Only in Malaysia.
“Be ALWAYS critical with EVERYTHING.
Don't be a simple carper, be critical.
- David J. Granadillo.
Easily who lives in Malaysia should know about the YouTube video “Only in Malaysia” made by the poorly funny guys of JinnyBoyTV. There they make a parody of Malaysians when are buying or selling something, when they want to park, or the - particular- mania of the motorcycle drivers to wear the jacket backward. Well, they of course haven’t been in the other side of the world, or at least in Europe. In that video are a lot of things from Malaysia that happen not only in Malaysia. So, for somebody that is not Malaysian the video is not funny at all. But, I’m not here to qualify the video as good or bad, or to say that if you’re doing a video for more than your family members, you should make a research... I’m actually here just to talk about those things that I have lived ‘only in Malaysia’, beyond the jacket backward, parking or buying.
Have been a while since I'm in Malaysia... a year and few months to be precise. There's lots of things that I love from this country; its identity, its mix of cultures, devotions, people, temples in every corner, the development in process, etc. But I am always talking about the things that I enjoy... sometimes people ask me about the bad ones and I don’t really know what to say. First of all because whatever that is annoying in this life won’t change just for you, and secondly, because I enjoy even from the bad things... or at least I try hard.
It is not a secret for anybody that I came to Malaysia because I saw here an opportunity to travel around Asia... or at least, the opportunity to know well the Asian world, and live in China, South Korea or Japan, that Northeast Asia that I’m interesting in. Malaysia have been a great surprise, you can find here almost all the cultural expressions around Asia... I personally called Malaysia “the thesis of Asia”. But thinking about Asia in my country, is a totally different thing from thinking about Asia in Asia. Sometimes I see myself like an actor from some movie... a kind of René Gallimard (M. Butterfly, David Cronenberg. 1997) in Beijing in 1960. I won't never forgot that scene when René tells to his wife "you know, Chinese are the most arrogant people", misunderstanding the identity of this actress that hates the 'the western demons'. We -the western- can sometimes really misunderstand what this people have in their minds. It is not easy sometimes, we're really different.
Where I come from -Venezuela, the northernmost point of South America- people used to be direct with each other. They directly say to the people “you’re wrong”, “you don’t like me”, “you think you are good, but you are not” “You need to practice harder”... looks like silly phrases, but actually these are words that I haven’t listen in Malaysia yet, and are words that are constantly in my head trying to go outside. It is not about friends, is about authorities, that in my case can be summarized just in teachers or a cashier from 7eleven. People here respect too much the people that doesn’t deserve respect. People use too much the expression “in my opinion”... but if you use ‘in my opinion’ you’re giving to the people the opportunity to don’t trust on what are you saying. Your opinion is not so important as the facts that you present. “The facts says” will be one hundred times stronger than “In my opinion”. Of course the facts will be always filtrated by your opinion, but what I’m saying is that you cannot just give your opinion without the research, each opinion demands facts. In short words; you can’t go to the war without weapons.
I actually enjoy how in Malaysia you can find so stronger beliefs on everything. Here exists gods, ghosts, bad luck stuff, premonitions... all this things that still western countries have. But it is actually a good example to think on how western countries were colonized and how Asian countries were colonized... at this time the west have lost a lot of things from their ancient time, but you can feel how in Malaysia there's still lot of things that represent the Asians' past.
But with all this kind of things in their heads -beliefs on everything-, results hard to find the common sense. Of course, they have a different common sense from western society, and everything will be relative to each individual. But some of them believe in everything least in their minds, or their thinkings. Is like if they use their brains to think in something behind the reality that they have been living in, something is going to punish them. I remember once in my university with a good Indian friend... I was talking bad about a teacher, a totally bad teacher, that kind of teacher that in class reads everything from the slides that they prepared reading a book. Once I asked the teacher something that I didn't understand and she told me with a really confused face; "I really don't know because I didn't do the slides"... so, you're telling me that you don't know what are you teaching, you just read something that another teacher put there. The same teacher told us once in class - talking about the mass media- that the conglomerations and the anarchy in the media is something good. I totally beg your pardon... but the conglomerates and the anarchy totally affect the democracy of your country.
