We all know that what we do not have we will covet and prize more than what we already do have. It’s a strange instinct that drives us to complain about all the problems and inconveniences that plague our everyday lives. Our government is corrupt and oppressive, our economy is flailing and inflation is killing us, immigrants are stealing our jobs and causing social unrest with criminal activity, the public transport system is terrible and the streets are dirty, income inequality is rising and the most cruel thing is that we still have to pay such high taxes! Can you imagine the injustice?
Of course, everything is better somewhere else! Singapore, Japan, Korea, Europe, America, Australia, Canada, anywhere else is better.
Only, it’s not.
Studying in Singapore for 2 years, I hear the same thing. In fact, the first two paragraphs could come from a Singaporean’s mouth (with Singapore changed to Malaysia) and everybody would agree. Koreans would agree. Europeans would agree (except perhaps Norway), Americans would agree, Australians would agree. I wouldn’t know about Canadians; they seem mighty happy, and Japan has different problems. But still, the point is that we see the good but we ignore the bad; confirmation bias it is called. We only remember the success stories of the ones who made it big because they went overseas, but what about all those other people we actually personally know that go away only to experience the same things we have here? Somehow, I observe that these people’s experiences don’t register in the minds of those who did not leave.
I had the fortune to travel to the UK to visit my sister and go round Europe a bit a month ago and let me tell you, the grass looks the same, the moon looks the same, the rivers look the same. The buildings are different and prettier, but that’s beside the point, they have Antoni Gaudi. France isn’t any much cleaner than the typical Malaysian street, English weather is terrible, Spanish unemployment is scarily high, and worst of all, the largest shopping mall in the entirety of Europe is smaller than Queensbay Mall here in Penang.
And yet I still chose to go to the US to study, over Singapore, in the view that it would be better there. Truthfully, I do not think that anything I would learn there justifies the large price tag that comes with it, but higher education hardly ever does. It’s just the way Singapore prioritizes achievement over everything else that puts me off. In the US, they give you opportunity to fail, which means you can afford to make mistakes and learn and become better at something you may not be good at now. But I digress.
The price of getting what you want is getting what you once wanted, quoth the Sandman, Dream of the Endless. He gave no explanation, but I interpret it as such: Most people pursue what they do not or cannot have at the expense of what they do have but do not appreciate, until they get what they want, then they may realize that their sacrifices do not match up to the satisfaction of their achievement. Is moving far away, to a country that is not that much better, away from your family and friends and familiar places and foods really that worth it? Is Malaysia that bad?
We have no natural disasters to speak of, except the occasional flood in the Peninsular East Coast. We have cheap and extremely good food and fixed-price petrol (the latter I disapprove of for sustainability reasons). Our education system, though questionable at the tertiary level, is still better than many Western countries at primary and secondary levels, even with the seemingly worthless compulsory subjects like Art and Civics and Moral consuming our time. We have insane and idiotic politicians, but which country doesn’t have them anyway? Homes and cars are getting too expensive? They’ve increased in prices, but purchasing power hasn’t really decreased that far, loans just got more difficult and bloodsucking, which could do with a little tightening of legislature. Our streets are dirty, but that’s OUR fault for littering. The only thing is our public transport system, it really does suck, but it’s been improving, so give it some time.
Humans are never satisfied, unless trained to be so. We scrutinize every detail of everything we have, and every fracture, every flaw, every tiny insignificant imperfection is lambasted until the whole loses its value. OK so maybe not that bad, but truth to be told, Malaysia is really not that hopeless. Take a step back and admire the whole picture, we are much better off than many. We may be losing ground and all, but that’s beside the point.
The major thing holding us back, I believe, is our Malaysian apa tak apa attitude. We, the kopitiam critics, sit back and complain about the gahment bring in all the bangla take our money back their country oredy then tax our money summor liddat how to buy car buy house, but we do not rise up and do much about it. Bersih and Lynas rallies are a new step forward, though they stink of Opposition. We need more activism, a lot more. Draconian legislations that prevent free speech cannot possibly hold us down forever. The government serves us, not the other way around, we need to remember that. We can make our grass greener if we water it ourselves instead of looking longingly at pastures where others cultivate theirs. I’d come back to water it.
Fang Jiunn is usually incredibly hypocritical when giving advice, but believes good advice should be taken regardless of who says it.
Image taken from here