State of Society

This morning, in the car park, one driver a few cars in front of me was getting really impatient and started honking in rhythm – honk honk honkkkkkkkk, pause, honk honk honkkkkkkkkk, pause and so on – it went on for almost a minute. I could imagine a driver sitting on his/her seat, cursing and hitting the horn in anger and I think to myself, what sane person would do such thing? What would have driven him to behave that way. I get pissed at times too but I don’t displayed it outright or in such a manner. It really showed how impatient fellow Malaysians are these days with all these traffic and rush hours. I am sure he started early (did he?) but probably got stuck in a unexpected traffic and as such he is in such a hurry. Is this society going to get worse? It seemed that it is. Why is it that people are behaving this way?

In last month’s study meeting, we learned that the main reason for this is because people, in general, lack a philosophy in life. Their current philosophy lies around 3 areas: gratification from material things – so people are pursuing joy and happiness from material stuff - they buy nice car, nice stereo or nice keyboard (ahem). So, people put their priorities are in the pursuit of wealth – they must earn more than their friends, neighbors, relatives. They must have bigger cars, beautiful houses, more maids than they can handle. They spent so much time in working/business just to pursue this wealth that they have forgotten to be human, to care for their family, or to care for their fellow human being friends whether they are neighbors or colleagues or generally the people in the street. People take secondary temporary jobs. In the evening, they attend MLM seminars to sell more lamps, more vacuum machines, more insurance, more Amway products, financial and investment services.

The other area is that people indulge themselves in activities that they think they can find happiness in. People eat and eat because rich food made them feel good. They drink - that’s why it was called happy hour, right? They go for fun stuff like head banging (ecstasy pills), movies marathons and TVB/HBO episodes chasing. They gamble. Some became very conscious of their health – they go gym, running and they do a lot of other forms of exercise – for heath reason, sure, but some wanted the endorphin as a result of exercise to feel good. They just indulge in all these personal activities that give them temporary happiness, for they never last, right? Just-in-time happiness.

The third area that modern people’s philosophy lies is in avoidance. In Hokkien, it’s called boh chap. Basically it means hiding in your own cocoon, oblivious and ignoring worldly matters. How many of us don’t care about the state of the country – be it politics, social, safety, economic? How many of us have this “let me close the door of my house, I don’t really care what’s happening outside” attitude? Or the, as long as it doesn’t affect me, I wouldn’t be bothered attitude? Sadly, this is the type of attitude that is very prevalent in the society today. You don’t hear much of gotong royong (neighbourhood working together for the better of their community) nor do you see people being nice to their neighbours. Some even fight and call police on each other over parking spaces outside their houses.

These are the 3 philosophies uphold by the people these days. How can we even hope for a peaceful and happy society if the people of this society don’t have a correct philosophy?

In Buddhism, in order to achieve a peaceful, safe and loving society, each of us can start with ourselves. We look into ourselves to see where our priorities in life are and we start changing ourselves. A small change in yourself, can propagate to the people around you, to your neighbor and ultimately to society at large.  When the world had industrial revolution, we see a growth in industry and manufacturing. Similarly during the Renaissance revolution, a burst of culture and arts flourished. A similar human revolution, a change in oneself, can be like the butterfly flapping its small wings but causing a typhoon 10,000 miles away.

A change in our self is the first step but we need to tell others as well. In my previous blogs, I spoke of working professionalslittering the car park. How many of us have the courage to drop a note or educate the person who litters? But if we don’t take that first step and be oblivious or ignore, how are we going to achieve a peaceful and safe society?

Hmm.. food for thoughts?


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