Well, after this you can perfectly understand that I will talk bad about the teacher. So, going back to my Indian friend... once I was being critical with this teacher and she told me; "don't say that... we used to believe that if you talk bad about a teacher, the knowledge won't come to your mind". So, are you telling me that the knowledge is a little angry man that is walking somewhere outside, listening the class, coming to my mind trough my ear to open some door and put the learning inside my brain?... for god sick! How can you be just sitting in a classroom listening a teacher that need to learn a lot of things before to teach you something?. Where is there the common sense?
In the west -yes, again the west as reference- you have teachers that call you ‘stupid’, ‘ignorant’ and ‘retarded’. This is nicer than a teacher that knows that you’re ignorant and don’t tell you for respect. Of course, if the teacher will qualify you negatively him or her has the enough experience, years and capacity necessaries to call you like that. Teachers have the obligation of prepare you for the life outside in whatever you will work, they cannot be the conformist people, they should be the rebels taking the students out of conformism. Also If the teachers says half of stupidities, students are allowed to say ‘stupid’, ‘ignorant’ and ‘retarded’, of course, in a more polite way, but they can try. That create debate, that move the class to the knowledge. But here -at least in my university-, while teachers are saying half of stupidities, the whole class is silent paying attention. Is like if they don’t have the capacity to observe what’s wrong in a teacher’s speech... or maybe they are not supposed to tell them that they are wrong. But looks like whatever is coming from the mouth of a teacher, is true and logical. And not always will be like that.
“In Asian countries, humility is regarded as a virtue.
Soft-speaking should in no way be regarded as
a lack of leadership or commitment.”
- Ban Ki-Moon.
Well, in western countries soft-speaking means that you are not allowed to say something. Somebody can say that teachers are teachers because they have the knowledge and we’re students because we don’t have the knowledge. That’s half true if you are teaching something concrete, something straight to the point -how to design, how to make a building, how to edit a video, how the market works-, but if you’re teaching something about life, something that is in front of your students every day in their life -Mass Media, Philosophy, Letters, Communication- you cannot pretend to build an image of life in students, because students have the image of life builded. You’re not supposed to be in class giving your opinion... you’re supposed to be in the class giving the facts.
Once in class the teacher asked for a report, with a main question; Can you avoid Mass Media?, parenthetical was a notice; Be creative. This kind of jobs are enjoyable, you just need to write and express yourself, there's nothing more cathartic and healthy. I tried to be the most creative possible, putting lots of vector drawings on the pages, lots of logos from new media, cell phones, happy faces talking... all the work harmonically done in black and orange colors, with just two fonts and formal size. I thought I was writing a creative report.
The creative report saw the world going down the day of submission. Teacher was angry, all the reports that suddenly needed to be scrapbooks were too serious and formals that she couldn't see the creativity. One of the classmates was motive of example for the class... the teacher lifted its work and showed to the class, "this is what I want" she said. Was about an scrapbook with lots of pages in different colors, foamy and lots of white glue... a beautiful kindergarden work. In the university the difficulty level should be as in the university is... what can you expect from students that are learning how to make an scrapbook with glue and plasticine with 20 years old?.
There’s no place on earth where people aren’t close mind or afraid to scream what they think, specially my hometown was full of this people, that’s why I ran away to the capital, and probably that’s why then I ran away from the capital to Asia... finding here the same people. But on my way I have found wonderful people that occasionally share my opinions, agree or disagrees with me, there’s people that fight for what they think... that’s the purpose of each human being, always critical in front of whatever that can be criticized. That’s our main point, try to find the tail to the system where we live in, being detectives in a world where our big powers, companies, governments and religions, wants to control us, categorize us, colorize us and practically sell us.
For example I was once dating with a Korean girl, and of course, I couldn’t stop to talk about Korean politics, the war, sad past and Kpop in the whole context of ‘westernization’. Of course, she was always so quiet, specially koreans never talk about the realities in its country... but then I become a weird guy that talks too much things that nobody talk. Where I come from, people says that I’m intense... here in Asia, people says that I’m intense too. I will never understand how to try to find the whole perspective to everything can be bad.
Lastly, although this letter is called ‘Only in Malaysia’, revising it from the beginning you can easily associate it to another country around the world. But I just expose two realities, one from my country and one from Malaysia, and although individually I can find equal perspectives here and in my country, the fact about the teachers is totally opposite in both. And I think education is the strongest part of a nation.
“To be fond of learning is to be near of knowledge”.
David J. Granadillo.
Feb, 08. 2013.