Malaysia has always been ‘broken’, and that’s just fine

Erna Mahyuni
·3-min read
Erna Mahyuni
Erna Mahyuni

AUGUST 5 — Growing up in the 90s, 2020 was, to most Malaysian youngsters then, a far-off ideal and a promise of an exciting and prosperous future.

Fast forward a few decades later and we're in the middle of a global pandemic while dealing with a government change thanks to a political coup.

In many ways, Malaysians are lucky. We are lucky that our unique situation has made containing the virus easier than most other countries and that our political drama has been relatively peaceful with no bloodshed, only a deluge of opinion pieces.

While the Americans need to deal with the delusional among them screaming “Make America great again” we can be relatively satisfied in the knowledge we were never really great.

It's perfectly fine.

Malaysia has always been a little bit of a mess, a hodge-podge of peoples, held together by a shoestring of somewhat shared principles and the vague threat of government retribution.

We have to accept the reality that there is no fixing Malaysia. There are vested interests who do not want the country to be fixed in any way as the way it has been running, enriches a select few, angers another few all while keeping a whole other bunch blissfully ignorant.

If I were to think of Malaysia as a country, I would envision it as a three-footed chimera with multiple-personality disorder.

We are pulled in too many directions and there is the lack of a shared dream, which is to tell you the truth, not actually that terrible since unity, I have discovered in my middle-age is a problematic concept with fascist undertones.

It's not about fixing the country. It's about making things better. Getting the most broken bits running, kind of like this old rental house I've been living in for the past decade.

Yes, it's hideous and my absentee landlord (who once tried to get me to accompany him drinking one night) is a pain but when the rusted gate fell off its hinges and the ancient pipes started leaking, I couldn't just pack my bags and assorted pets.

I stayed, called the plumber and contractor, tersely sent my landlord a WhatsApp message that it would come out of the rent and got on with things.

Being Malaysian means learning to “get on with things”, fixing what needs to be broken, shouting at the right people to get the repairs done and hoping that everyone comes out learning something in the end.

Perhaps 2020 is finally the time when we see that some things really can't be fixed; they need replacing. Things such as the doddering old politicians and the lack of transparency in government contract procurement.

As painful as this year has been perhaps we can see it as setting the foundations for renewal, for the courage to let things fall apart and build something new in their place.

Now is not the time for hand-wringing or fear. There is no way but forward now for all of us as we hurtle towards a new normal, whether we like it or not.

Let us make the most of these last four months of 2020 and begin stockpiling that thing we need even in these dark and strange times: hope.

We have weathered much, we have learned much and as the past few years have proved, we can accomplish much even in the least ideal of situations.

Take heart, Malaysians. The journey is long but as imperfect as things are and we are, there is still much to look forward to so long as we keep our eyes and hearts open.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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