The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking. 

Albert Einstein, German-born theoretical physicist

Throughout the millennia, civilisations have risen and fallen. In recent history, the rise of Nazi Germany and Japanese Empire prompted them to invade other countries during the Second World War, but both ended in defeat.

Few people are aware that Southeast Asia, other than Vietnam, was under Indian influence until around the 15th century. The richest archaeological area in Malaysia, covering 224 sq. km, is situated near Merbok, Kedah and consists of ruins that may date more than 2,500 years.

Much later, Melaka was founded in 1402 by a fleeing Hindu prince who later converted to Islam. Diversity was embraced empowering Melaka to grow into the largest port in Southeast Asia with 84 different languages spoken there during its heyday.

It was Melaka Truly Asia when a Portuguese expedition arrived in 1509. They liked what they saw and returned in 1511 to conquer Melaka for themselves and ruled it for 130 years until they were driven out by the Dutch, who later exchanged it with the British for Bengkulu.

The British administered Melaka from 1824. Earlier, they ‘founded’ Penang in 1786 and Singapore in 1819. From these three territories, they spread their influence to other states with Selangor, Perak, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang under the Federated Malay States from 1895, and Johor, Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan and Terengganu as British protected states.

Not long after the Japanese Occupation was the Malayan Emergency from 1948 to 1960, which involved a long anti-insurgency campaign by Commonwealth troops. The peninsula was granted independence in 1957 after the first Malayan federal elections in 1955.

On July 22 1963, Sarawak was granted self-governance. On August 31 1963, the last Colonial Governor left Sabah, virtually granting self-governance to the state formerly known as North Borneo. On September 16 1963, Malaya, Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore formed Malaysia, with the latter leaving in 1965.

Malaysia and much of the world have changed beyond recognition over the past 55 years. If our education had succeeded during this time, we would have achieved economic success close to that of Singapore. But alas, education started to take a nose-dive when all English-medium schools beginning from Standard One were changed to Malay-medium from January 1970.

From 1983, after six years in primary schools and up to seven years in secondary schools, many students were accepted in Malay-medium public universities except for two – Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) and International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) that use English.

This was in stark contrast with other countries that embraced English and benefitted greatly in the era of globalisation. Alarmingly, a high number of our local graduates are unemployed, underemployed or unemployable, as many are unable to communicate well, made worse by insular attitude effectively closing their hearts and minds.

Although Malaysian adult literacy rate had risen from below 70 percent in 1980 to over 93 percent in 2010, unthinking Malaysians remain at a worrying level. And they are being exploited by politicians and pseudo-politicians on both sides of the political divide.

Although I do not practise a religion, I have great respect for all religious leaders that hold true to their faiths. I admire missionaries of the past who successfully spread their religions far and wide as they did not discriminate people of other religion, race, language, tradition or culture.

In Malaysia, we have infamous political and religious leaders fighting for both religion and race in the same breath. They must be thinking that they can fool the general population or their unthinking supporters are easily fooled.

There is nothing wrong in championing one’s race by lifting them up and such efforts should receive support and assistance from other races, as had happened since time immemorial because it is human nature to do so.

It is wrong to put another country or their people down. Sowing hatred and showing anger is the easiest thing that even a child could do and favoured by the selfish seeking popularity and power. Talk is cheap as giving real help to one’s community requires genuine effort and hard work.

Sadly. many Malaysians, including graduates, will be stuck in poverty if they do not open their hearts and minds to others and all the rapid changes taking place globally. Poverty begins in the mind.

For example, our country is blessed with land and climate that can produce an abundance of food and fruits that are easily marketable through social media. Digital wallet would facilitate payment and could attract consumers, distributors and tourists from all over the world.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.