Sense and nonsense, Malaysian style

Years ago, we visited a village in rural Malacca, to interview a lass who wanted to be our maid. All I can remember about the place now was that it was poverty-stricken (this was in 1971) and that the girl had a relative, a two-year old boy, who had been born with a severe case of cleft palate/hare-lip. I had never seen anyone like that before: surgery fixed kids up pretty smartly in the West.
We asked why it hadn’t been done with this child, seeing as an operation would have been free of charge at a government hospital. The parents replied, “Oh, pity him, having an operation, going to a hospital. He’s just a little boy. How can we do that to him? He would cry! It would hurt him!”

I tried to explain that the surgery needed to be done early, otherwise it would not be as effective. It was like talking to a brick wall. The maid only stayed 3 months, and then asked to be taken back because she was lonely for her family. I never found out what happened to the boy.

It had a profound effect on me, though. Up until that point I was all certain that one should respect other people’s cultures and not drag them kicking and screaming into a world they didn’t want to inhabit. That was the moment when I realised that ignorance and innocence often go hand in hand, and can have dire consequences. Do you think that boy, now a man of 35 or so, unable to speak clearly because he had an operation far too late (at whatever age they were finally took him to the hospital) thinks his parents were right? I doubt it.

That was the moment I decided ignorance is to be despised, no matter what it’s cultural base. That was the moment I decided that there are some people who need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world, and damn their culture. If it stinks, why tolerate it? And when kids get hurt, it stinks.

When the wife of a Pakistani child-rapist is ordered by a tribal council to be given to the father of the girl he raped in retribution (today’s paper), it stinks.

When 38% of Indian-Malaysian women suffer abuse (today’s paper) it stinks.

The cultures that encourage those horrors should be tossed.

I am constantly amazed that Malaysians, who pay – let’s say 50,000RM plus, and possibly a helluva lot more for a car – will then not bother to pay a couple of hundred ringgit to buy a car seat to secure their small children properly.

Every time I open up the paper and read of kids dead in road accidents, I wonder if it was one of those children I saw standing up in between the front seats of the car, chatting to Mummy and Daddy. Or sitting on Daddy or Mummy’s lap in the front seat.

Brake suddenly, and child goes headfirst into the windscreen, a little flying three-year-old missile hurtling into oblivion … all for the want of a little common sense and a little less ignorance.

But sometimes I wonder if people have any sense. It’s certainly not common. They’ll call in a feng shui specialist to tell them the most ridiculous load of garbage on how to save their marriage by rearranging the house furniture, or how to get rich by flushing the loo a different way so your luck won’t run away. And they believe the con artists who tell them that feng shui is a science and offer to advise them using age-long wisdom…

People get rich on feng shui, certainly. But it’s not the gullible idiot who pays for advice that ends up in the money.

What happened to rational thought? Down with ignorance and the culture that spawns it. Every society (including Western ones) needs to look at itself and decide what is culturally worth keeping, and what should be thrown out.

Tropical Temper Rant over…

[Pix from Danum: a pill millipede and an agamid lizard, plus the rainforest.]


Sense and nonsense, Malaysian style — 5 Comments

  1. I hope you don’t think lack of sense is restricted to developing nations or ‘ignorant’ cultures 😉 I, too, have seen children unrestrained in the front seat (on Sydney’s North Shore). I have seen a parent take a little child by the hand and drag them across two lanes of traffic to stand on the weeny median strip on a main road. These people probably all drive expensive cars, too (which they then fail to service on time). Hmm – what about smokers? Do they deserve Medicare as long as they still smoke? Not to pass judgement on any of these groups, but where does ignorance and general behaviour blur into one another?

    Problem is, I think, that people tend to be pretty selective in what they ignore about their own behaviour.

    That is not to say that I don’t agree with you that your examples are prime candidates for stupid behaviour. I’m just wondering how ‘good’ we are ourselves 😉

  2. Ah, Patty, but I am not talking so much about the individual here.
    God knows, we can all be irresponsible and stupid at times.

    I am talking of cultures that promote stupidity by removing responsibility from the individual and placing it elsewhere – God, luck, feng shui, custom, adat, whatever. And you find it in developed nations too, of course. Look at Scientology.

    People here don’t bother with seatbelts because of Asian or religious fatalism. Same reason they often don’t go to the doctor when they should. Insh’allah.

    I don’t get mad if it involves only themselves – we all have choices, and if that is theirs, affecting themselves, fine. But when they take the choice away from another because of their own cultural hang-ups, I get irate. Especially when the life a child is involved.

  3. P.S. One reason I am sure the child car seat thingy is cultural is this. Car seats – at least for toddlers – were available here as long ago as 36 years – I know, cos I bought one for my own child.

    And yet I have seen no more than a handful installed. Ever. In all the years since.

    That’s an interesting question re smokers, btw. The answer is of course, for most things. But what about diseases directly related to smoking, such as lung diseases? Becomes more iffy there…alth0ough think of how rich the lawyers could get arguing that…lol.

  4. By nature we are all lazy pi*s, so often we just ignore the obvious until “it’s too late”. Think of an ostrich with its head in the sand.

    For example,

    I’m sure many people in Indonesia were subject to the haze…actually, every year. Does it change anything?


  5. re. smokers – one could also argue, do people who do lots of sports and end up with sporting injuries deserve so much extra free medical care (and all that paid sick leave from work)?

    But yeah, sense is far from common. And our legislation seems to be developing in such a way that when things go wrong you just pass the blame on to someone else and sue them. 😮

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