Anyone who has followed some of the virulent arguments and criticims by bloggers with regard to the national education system, the racial and religious issues, the quota system, the Constitutional rights of the Malays vs other citizens, the biases of the Press etc., may well benefit from a brief review of the history of the US. Why US?Don't forget that the Americans are also multi-ethnic in origin and have gone through some very painful experience before emerging as one of the strongest and richest nations on this planet.
I want to highlight only a few phases of the American history which have some relevance to us in Malaysia. First the early emigrants fought many wars against the British colonialist. Don't forget that the early Malay settlers fought the British too and became dead ducks under the British guns and cannons.Birch was murdered and many Malay freedom-fighters were hanged.
You all know how the Frontier Americans dealt with the native settlers-the Red Indians.
The Malay Union scheme could have a placed the Malays in Reservation areas under their Chiefs - the Sultans.Fortunately the Malay leaders together with the Chinese and Indians fought hard against the MU, and sought Independence. After gaining Independece from the British, the American fought among themselves - the Civil War between North and South over the slave issue which killed hundreds of thousand. We had the May 13 incident -nothing compared to a civil war but red Malaysian blood of all races did flow.
The color divide among Americans persisted until today. The Black Americans and those from Asian and other origins, suffered
some forms of discrimination well into the 21st Century. The Office of Equal Opportunity was set ut to deal with the problems and Cross-cultural, Sensitivity and T-Groups training programs came into vogue in Universities, Government Agencies and Private Sector organizations. Differences in culture, values and social norms were dealt with for years in schools, colleges, centers of higher learnings and in the work environment.
The Cross-cultural, Sensitivity, T-Group or Group Dynamics approach to learning dominates all forms of training as compared to the Teacher-Student straight lecture type of training
traditionally used. Role playing where students switched role: Black becomes White and rich becomes poor, Chicano becomes American etc allows one to feel how others view, evaluate and treat us, thus learning to be in the other person's shoe.
It is with all these background experiece and acculturation process that Americans today have accepted a colored man, Barrack Obama- as a President.
Question: Have we Malaysians done enough of this cross-cultural, sharing experience and values, switching roles and seeing as-others-see-us kind of training and conditioning to be eable to cope amicably with the onslought of modern values and realities of life? Aren't we all still living in the safety zone of our cultural shell and evaluating others in terms of how they would endanger our shell instead of realizing that we all live in the same shell. A lot of sensitivity and T-group sessions must be held at all educational and work level to let Malaysians of one racial group appreciate the sensitivity of the other groups and learn to cope with the problems of solving problems together.
Perhaps the politicians must be put through such sessions to let them absorb the prinsiples of disagreeing without disrespecting, arguing without calling each other "stupid' or 'racist', debating without throwing obscene or insulting reamarks at each other. Unless some form of formal or informal conditioning through these sensitivity group sessions are experienced by all leaders and would-be leaders of the Malaysian society, the racial and religious tensions building up in the country cannot be effectively managed and dissipated to produce positiive input for development.
The BTN, the National Service training. classes in schools, colleges and universities, all private sector oraganizations and government agencies should begin to adopt the T-Group, Sensitivity or Group Dynamics approach to training and incorporte its elements in the traditional classroom types of teaching. People cannot be forced to feel one way or another although you can force them to learn certain things Feelings can only be developed through the sharing of experience, interests and values
under a suitable learning or working environment. Malaysians must use the tested approach used by Americans, with suitable adjustments of course, to achieve what they have achieved. Todate our education system is still stuck on the classroom straight lecture approach to education with some innovations that fall short of the T-Group, Sensitivity or Gruop Dynamics approach.