Friday, 2 March 2012

We CAN complain and gripe

Why Not By Wong Sai Wan
 
Making noise or raising a stink is fast becoming a national trait as we Malaysians gripe about everything and anything.

EVER heard the story of the Singaporean who wanted to migrate to Malaysia, causing the republic to order an immediate inquiry to find out why?

Inquiry chairman: “Tell us Mr Michael, you are migrating to Johor Baru because your Malaysian wife is unhappy living in Singapore?”

Michael: “No. She got nothing to complain about.”

Inquiry chairman: “Then, is it because you were overlooked for a double promotion in your job, and you only got a S$1,000 (RM2,400) pay rise?”

Michael: “No. I got nothing to complain about.”

Inquiry chairman: “So, Mr Michael, it must be because your son was refused entry into NUS, and only got a place at Nanyang?”

Michael: “No. He has got nothing to complain about.”

Inquiry chairman: “Then, for heaven’s sake, tell us why are you migrating to JB?”

Michael: “Because there I CAN complain.”

A Singaporean friend told me this joke five years ago, just before our last general election. This friend, who is very knowledgeable about the situation here, used this tale to take a dig at his own country, and ours as well.

His point was that while in his home country his countrymen were rather subservient and did not complain much in public, Malaysians had no such problem. Grumbling and griping seem to have become a national sport.

If we were to consciously listen to anyone standing or sitting next to us, we will see my friend is not far from wrong.

We Malaysians love to complain about anything; be it food, the Government, bosses, colleagues or even our neighbour’s choice of colour for the new coat of paint for his house.

Nothing is above criticism in Malaysia. These criticisms are not the kinds made on the quiet, but rather openly and sometimes rather loudly.

You know, the coffee shop type where you have to raise your voice because you can hardly hear yourself?

But in the case of us Malaysians, we complain at the top of our voice because we are afraid no one will hear, or we want to make sure everyone knows what we are complaining about.

A colleague said the complaining culture had gotten so bad that it had become griping, which dictionaries define as “to complain naggingly”.

“This is a sort of graduation for us Malaysians – from surat layang (poison pen letters) to publicly complaining about something,” this seasoned journalist said.

An example is griping over trivial things like lack of parking space in over-packed malls.

It beats me why a person would queue for over an hour to get into the parking area and then complain about the lack of parking, when it was obvious from the start that it was packed.

Then there are the infamous Malaysian drivers who complain about everyone else’s driving but their own.

They complain about how others drive too fast, and also about how others drive at a snail’s pace.

There are those who complain about everything and anything connected with their boss – from his choice of office furniture to his choice of ties.

When their verbal complaints do not evoke the desired results, Malaysians will turn to social media like Twitter and Facebook to express their angry thoughts to the whole world.

They do not seem to care if what they utter or write is rude, unethical or downright defamatory.

They seem to think that anything they write on the Internet is above the law.

When the gripes reach the notice of their bosses or the authorities, these people will turn around and say they have the right to express their opinion, but the bosses have no right to legal redress.

I feel that many Malaysians think their mistaken newfound political clout after 2008 gives them the right to say anything they want, without regard for the consequences.

Yes, our Federal Constitution guarantees us freedom of speech but it does not give us the right to run down another person or institution by hounding it with trivial complaints just to exact revenge over some perceived past injury.

Of course, our politicians seem to encourage this kind of behaviour because they see political gains in riding on such waves of dissatisfaction.

They do not seem to realise that their action of encouraging such a mentality only creates distrust, and eventually hatred.

I am not saying that the people have no right to voice their complaints, especially on matters affecting their lives or well-being.

We must voice out our views when it’s needed, but we must get our perspectives right.

We must know the difference between a gripe and a grievance; what’s important and what’s trivial.

If we do not, then our genuine complaints will sound exactly like gripes and the important message that we want to make will be lost, drowned out by the moans and groans.

Being a nation of complainers is not a reflection of the freedom that we enjoy but rather a reflection of ourselves as wimps who can do nothing but just gripe.

> Executive editor Wong Sai Wan doesn’t like nagging but enjoys the sound of an intelligent argument.

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