Creativity is a Malaysian strength...and a weakness

FEBRUARY 7 — Malaysians, a friend of mine said to me, are blessed with a lot more creativity than we know what to do with.

We were having a drink in the early hours; we talked about his new career trajectory and his previous experience working in Singapore.

He had no desire to return, despite the country's famed efficiency and more favourable cost of living.

Despite all that, he found the environment stifling especially Singaporean's fixation with bureaucracy.

He was especially impressed with how much the gaming development scene has developed in Malaysia despite Singapore attempting to lure developers with generous grants and other incentives.

Malaysia has the advantage of having lower operating costs, less red tape in setting up shop, as well as a far larger pool of creative talent.

Singapore's much smaller population means fewer qualified people to choose from and compared to Malaysia, it is far less diverse culturally.

For all our chaos, Malaysia has a lot more room to grow and where creativity is concerned, we have riches at our fingertips... if we but knew how to use it better.

I live on a dead-end road and yet, an informal survey of my rideshare drivers has found that at least 8 out of 10 will ask...”Boleh lalu ke?” (Can I pass through?) Never mind that there is a map on the rideshare app and a quick look at Waze or Google Maps will show my street is a dead end.

It's something that I notice my Malaysian driver friends do as well — they will power down a road, assuming they will find a way through. This, despite the fact that stopping the car for a few seconds to look at a map would be faster and more efficient. Nope, they will drive down a strange road assuming they can cut through it to wherever they want to go even if it is kilometres away from their goal and in the opposite direction.

This is also one reason why I refuse to drive in Malaysia; I'm convinced half our drivers have no common sense whatsoever.

Yet this nonsensical optimism, this hopeless magical thinking, is what also makes us resilient.

When faced with problems, the typical Malaysian approach is to figure out if there is a way to lalu (cut through). This has made us both in demand as animators and designers, but also excellent criminals.

Where there is a loophole, we exploit it. Where there is a connection we can find, we abuse it. We are far too clever for our own good and it is a damn shame.

I think we do need to give our talent pool more encouragement but perhaps not with too much money. Or at least, if there is money, there needs to be more control of it and not less. Else what will happen (as it usually does) is the Malaysian stewards of said money will creatively find a way to make it disappear. Like the Mara land titles.

We shouldn't be spoonfeeding our creatives — encourage them, celebrate them, give them avenues for publicity and marketing via various channels.

I think the best bet for the future is one where we can allow Malaysians to harness their creativity in the best ways, unfettered by fussy moral guardians. Maybe one day we'll be known more for our ingenuity than for making international news for all the wrong reasons. In the meantime, we can still dream of a better, creative future.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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