09 September 2005

Malaysians are always right

That's right: we make no mistakes. There is no criticism because we simply do not make mistakes. What's wrong with this picture?

While this observation is directed primarily at our corporate culture, it is also true of our approach to life in general. Cue much wailing, gnashing of teeth and hair-pulling by people who, curiously, are always right.

Can anyone remember the last time their bosses, colleagues or subordinates responded genuinely well to constructive criticism?

While it is true that criticism is a challenge to authority, our problem lies in the assumption that the challenge is malicious. This problem doesn't only arise over major issues. On board a (metaphorical) Malaysian ship, anyone who so much as notes that the Captain's tea is the wrong temperature would be fed to the sharks.

Isn't the Captain's tea a trivial matter? But of course. Why then, do Malaysian messengers get 'shot' (or become shark food) over trivial matters?

Perasan. Feeling upset by criticism of oneself. We are the World Perasan Champions.

We even expect perasan-ism of our workmates. I once asked where my weaknesses were at work so I could improve my performance. My superiors thought this was most cheeky and it took a while to persuade them that I was deadly serious!

Two Fallacies of the Malaysian Workplace make life especially dangerous for the critical thinker:

Fallacy No. 1: If there's room for improvement, things aren't perfect. If you aren't perfect, we'll find someone who is.

Fallacy No. 2: I'm not perfect, izzit? You don't know what I have to put up with in this job. Don't criticize if you don't know.

In the example above, I had to break through Fallacy 1 to persuade my bosses I was serious. They in turn had to overturn Fallacy 2 before they felt it was OK to tell me what I needed to know.

What a load of JBLAltecLansingNADLinnHiFi!!

A nasty consequence of perasan-ism is that criticism disappears. When you've tell someone where-the-JBL they can stick their criticism, they will shut-the-JBL up.

Congratu-HondaKupChai-lations! Not even our nearest and dearest can criticise us any more: we're always right.

Outside of work, this is amusing and distressing in equal measure. We get very perasan over even the smallest matters:

pDad: plink, we need to talk about your inveNctive. You may be swearing too m....
plink: You don't know what it's like to be me!! The whole F&NSusuCapJunjunged world is so TehTarikTambahHargaPetrolKauKau! You all need a good PSPokemon up your XBOX!!

A quick look around reveals the obvious: stress levels are at an all-time high. The cause is none other than perasan-ism. When that goes, we'll allow ourselves to make mistakes and we will lead longer, happier lives.

If you'll excuse me, someone's XBOX needs PSPokemoning....


At 7:43 pm, Anonymous Ghoul said...

Malaysians mostly have either a siege mentality or live in a state of denial.
"Oh if they cricitise me, then they must hate me, or is a racist because of my colour or my religion" or "Oh how dare he say i am not good enough, nobody has ever said that to me before."

It's not that nobody can criticise us more so than us can't accept the reality of that criticism, for good or bad.

Once that nerve is touched, instead of facing it, we tend to shy away and find a safe shield to hide behind.
If it's a good comment, we take it with a pinch of salt, fearing a hidden meaning. But if it's bad, we starts arming our nukes and go all defensive without really looking into the root of the issue.

Do I make sense any more?

This is a state of the malaysian mentality today. It's not that we're not good enough, we're just afraid to feel we are not good enough.

At 3:27 pm, Blogger plink said...

Plenty of sense indeed. The irony is that most of us mean well, but end up quite twisted from paranoia.

At 1:08 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool guestbook, interesting information... Keep it UP


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