Wednesday July 25, 2012
Remember, a little courtesy will go a long way
THE STAR SAYS
TO spot the Ugly Malaysian, all you need to do is look in the mirror.
All of us have been guilty at one time or another of behaving like the Ugly Malaysian.
A casual toss of a cigarette butt out of the window, a surreptitious flick of a candy wrapper into the corner when no one is watching. These are just some of the milder atrocities.
The Star's articles on the ugly habits of Malaysians have struck a chord among readers, judging from the feedback we have received in bulk.
And there is plenty of finger-pointing. It's always the other guy.
The idiots who rush into the lift as soon as the door opens, without giving the occupants a chance to exit.
The shopper who changes her mind about buying the packet of choy sum in a supermarket but is too lazy to walk all the way back to the perishables section to return the item, so she stuffs that package into the rack at the nearest aisle.
Diners with kids who drop food on the floor of a restaurant, leaving behind a mess. It's something they don't do at home but eating out gives them the licence to act like slobs.
You are being courteous by holding the door for the person behind you but he just saunters past without so much as a glance at you, what more a word of thanks and you are left feeling like a doorman.
We are talking about educated urban folk here and they can be downright ugly. Everyone has a horror story to tell; there are anecdotes aplenty about rude encounters with the Ugly Malaysian that can set your blood boiling.
And inevitably, everyone says that people must change their attitudes if we are ever going to be a progressive society.
In the face of such rampant ugliness, how do we even begin to make changes?
It appears that all these years of Civics lessons and Moral Studies in school have had little effect. Malaysians of different generations still behave the same. Perpetually late for wedding dinners. Failing to RSVP. No reply to show that they have received your message, e-mail or SMS. Not saying “thank you” after they have been served.
But we don't need millions to be spent on courtesy campaigns where some big shot is invited for the launch and the organisers pin button badges with smiley faces on each other.
We simply start with you and me. Remember the saying: Physician, heal thyself. So stop whining about the next person. Take a good look at ourselves because change begins at home.
Making a difference is not just about tackling the big issues such as vandalism, littering, lawless drivers and dirty toilets.
It's also about common courtesy because the irony is that courtesy in our society is far from common. We don't pay much thought to little gestures that matter a lot to others.
Like letting the lady behind you at the cashier pay first because she has only one item to check out.
Or signalling to the driver who is looking for a parking bay where your car is parked so that he can take your spot.
Or picking up an item for the stranger who dropped it.
When you do simple things like these, you can see how grateful people are for this unexpected show of courtesy.
And you just hope that they take that lesson with them, and pay it forward.