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The stuff of legends
Publication Date : 19-01-2014
In our beloved Malaysia, where the rural heartland is deemed a political stronghold, any tale spun for the benefit of the rural residents is particularly potent.
An urban legend, so the term suggests, is a myth, but as it continues to be circulated, it has a tendency of becoming the truth. Very much like how a lie, if told a thousand times, becomes fact.
An urban legend does not mean that the myth only originates from the cities. In the case of Malaysia, where the rural heartland is deemed a political stronghold, any tale spun for the benefit of the rural residents is particularly potent. So, here’s my list of “10 rural legends”.
One: The country has produced hundreds of thousands of brilliant students, all with a string of distinctions, some up to 18As. All believe they will save Malaysia and the world by becoming doctors, scientists and engineers.
But the reality is that most of our students, even those with many As, have to settle for local universities and colleges. Many of them find it impossible to enter the prestigious universities in the world. The main factor is their low command of English and their inability to have open minds. The As are over-rated because the passing rates are marked down.
What happened to our young geniuses or the top scorers who get all the media attention each time the PMR and SPM (Malaysian public school exams) results are announced? Many of them could well be among the thousands of unemployed graduates who enter the labour market each year.
Two: We are supposed to have world class education to produce students with “skills, knowledge, strong moral values and who are capable of competing with their peers from other countries”. That’s what the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 says. For our children’s sake, we’d better achieve it. We can’t do it overnight because the current state of affairs is not particularly rosy.
The World Bank says Malaysia needs to fix its education system. The 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) placed Malaysia in the bottom third, ranking 52 out of the 65 countries surveyed.
The Pisa 2012 test reportedly showed that secondary school students in Malaysia learn only as much as the primary school pupils in Singapore and South Korea. Malaysian students also scored below Vietnam in all the tests, including the one on literacy.
Are we worried? Relak lah, bro, (relax, brother) they are just jealous of our success. It’s a just a survey. It’s probably a Zionist plot.
Three: Kuala Lumpur is a bad place. A terrible, maksiat (immoral) city. It’s filled with Malay gangsters who speak a smattering of Cantonese such as “lan see” (arrogant) and “tai kor” (big boss) and their conversations are filled with Hokkien words like “lu” (you) and “gua” (me) which will send the language purists to Institut Jantung Negara (National Heart Institute). They also fight one another in Jalan Petaling aka Chinatown. That’s what it looks like in the box-office Malay movies like Gangster KL and Gangster KL 2, and all the movies about Mat Rempits (motorcycle thugs).
But in the real world, most real gangsters have graduated to become corporate figures, businessmen and politicians. Well, some become policemen. It’s called organised crime.
Four: Malaysia is rural based. Their elected representatives are hard-working, service-oriented and live near to the people and grassroots. They hike up mountains and ford treacherous rivers to stay in touch with the people.
Strangely enough, many of these YBs from the rural heartland seem to be always in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya. Their favourite joints are the coffee houses in five-star hotels and shopping centres, like those in Bangsar. Forget the humble kopitiam; it’s the branded coffee outlets that prove you have arrived. Strategic lah bro. Must be seen. Kena salam lah dengan VVIP yang singgah kat Bangsar (Rub shoulders with the VVIPs in upscale Bangsar).
Five: English is a language of the colonists. English is for the elites. It’s not used in rural areas. English is used by the liberals who think greatly of Britain. It’s okay if you do not have a good command of the language.
But try calling our elected representatives. Their favourite destination? Yes, London, you guessed it. Hello YB Datuk, where are you? You kat mana? Breaking ini. Tak dengar. Oh, kat London. Shopping ke? Okay, okay, makan aje, kat Bayswater. Okay, okay. Bila balik?...allo, allo… YB banjir semalam… allo, allo… (phone line dead). (Hello YB Datuk, where are you? The line is breaking, I can't hear you. Oh, in London. Shopping? Okay, okay, just eating at Bayswater. Okay, okay. When will you be home? Hello? Hello? YB, there was a flood yesterday. -phone line goes dead)
Six: Rural folks believe that most Datuks in KL stay in bungalows, eat Western food at dinner time, have children who are spoilt brats, and call all the shots when making multi-million ringgit deals. That’s what the Malay dramas on TV seem to portray.
But at the rate we are giving out titles, everyone will soon be a Datuk. Now, everyone can be a Datuk, like the AirAsia tagline. While we have controlled prices for petrol, sugar and certain food items, Datukship is not a controlled item. Well, like religion, it’s a state matter.
So, Malaysians are now assuming that certain states seem to confer awards practically every day. Not everyone is a Datuk Seri or Datuk Sri. Many are also Datuk Dr, without the need to slog for a thesis.
*YB, Datuk, Datuk Seri are diginitary titles in Malaysia
Seven: The Allah-quoting Christians are a threat and are seeking to convert all the Muslims in this country. This is a national security problem.
But is that for real? What’s the secret recipe – not talking about the cake kind, but the religious-political kind – of these Christian evangelists? Christians only make up close to 10% of the country’s population, the majority in Sabah and Sarawak, but they can be seen as a danger to the 60% Muslims of the 28 million population.
Eight: All the liberals are supporters of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT). They usually belong to non-governmental organisations, are English-educated, attend international conferences, and write columns for the media. Ground for suspicion – many are unmarried.
But what about the macho name-calling right wingers, the nationalists, and the male-oriented politicians? They are the real men who go through multiple weddings and occasionally get caught in controversies with starlets. But blame the press lah. Takda benda nak lapur ke? Report lah pasal pembangunan (Don't you have anything else to report? Report about development instead).
We will teach these LBGT busybodies a lesson. Wait for the Dewan Rakyat (Parliament Lower House) to reconvene, you wait for my speech.
Nine: Kangkung aka morning glory aka water convolvulus aka Chinese water spinach must be an obsession with Malaysians. Kampung folks can just pluck it by the river but urban folks have gone berserk! It has become a hot political commodity, who would have thought?
But that’s how Malaysian politics have gone – the kangkung way. Now, we hear the social media has also picked on the innocent taugeh aka bean sprouts, because it rhymes with tau-gay! As someone says on social media, there isn’t mushroom, oops, much room left, in Malaysian politics now. Politically terkangkang (Politically voided), I guess. Too much kangkung is, after all, bad for health. Turns one lembek (soft), some urologists believe.
Ten: Malaysia is a conservative and religious country where its people will quarrel passionately and emotionally on religious matters. At the same time, these issues are sensitive and must be carefully handled.
But it’s hard to explain that amidst all of us, the God-fearing Malaysians, we are still living in a rather sinful nation – grappling with the high number of corrupt and greedy Malaysians in all sectors, drugs, sex and crime. As we all say, only God knows what’s wrong with us!
But I guess that’s what makes us Malaysians legendary, urban or rural!