'via Blog this'
The other day someone asked me if I wanted to migrate. After getting rebuked for addressing me like I was a bird, he said I should consider switching countries. “Malaysia is going to the dogs!”, “In Singapore you can make loads more!”, “Australia is the nearest first-world ‘Western’ country!”
Right. So here I, like thousands (upon thousands) of Malaysians, am being asked to leave the hell of Bolehland for the bliss of either Kiasuland or Koalaland. But before packing our bags and shipping out, let’s at least be aware of what’s diff and same about these three nations:
In Kiasuland, people generally feel superior to those in Bolehland but are too polite to mention it. In Bolehland, people generally inferior to those in Kiasuland but are too proud to say so (except if they're earning Kiasuland currency, then you're sure to know). Once I was in a cab from Orchard Road to some non-Orchard place, the cabbie was dissing KL all the way. He then mockingly asked me if Johor Baru was safe "nowadays". I said yes, JB is safe but not for Singaporeans – he kinda stopped talking after that.
Both Kiasuland and Bolehland can learn from Koalaland whose people, the last I went, didn’t appear as hung up on status as such. Australians, always wearing clothes which resemble formal beachwear, don’t evince that obsession with “how much I possess compared to my neighbour”. Maybe it’s because they’re always swimming or cycling or horse-riding every spare second they get. When you’re surrounded by relaxing nature and fresh air (as opposed to KL concrete and weather), maybe your thoughts don’t drift so easily to getting a bigger car than that idiot next door who just bought a Lexus?
Both Bolehland and Koalaland have treated their indigenous people with neglect and disrespect; landgrabs have defined their history but inevitably the aborigines’ “tradtional lifestyles and craft” continue to adorn the tourist brochures. One big difference, though. In Koalaland, virtually all public events require an acknowledgement of the debt owed to the original people of the land. In Bolehland? You just hear the kompang playing to acknowledge the bigshots’ arrival.
In Kiasuland, the trains are as long as the station. In Bolehland, the queues are as long as the trains - and the jams longer than the road. In Kiasuland, the only things NOT modern are the artifacts in the museum. In Bolehland, the only thing modern is the names of the buildings. In Kiasuland, every building is cleaner than the year they first opened. In Bolehland, people fall off buildings and the situation declared a mystery.
Koalaland is ambivalent. Melbourne looks like a less gloomy version of London; Sydney like Penang minus a million cars; Brisbane’s extra-bright sun makes it look like Bali with more elevators and Adelaide is essentially one huge central park at the continent’s rectum. It’s like Australians are fine with modernity (who wouldn’t be?) but it better not interfere with their canoeing.
In Kiasuland, the police are efficient though usually hidden. In Bolehland, the police are efficient only when escorting big-shots on the road (thus inconveniencing everyone else) or during the Merdeka Day parade. And no they're not hidden but they like to hide in strange places, especially during pre-festive seasons.
Malaysian police are remarkable. They’re always inviting drivers over for tea and biscuits on the road, near tricky junctions or U-turns. I love these guys. Too bad some cars have actually refused and driven away (fast, very fast) despite being called to attend. Maybe these drivers have already had their kuih. Or maybe, just maybe, they know the cops are so busy they probably won’t bother with doing a high-speed car chase along an already congested LDP? Sure, our police could just take his license plates but as we’re probably the only country where the cops give DISCOUNTS for paying summons, maybe some drivers have decided to stop caring.
Koalaland, well, is the birthplace of Wolverine, Thor, all those hotshots played by Russell Crowe, not to mention that amazingly imaginatively heroine in ‘Sucker Punch’, so maybe police aren’t that important.
In Kiasuland, efficiency is prized above much else. In Bolehland, people usually live like there's more to life than being efficient – or at least the smart ones do. Koalaland is the best: People walk so casually and the shops all close so early, it’s like everybody simply wants to relax, sleep, play, read or just not work.
In Kiasuland, there's a time, place and government department for everything except a meaningful existence. In Bolehland, all times, places and government departments shut down during the holidays which seems to make life worthwhile and - believe it or not - nobody cares what any other country says about that. In Koalaland, every hour not spent in office is a holiday.
Bolehland’s religious and racial bigotry, true, are hitting new records. Wonder-outfit Isma is a real prodigy of its guru, Umno. But Kiasuland’s income inequality isn’t exactly taking a break: if in-trouble blogger Roy Ngerng is right, then about a quarter of Singaporeans still live in poverty and overall they earn the lowest wages among the high-income countries despite Kiasuland being the most expensive. And God only knows how many Pauline Hansons’ still spread their compassion and openness in Koalaland cities. Malaysians need to take our noses out of those glossy “Come Live In Singapore/Australia” leaflets. If we’re going to emigrate, at least adopt the same critical attitude towards these governments as we have towards Putrajaya?
In Kiasuland, everyone walks fast and urgently like they're forever on the move. In Bolehland, often nothing moves (except the mosquitoes) and nobody is sure what we're doing (not even Pakatan Rakyat) so people tend to learn how to enjoy their families and each other's company more. This may be, in fact, the lesson the Malays can best teach the Indians and, especially, the Chinese: that family and community are their own rewards and even if corporate rewards are not forthcoming, that hardly makes life less worthwhile. I don’t think the Aussies would disagree.
In Kiasuland, the government is so smart they've created a global nexus for finance, trade and services. In Koalaland, there are some truly world-class cities and personalities. In Bolehland, for many people it feels not like a hub where money, creativity and glamour flow, but like home where (something like) love does.
Finally, Malaysian food is the best in the world. And there’s no better reason to stay – just ask those who left? – June 7, 2014.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.