Malaysia's preoccupation with significance and wealth without character has led us to where we are today.
Politicians who work without boundaries of decency as long as their cause is promoted have become the norm in our country.
When did we allow a culture of hatred to creep into our self-glorified Asian values?
When it is okay to vandalise a bus just because it belongs to the opposition, or burn churches, or disturb a tazkirah?
It all happened very subtly when we as a people became fascinated with bigness, elegance and style not for any commercial or internal value but so that "they (the west) will respect us".
We build the tallest buildings, the first F1 in Asia, the longest, the widest, the fastest, the deepest whatever that could get us any form of world recognition at the expense of our identity, character and national coffers.
I think we all know on whose watch this happened.
It is true what John Adams said: "I cannot help suspecting that the more elegance, the less virtue in all times and all countries."
We were in such a hurry to be recognised, we failed to build and invest in our human capital. We lost our sense of identity as a hardworking and productive work force. We instead sought grandeur and mega-ness.
John Adams in advice to his grandson had this to say: "Have you considered the meaning of the word ‘worthy'? Weigh it well...I had rather you should be worthy possessors of one thousand pounds honestly acquired by your own labour and industry, than of ten million by banks and tricks."
Are all that we have achieved as a nation worthy? Is it through hard work and old fashioned values?
Looking at where we are today, I suspect not. We have lost our way. Thousands of professionals and human capital are migrating and it gets worse as crime soars and the economy wanes.
In closing we should wish for our nation on Sept 16, Malaysia Day, what John Adams advised his daughter in choosing a spouse:
"Daughter! Get you an honest man for a husband, and keep him honest. No matter whether he is rich, provided he be independent.
"Regard the honour and moral character of the man more than all other circumstances. Think of no other greatness but that of the soul, no riches but that of the heart.
"An honest, sensible, humane man, above all littleness of vanity and extravagances of imagination, labouring to do good rather than to be rich, to be useful rather than make a show, living in modest simplicity clearly within his means and free from debts and obligations, is really the most respectable man in society, makes himself and all about him most happy."
Remember this as we face the next general election. Happy Malaysia Day!