THE solar system, which our planet calls home, observes order.
Planets orbit around Sol at fixed times, under the command of gravitational law.
The moon, too, is compelled to accompany the earth all the time and on time.
Halley’s Comet will keep to its routine, visiting us once every 75 years. Everything is punctual to a T.
Now if only this attribute of the inanimate universe could be extrapolated to the conduct of another of God’s creations — homo sapiens.
Alas, humans possess free will. And with this in their hearts and heads, they kill and destroy, love and build.
With it, too, they are notoriously unpunctual. And quite spectacularly nonchalant about it.
They are late for meetings, late for work, late for events, late for everything except for their inevitable appointment with the hooded one and his deathly scythe.
That they are also late for prayers at houses of worship is astonishing. What irreverence!
Their excuses for tardiness are as predictable as they are puerile.
In fact, in the widely absorbed Daily Mail, this country suffered the ignominy of a citation that read: “But in Malaysia saying you will be five minutes late usually means an hour and being late is an accepted norm that does not require an apology.”
But this is not a Malaysian disease, to be sure. There is more than enough literature to prove it is a virus long thriving in the hearts of women and men the world over.
Ocean-and-land masses away, renowned English adventurer Peter Fleming wrote in 1933: “Delay in Brazil is a climate... it should, I think, be a source of pride to the Brazilians that they possess a natural characteristic that is absolutely impossible to ignore. No other country can make this boast.”
In the last line, he is in error, of course. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a stickler for the affairs of time, would tell him so. So would this newspaper.
The prime minister repeatedly enjoins the people to adore and adopt good work ethics, punctuality being one of them.
Emulate the Japanese, he says. But it is a strange (and evil) thing that people need persuasion to do what is right. Must someone remind them to look right and left be-fore crossing a road? Isn’t this an elementary principle of life?
Perhaps they behave erringly because they suffer no loss. But loss is indeed suffered, hitting the bottom line and frustrating others to no end.
Management literature and studies testify to this. The groanings of friends, companies and civil service bosses refuse to go away.
Perhaps, too, the only way to remedy this recurrent absurdity is to make the unpunctual ones suffer a measure of pain themselves; the way they would moan if they were 30 minutes late for a movie (for they would not get their money’s worth).
When A.I. finally takes hold, infallible monitoring and instant salary cuts may become a reality. Great idea!
In truth, though, this newspaper does not believe harsh measures alone will change character.
Change must come from an awakened conscience, from the soul. Pray that this will happen way before Halley’s Comet visits us again in 2061.