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We are a society that has lost respect for people
What wealth has done to our children is to make them rude and fat, that's to put it very mildly. And the biggest favour that Indonesia can do for us is to make their citizens so pricey as to be beyond our reach so that children -- our children -- will return to the place where we have a duty to teach them. And that is at home. Now.
Now please don't misunderstand me. I love those bibiks in our domestic lives, but dear bibiks, you've been so good at your jobs that you're, without intending it, subverting the very fabric of our society.
Well there is another that's pulling the rug from beneath our feet, and I've thrown pebbles at that pane of glass too many times already, so I shall return to that later.
Let me just say at the outset that impressions are what they are, little snapshots that etch in your mind an indelible picture, oftentimes when you're most vulnerable. I have often heard words used to paint a picture of dishonest Malaysia by visiting friends who have met members of the dishonest chapter of our cab driving fraternity.
Oh no, I say, I once left a camera in a KL taxi and the cabbie returned to the address within the hour with the camera. "You lucky, lucky you!" they say, underlining my experience as the exception that proves the rule.
And just as I am recovering my breath from that, our son returns from Kuala L'Impure chirping a funny sound in the air. "What is that sound they make in Kuala Lumpur?" pulling lips tight to the front teeth to produce a noise so shrill that I recognised it instantly. "Oh that," I say, "that's how Malaysians attract the attention of waiters."
"Why can't they just say, 'Excuse me' or use the simple encik or adik?" he asks.
"I sometimes think that too," I say.
"Ah," chips in a daughter who'd spent part of her term break behind the food counter in London's Malaysia Hall (the old lamented Hall, but that's another story).
"I've had people come to me gesticulating with their pouted lips to indicate the dish that I was to plop on their platter."
"It's how they've been trained at home," someone has suggested to me. "It's how they've been taught to order their bibik in their upstairsdownstairs world."
Another daughter comes to the fore, a feisty one, who went to school with a distinct demarcation line drawn in the play area -- children of privileged, oil-soaked money and hoi polloi. And there's no rewards for guessing which section our daughter fell into, suffice it to say that in a heated playground discussion one day she was brutally put in her place in the pecking order.
"In our country you're our servant!" she was told. And to my consternation, dear reader, our daughter gave her tormentor more than she bargained for, and in the latter's own vernacular too.
Is this what's happening to us too, with the line drawn between the servants and those who think it their privilege to be served? Go to a restaurant -- any restaurant -- in our own capital and see how waiters are spoken to. How many politicians make eye contact when they are out shaking hands with the common people? How many top officials now take time to breathe in the bracing air of humility? How many children pour out from the confines of affluence waiting to be served by all those bibiks in the outside world?
"I fear that we are a society that has lost respect -- for ourselves and other people," someone recently told me. "I worry most about one aspect of it," he said. "When the young grab power too fast and the old are pushed aside too early."
Perhaps there's truth in that too. In a society where news readers are too young with not a whiff of authority and the news hour becomes a time to ogle at beauty, glamour takes the place of gravitas and the worship of glamour is what's rocking [pun intended] society everywhere.
I have been following recently a passionate discussion in a social networking page about the decline in politesse among our educated young. Our students from distinguished institutions of higher learning coming up to address a distinguished panel of speakers as "you guys", a lady who asked a question of someone much younger than her and how startled she was by the response which began with kau orang (yes, 'you guys').
"I call this Americanism," came one response. "Trying very hard to follow the 'we are all buddies' culture without realising where to use it and where not to use it! It's happening very widely here and it's being translated into every language/culture not only in Bahasa."
And that's the pebbles that I have been hurling at the screen. Its the trash from the telly becoming embodied in our souls.