I've never heard of Michael Backman until I read his recent article on Malaysia last week. I've to say I was indeed touched by every word that he'd penned, including the note he put up to his Malaysian readers. His writing was succinct, and pointed directly at the various issues that are suffocating Malaysia's economic, political and social growth.
But I read with dismay International Trade and Industry Minister Rafidah Aziz's response to the article. "What do we care? Obviously, this person doesn't know Malaysia. He is an outsider and he can say what he likes. I don't really care about what others say as long as it is not a Malaysian saying it," she said over the weekend.
To say that we shouldn't pay attention to an outsider whom she thinks doesn't know Malaysia is a pure manifestation of arrogance, foolishness and immaturity. It doesn't take a Malaysian to know Malaysia. Come on, why do I even need to explain simple logic like this?
I read Backman's article with an open mind and a thankful heart. I wasn't offended by any issue that was raised in the article. Obviously, Backman was writing based on facts and not personal biases. Every point that he made was sound and solid and well-supported by facts and statistics. And last but not least, he, a non-Malaysian, did teach me, a young Malaysian, some good lessons about my own country.
His article opened my eyes wider to the surrealism and the undue 'feel good', 'Malaysia Boleh' sensation we Malaysians are living on. Or perhaps, this is the grossly inflated pride that our government wants us to bask in.
Malaysia can't be taught in anyway by anyone, so it seems. But without lessons, ideas, suggestions and criticisms, how is a nation or any lay person, for that matter, supposed to improve? The crux is, Malaysia isn't doing well at all in every way.
Come to think of it, we're singing the same old song over and over again, for 50 years. The racial and religious segregation not only prevails but is getting stronger than ever. That non-bumiputera citizens are marginalised whether in the economy or in education opportunities is universally acknowledged except in Malaysia.
The brain drain from Malaysia is getting so serious but our government doesn't seem to be aware of it. In fact, I'm one of the many Malaysians who's left the country to pursue my ambitions. It's impossible to be doing what I'm doing - conducting a research under a full, no-bond scholarship, and meeting and working with top scientists in the world - in Malaysia.
But I'm not running away from Malaysia. That's cowardice. And I won't be away from Malaysia forever. I do want and plan to come home to serve my country, after I've secured what I want. While I'm still in the infantile stage of my career, I need strong foundations for its establishment and I feel I've to do this outside Malaysia. My sense of belonging and loyalty are deeply rooted in Malaysia. I don't love anywhere else as much as I do Malaysia. It's the only place I call home.
I don't want to be writing about Malaysia like anyone else. Action speaks louder than words. I'll continue voicing my ideas and simultaneously do something substantial for the betterment of my country.
Malaysia has to grow up. The world is getting more challenging and more competitive day by day. We've to look around us in order to reflect objectively on our achievements. As Darwin's theory says, it's those who obstinately refuse to evolve that will be doomed eventually.