Monday, April 18, 2011
Towards a Healthier Society
The standard of health among Malaysians, I'm sure, is as good as the standard attained by many of the developed countries in the world. Life expectancy at birth has surpassed the 75 years mark going up to 80 years for the ladies. Children's mortality rate is less than 5%. Cardiovascular problems, diabetes, hypertension and,,...road accidents beside the usual crimes are the main killers as in many other developed countries.
But physical health is only one part of life in society. Social and mental health form the other parts. It's said that more than 70% of people in the US suffer from some form of psychological or mental problems. Some time back i read that the same applies to Malaysia. No that doesn't mean that more than 70% of the population is "loony" or "mereng" (a local term)). It's just that they suffer from some form of obsession,stress or mental pressure. And we all face that problem once in a while although are stable most of the time.
The seriousness of the problem is reflected in the "crazy" criminal cases that appear in the Press everyday. Bizarre murders of old folks by their own children and cases of mistreating them, young girls being raped and killed, children being tortured and abused, unwanted babies being abandoned and left to die, young and old people committing suicide due to the pressure of life, housemaids being brutalised, reckless driving that causes so many deaths and injuries on the road, mothers torturing their children, teachers mishandling students and students attacking their teachers, all forms of criminal activities that become more and more daring each day, corruptions and abuse of power etc etc. All thQese are the symptoms of a deteriorating state of mental and social health.
Yet the most dangerous and brutal form of the mental health problem today seems to involve racial prejudice and hatred. This is the oldest form of mental obsession as presented by inter-racial or inter-ethnic wars and fightings in the past. The obsession still persists today although it has sort of quietened out or remained dormant for some time. There had been periodical outbreaks of the prejudice and hatred in the US and felsewhere in the world, not to forget the unending war and fighting in the middle-east. The interracial, interethnic and sometimes taking the form of an inter-religious prejudice, hatred and animosity had been the most tenacious and harmful mental problem that had plagued human society in the past and it's still so in the present.
In as far as Malaysia is concerned, the multiracial society has lived in peace for most of the years after Independence. The prejudice, hatred and animosity reared their ugly heads in May 1969but the racal clash was quickly quellec by a very effective government headed by the late Tun Abdul Razak. National unity was made a very important aspect of development and in the interest to preserve national unity all Malaysians worked and lived together in peace and harmony.
But recently this mental health problem has returned. The Malays, Chinese and Indians began to voice their own interest in the media and through their political organizations, The coalition government which was once strong and cohesive began to be pulled apart by partisan interests and the opposition became stronger. A new coalition began to be formed by parties opposed to the Barisan Nasional. While the new coaltion seemed to be more loose and tenaacious than Barisan, the Chinese component of the new coalition, seemed to be drawing and pulling all the Chinese in the urban areas of Malaysia. This happened since the Chinese component of the old coalition seemed to be ineffective in voicing the interest of the younger Chinese population.
One can read the current dilemma of Barisan in terms of interest articulation and the Chinese demand for equal right as Malaysian citizens. If that is so the political leadership in the country will I am sure be able to find an amicable solution to the problem. But I fear that it's the mental health of the various racial groups in the country that is taking a turn for the worse, since the problem had never been examined by our psychological and sociologgical experts. A political solution to the problem might never be acceptable by all since appeasing the demand of one raacial group will excite and irritate the others. Each will put up its own claim for priority consideration and the demands can be conflicting with each other's interest such that the fulfilment of a demad by one racial group will hurt or insult another.
Why not look at the issue from the psychological and sociological angle. tied up with the problem of mental and social health. Malaysian or all races will have to drop some of the old psychological hang-ups and obsessions in order to strike a new balance to keep the nation on even keel. The old spirit of mutual respect and understanding, tolerence and fleibility, and the overriding concern for national unity above everything else must be revived. If the various races in this country start drifting apart, each demanding its own rights and privileges, the obsession and phobia of May 1969 might return. God helps us all if that happens.