India today, English has the force and quality of a national language.”
    “The chief beneficiaries if English attained this status would be the children who attend the free schools run by the central and the state governments. An overwhelming majority of such schools are not taught in English. Indian politicians, whose own children attend private English-language schools in India and abroad, want their constituents to marinate in their mother tongues.”
    “Alarmed at the power of English, India’s cultural elite and politicians have tried, through public policy and sometimes violence, to promote Indian languages. In Mumbai, for instance, every shop is required to announce its name in Marathi even though most of the people in the city can read English but not Marathi. Raj Thackeray, a pugnacious politician in Mumbai, is enraged by the diminished status of Marathi and the predominance of English in the city. His supporters have been known to beat up people who they believed disrespected the Marathi language. He wants everybody in Mumbai to learn Marathi.”
    “When asked why his own son goes to one of the best English-language schools in Mumbai and not to a Marathi-language school, he replied that the question was not important and was politically motivated. ”

    Does all this sound familiar?

    Interesting that in India, which is a fast rising power, the use of English has gone up since independence, while Malaysia has gone in the other direction. Educated Indians recognize the importance of English in today’s world.

    While they talk about promoting Bahasa at the expense of English, how many ministers, royalty, mentri besars are privately having their children educated in English abroad or in international schools? What will happen to the generation now in the local school system that is growing up unable to speak English. Will they be able to compete in the future against English speaking Indians, Singaporeans, Filipinos.


  15. Dr Hsu
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 11:22:20

    Thanks for the links, dear readers. It really open our eyes! but i could not open Meng’s link..


  16. wisely
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 23:02:57


    English is definately the most important language in the world. The decision on PPSMI is political because the rural areas students were struggling as well as the teachers to cope and these are BN stronghold. Even if they can, chinese school also refuses and so with Indians. You won’t believe some of our friends taught the pupils simple present tense the other way round. Today KSSR, the new syllabus only taught grammar at year 3 onward. Year 1 english is much simpler, simpler than most kindergarten. just letters and words, plus songs and rhyms and games. Look funny to me as i taught it is to memperkasakan BI. Teachers don’t even know how to set test which by right not suppose to have…


  17. A true Malaysian
    Feb 19, 2011 @ 13:04:13

    Islam and Valentine’s Day

    A ‘must read’ article by Mohamad Tajuddin Mohamad Rasdi.

    I am very proud to have found a fellow Malaysian Malay.

    As I always want to tell many people, don’t use ‘perception’ to look at Malays.


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