opinion : Erna Mahyuni

Remembering the things that do work in Malaysia

Erna Mahyuni

SEPTEMBER 13 ― A lot of my columns revolve around the things that don't work in Malaysia but writing this from the US, I am thinking of the things we do well.

Having experienced two different US airports (LAX and SFO), I honestly think KLIA is way better. Changi for me is the airport to beat, though I have a soft spot for Schipol (seeing a plane take off in the midst of wildflowers is something I'll always remember).

US airports are not fun places to be, with the noise of announcements often drowning out the sounds of immigration officers calling out “Next!”

Despite having booths with lit-up signs, no one thought of implementing a system to immediately light up booths that are free. The check-in kiosks at LAX also seem not to work and apparently only recognise a few select visa types.

While KLIA has all the major telcos offering booths and services, the likes of T-Mobile don't bother opening kiosks at airports. Despite it offering an attractive Traveller's SIM plan, you have to hunt down a T-Mobile store and you can't buy it online without a US-based payment type.

Yes, Malaysia does capitalism better than the Great Champion of the Free Market. But I suspect it's partly because Malaysians are really lazy so convenience is king if you want to sell them things.

What I'm getting at is that we are capable of creating systems that work; it's just a shame that we forget that sometimes.

I am tired of hearing sensationalist rhetoric about us being a failed state when in reality we are just not living up to our potential.

At the same time, though, we have to also remember that the challenges we face are also special. We have succeeded in somehow having various races and religions co-exist without murdering each other.

As I get older and see the friction in other nations, it's something to appreciate but not something to take much credit for.

Look, the average Malaysian would rather get something to eat over deciding to murder a near neighbour. Malaysians are generally allergic to effort and outward displays of violence, which is actually a good thing else we'd have murdered each other so much earlier.

I think we need more dialogue, not less. More courage, not more sycophancy. At the same time we need to see ourselves as we are, warts and all, instead of being trapped in this Polyanna fixation of a nation that never was.

We're messy, disorganised, the kind of nation that would hire fresh grads to work on a major sporting event instead of actual professionals to save money, and our news headlines make The Onion read like The Economist at times.

The only way to move forward is with a lot more compassion and a little more grace. And maybe a whole lot of humour as well. Because as social media's proven, we can be super-hysterical on purpose and not just by accident.

Happy Birthday, Malaysia. I love you more by understanding what you are and I hope one day, you could be a nation known for more than getting our flags wrong.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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