Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The Pendulum Swings On

I was more than a bit unsettled when I heard of the news about the 16 year old student who was stabbed to death by his fellow student on school grounds earlier today. In a few short moments, the country lost 2 young men of potential due to the seemingly escalation violence in our schools. I have to say that this latest incident is the first time I heard of that a deadly weapon was used by a student on school grounds. Are our local schools in Malaysia today pseudo-Columbine power kegs waiting to ignite? Have we gone that far off that our students today carry deadly weapons to school? The idea that students are carrying concealed weapons in their backpack terrifies me to no end. When did thing go so wrong?

I admit that we were no angels way back when we were students like they are today. We had our share of fights at school grounds and I have to admit to being a party to several of them in my misspent youth. But we always drew a line against using blades, clubs, broken bottle or anything that would cause permanent injury as well as would get you thrown into jail for assault with a deadly weapon. Our fights usually end up with us slugging ourselves silly with skin on skin rather than with sharp objects. I never knew anyone who died in any of the fights that I was a part of and everybody knew the score of what was acceptable in our conduct. That was then and now things have changed so much that I wonder how things came to this point.

Some people blamed the violence that the youth today are exposed daily in both the print and electronic media. I can’t accept that assertion as I don’t think that the level of violence on TV today is any different from what it was 10, 15 or 20 years ago. In fact I think that TV shows were more violent and vulgar back in the 70’s and 80’s in Malaysia then they are today. I remember growing up watching the old TV shows like “Combat” and “Dynasty” as a child that would really tasked out our scissor-happy censors today. Of course back then my parents, like many parents of their time, would set very strict times when we could watch TV so we don’t get to see anything they don’t want us to see. That didn’t stop us from sneaking a peek at the late night shows when they were not around but somehow we didn’t turn out half as bad.

I heard a theory on this particular issue from a taxi driver who was driving the taxi that I took to go to my company HQ last Tuesday. He believe that all the social problems that we are currently seeing escalating day by day are the result of people rebelling against the pressures of our currently conservative society. He notes that our Malaysian society follows a pendulum that swings between a liberal-open society and an ultra-conservative and seemingly pious collection. I have to agree that people today are stodgier and are seemingly obsessed of showing their piety by putting more stock into their moralistic credentials regardless of their religion. My taxi driver feels that this fast evolving ultra-conservative society in Malaysia are shutting off several outlets that would previously allow certain elements of the society to release pressure out of this simmering pressure cooker in a safe manner. Thus in his opinion, this is why we are seeing an increase of social ills in our society today especially among the Malays.

I have to say that I can find some truth in his opinions. People of my generation are actually very skeptical of the generation that came before us. We have been disillusioned by the people who now flaunt their religious and moral credentials as if they were better than others and yet have their own multitude of skeletons in their closets collected from their youth. We know that they are no batter than us when they were our ages so we don’t feel that they have earned the right to chastise us for following the examples that they have set out for us. Regardless of the deceit, I have to believe that things are not as bleak as they sound today. The pendulum will eventually swing again to the opposite extreme of how our society is today. The question is only when will that switch happen and how are we as a society prepared to face that eventuality. My own opinion on this is that we have to find a middle ground where all would be satisfied and that could only happened when people accept that moderation in everything that we do as the key that would help us in finding that balance.

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