Collective values

SEPTEMBER 14 — What are the shared values that underpin Malaysia? 

The first article put forward the idea that all Malaysians should be collectively responsible for both the success and shortcomings of Malaysia. But what is success and failure?

Malaysians are both happy and unhappy with many issues.

The recent Bersih 4.0 rally suggests that a good number of Malaysians are unhappy with some matters in Malaysia.

A JobStreet survey on Employee Job Satisfaction in Malaysia — in September 2012 — reported that 78 per cent of Malaysians were unhappy with their current job. 

A Merdeka Center survey  of Peninsular Malaysian voters — in December 2012 — reported that 52 per cent of respondents felt that the country was going in the right direction. 

Another Merdeka Center survey of Peninsular Malaysian voters — in December 2014 — reported that 49 per cent of respondents felt that corruption in Malaysia has increased.

In a Merdeka Center survey of Muslim youths (between the ages of 15-25) — in October 2010 — reported the following:

  • 90 per cent of young Malaysian Muslims are happy with their lives;
  • 33.1 per cent thought that things in the country were heading in the wrong direction;
  • 82.4 per cent stated that they were satisfied with the level of peacefulness in the country;
  • 73.7 per cent agreed that the people have the power to change a government they don’t like;
  • 86.1 per cent agreed that a strong man should bring order to Malaysia;
  • 62.4 per cent agreed that Osama bin Laden is a freedom fighter;
  • 93 per centdisagreed with the statement that Muslims are allowed to change their religion; and
  • 71 per cent had the view that the Quran should replace the Constitution of Malaysia.

Important caveat: The above surveys of ordinary Malaysians are selected simply to illustrate that divergent views on the state of Malaysia and divergent values exist. Nothing more! 

How then do we begin to identify and develop collective values in Malaysia?

Wawasan 2020 or Vision 2020 is a good starting point as it remains the accepted aspiration for Malaysia and Malaysians. Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister envisioned nine challenges that Malaysia and Malaysians would have to overcome to achieve Wawasan 2020. They are:

  • A united Malaysian nation made up of “Bangsa Malaysia” ;
  • A psychologically liberated, secure and developed Malaysian society;
  • A mature democratic society;
  • A fully moral and ethical society;
  • A mature, liberal and tolerant society;
  • A fully caring society;
  • A scientific and progressive society;
  • An economically just society, in which there is fair and equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation; and
  • A prosperous society with an economy that is fully competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient. 

Tun Mahathir is a polarising figure. The man and his vision has been both praised and critiqued.  Yet, the values that underpin Wawasan 2020 merits consideration.  These values ­— granted that its actual meaning and interpretation can be debated — are timeless.

No one individual or community can claim ownership, certainly not Tun Mahathir. These values are universal. How does one argue against values such as: unity, liberated, mature, democratic, moral, ethical, liberal, tolerant, scientific, progressive, caring, just, fair, equitable, competitive, and resilient?

In fact, these values and characteristics are often seen as hallmarks of great individuals, societies and civilisations. Importantly, these values while universal can remain our very own. 

These values provide a guide to measuring the “health” of individuals and the nation, allowing for comparison with the past, and a guide for the future. These values provide a starting point to assess ourselves, our communities, our community leaders, our business leaders, our clerical class, our civil society leaders, our civil servants, and our political representatives.  

Acknowledging that there is no definitive definition of these values, how then do Malaysians come to even a general understanding of what these values may mean?

Many individuals, groups and communities have already begun these processes, even since before Malaysia became an independent nation. Successive Barisan Nasional administration has had “National Unity” as its overriding objective.  Again, we are unable to say for certain of its success, but we do know that more honest efforts are needed. 

Should “ordinary Malaysians” start talking to each other about what could be the shared values for Malaysia?

If yes, how do we begin? 

What are the necessary conditions to begin this process?

What are the values needed to bring individuals and communities with diverging values and views together to begin an honest conversation?

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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