Wanted in Malaysia: Empathy

by The Malaysian Insider
July 24, 2013

How did Malaysia come to this point? Where billions have been spent on national unity programmes, Bangsa Malaysia initiatives and grandiose 1Malaysia schemes and yet EMPATHY for each other is so glaringly missing from daily life.

The Oxford Dictionary defines empathy as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Some may see it as “standing in someone else’s shoes” or “seeing through someone else’s eyes”.

Whatever the definition, implicit in it is a feeling of compassion for another.

If the feeling of empathy courses through the veins of Malaysians, we would be very slow to ridicule the religious practices of another or even place each other in racial pigeonholes. Very slow. Because we would feel the hurt that a wayward word or action could cause another group of Malaysians.

In addition, we would be quick to condemn or disapprove of behaviour not in keeping with our national psyche.

That is why the incident at SK Seri Pristina in Sungai Buloh is disappointing, depressing and frankly, deflating.

Why couldn’t the headmaster put himself in the shoes of the non-Muslim students and see how wrong it was to make them have their canteen break in a shower room during the fasting month?

Why didn’t the afternoon school supervisor put himself in the shoes of the parent who complained about the insensitive and unsatisfactory eating arrangement?

Why didn’t any of the teachers tell the headmaster or school supervisors that no Malaysian child should be treated in this manner in his own country?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that an increasing number of Malaysians have grown calluses in our hearts and that as long as hardship or injustice does not affect our kin, it is not something to be concerned about.

Unfortunately, in the Malaysia of today, our speed of response and empathy is dictated by race or religion, not citizenry or the simple fact that offering a helping hand or fighting for the cause of another is the right thing to do.

Perhaps, it is a by-product of looking at everything in this country through racial and religious lenses and believing that everything is a zero-sum game. Perhaps it is a natural progression from a country where racial polarisation has reached a point where colour of skin trumps place of birth.

Today, the children at SK Seri Pestina will be allowed to consume their food in the canteen. Not because the school administrators suffered an attack of conscience but because they are obeying an order from the Education Ministry. No empathy here just a grudging respect for the power on hiring and firing which the ministry possesses.

In slightly over a month, the Malaysian government will put on another grand parade to celebrate Merdeka, roll out a couple of heart-tugging Petronas advertisements of Malays, Chinese, Indians, Sikhs and Kadazandusuns smiling and hugging each other.

Increasingly, that picture of postcard-perfect happiness and love for each other only belongs in postcards and in advertisements.

In most parts of Malaysia, empathy is missing. – July 24, 2013.

  1. #1 by sheriff singh on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 12:49 pm

    In a country where there are people who feel or are made to feel and believe that they are superior and have more rights and standing than others, the lack of empathy will be the natural consequence. How many Lords empathise with serfs?

    Many incidences and attempts to instil goodwill have produced dubious results – Allah case, Utusan, Perkasa, BTN, national service, 1Malaysia etc.

    If Empathy is a name of a person, we should quickly file a missing person report.

  2. #2 by sotong on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 12:49 pm

    Narrow, divisive and damaging politics race and religion had destroyed the country.

    It is no surpise the country is in such a mess…..the problem has only started.

  3. #3 by Loh on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 2:37 pm

    Mahathir has a different standard. He sees what happen now more beautiful than in Art’s young days which he definitely experienced too. That was why he said Tengku did not do enough for Malays. Razak did a lot more for Malays but Mahathir did the most, as he fought for religion, then his race (sorry, the politically correct one) . Now we see that his religion is the strongest that Muslims do not dine in non-Mulsim’s home. Of course the empty canteen is less suitable for non-Muslim students to have meals, than in toilet; else they will be seen eating and that is disrespect to others who fast.

    • #4 by cemerlang on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 11:04 pm

      Does this mean everybody has to be Islamized ? Like you can be Islamized but you do not have to believe. If you hide yourself and you eat and drink, only God knows you are doing that. Between eating secretly and doing a real actual crime, which is the more sinful ? What is so bad about sending all the Muslim pupils to rest somewhere in the surau and let the non muslims eat inside the classroom ? Shouldn’t they be in the surau praying ? They would not see their friends eating. By the time class starts, all food will be gone.

  4. #5 by Loh on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 2:42 pm

    ///P Kamalanathan, who visited SK Seri Pristana this afternoon, says that the school’s canteen is being renovated.///–Malaysiakini

    That is what you get with MIC represented in the Cabinet.

  5. #6 by KeenWatcher_01 on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 7:18 pm

    I blamed it on UMNO Baru, The previous UMNO do not give any problems, Malaysians was living in harmony with all races. Then came this UMNO Baru; an new branded new changed species which is racists and arrogant, introducing the BTN and all sorts. Malaysia needs a UMNO Terbaru. Maybe, who knows.

  6. #7 by worldpress on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 11:56 pm

    Maybe only the bankrupt of the country can bring solution and wake up monkey who still waiting fruit drop from the tree automatically

    when country finance dry those corrupted monkey can not find enough banana to feed their crony

    This maybe the solution

  7. #8 by Noble House on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - 3:25 am

    Our lack of racial empathy is most appalling. Is this part and parcel of the policies under UMNO Baru’s divide and rule over the decades? It seems so. At least judging by the chatter of comments surrounding some of its controversial policing practices.

    It looks like the PM talks of national reconciliation is becoming a joke. It doesn’t sit in well with his administration. Is he still running the country?

  8. #9 by ringthetill on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - 6:38 am

    Money cannot mend the broken inter-community goodwill and trust. It can only make the situation worse. We must find our right bearings by adopting spirit of fair play, honesty and break the racial jingoism and religious fanaticism habits. And that begins with the politicians, and all parents.

  9. #10 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - 9:49 am

    Islam jenis-umno demands utmost respect by everyone but does not respect the right of others to eat in a decent place.

  10. #11 by sotong on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - 12:48 pm

    This is not an uncommon incident.

    Damaging and divisive politics of race and religion had made some Muslims grossly insensitive and disrepectful of minority Non Muslims’ interest and values.

    Some Muslims do not see their fellow Non Muslim countrymen/women citizens, who work hard and pay taxes to build the country, as their own people…..they are more loyal and concerned of other Muslims in other countries.

  11. #12 by Adeline on Wednesday, 31 July 2013 - 5:38 pm

    I merely suggested that we should look into making 6/7 year old children fast for the entire day on the FB page that supported the HM, but i was threatened that if i was staying in paskistan, i would not live to see the sun tomorrow. There is no ground for discussion/assimilation/reconciliation in this country whatsoever.

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