A tale of two countries

July.22. 2012

Having lived in Malaysia and the States for most of my life, I can say that there’re some remarkable similarities between the two countries.

Both are heavily multiracial, both share an incredible variety of ethnic cuisines (one reason I love both countries dearly).

Both share official policies of affirmative action, which favor some races over others.

And both share the same flag design, although it’s obvious who copied from whom, from the chronology.

However there’s one thing that that separates the two countries and it is in how corruption operates.

We all know corruption is in the human DNA so it’s no surprise that neither Malaysia nor the USA is immune.

(If you think you’re immune to corruption yourself, ask yourself what you would do if someone hands you a million dollars (or ringgit) to give him something you have the power to do in whatever job capacity you might have.)

The big difference is that in the USA, corruption occurs behind the scenes, discretely, with many lawyers and accountants behind the acts, whereas in Malaysia, it’s openly done, even flaunted.

Some have attributed the present gridlock in American politics to differences in ideology, but it doesn’t take a genius to connect the dots and follow the money, and know it’s all about corruption and who’s paying whom.

And it’s not restricted to one party, although I tend to believe it’s heavily tilted towards one party more than the other.

Why else can’t simple legislation concerning the wellbeing and health of its citizens such as universal healthcare not be passed? (Can you say private health insurance lobby?)

And when the Medicare Prescription Drug Act was passed in 2003, why was there a clause prohibiting the government from negotiating down drug prices with the drug companies? (And some of the very proponents of this measure claim to be hardcore capitalists – isn’t negotiations and supply and demand at the heart of capitalism?)

And when the Iraq War was declared, why did the stock of one company triple in price?

In Malaysia, the situation is far different.

There, politicians openly flaunt their corruption, in grandiose mansions and lavish lifestyles. And the amazing thing is, the more they flaunt, the more respect they get from the populace.

This is perhaps due to the tendency of the Malaysian populace to idolize anyone who has money.

It doesn’t matter how you acquired your money, if you have millions or billions, then you’re a god in the eyes of the people.

For example, if your primary source of wealth is to go to undeveloped countries to decimate their jungles and cart away all their timber, you’re a financial genius. One of these financial geniuses even got a knighthood from Her Majesty, Elizabeth Regina for his valiant efforts in cutting down most of the jungles in Borneo, New Guinea and god knows where else.

Corruption is so rampant in Malaysia and yet, when I talk to friends there, all they worry about is the affirmative action accorded to some races, the racism they perceive in official policy.

I, for one, am all in favor of helping certain quarters of the population.

If you’ve been blessed with good fortune, why not share it with others? There’s no point living in a huge mansion when all around you is filth and squalor and poverty (and I would add, discontentment and ill-will toward you). Why not spread the wealth?

We all know life is not fair, some people always do more work than others. Some people are always born more endowed than others. Would you rather be the one that’s less endowed and be on the receiving end than the one who’s been blessed by God and be on the giving end?

Instead of griping about how those on ‘welfare’ are taking from you and living off your ‘hard work,’ why not thank God for your blessings and be magnanimous and gladly share what you have.

And why not see the bigger problem, which is corruption?

Because it fosters a society based on stealing. And it encourages criminals, opportunists, and sleazeballs of every stripe and color to enter politics. And what you get is government for the people (who pay bribes) and by the people (who get paid the bribes), and the rest of us without money power are shut out of the process.

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