Ever ask the question of who you are? Look closely at your mirror the next time around. Is that really you? Do you have the right blend to be human and being humane at the same time? What are the criteria of your humanitarian qualities? Indeed it is not an easy one to answer. You have to ponder for a long time before you could ever answer them. You may doubt your own answer. There are times you may not be able to give the right answer. It needs a little wisdom even to answer a very simple question. In fact the simpler the question the harder the answer would be. Needs to be philosophical maybe.
Culture must be nurtured. It could takes centuries to be embedded in the mind of the people. To be practiced as part of everyday ritual. Something that comes naturally. No qualm whatsoever. It is accepted as virtue. Everyone loves it. The in thing. Those who discard it are considered as anti-social. Deviant. Culture is heritage. The pride of a race. A country. A religion. The people. The masses.
Culture created norm. Most of it are social etiquette. Human relations. In developning countries, like Malaysia, I noticed that some of those things are disappearing. Considered to be the old thing. Obsolete. Yet in developed countries things that we consider old or out-of-date are the one accepted as culture. They who practiced it are considered cultured. In an earlier entry, I wrote about a lady who needed three reminders just to pick up a piece of tissue. Those who patronised the norm are far greater than those who could not care less about it. Three to one. Remember when I wrote about an old man at Narita Airport, Japan? He was sweeping dust. Mind you! He was sweeping dust. You do not see it. You do not feel it. But you know and I know it is there. It exists. Yet the Japanese are so concerned about its exixtance. Not to be taken for granted. Again what about the shop assistant at Oakland, Pittsburgh, who were ever friendly with every customer in the premis.
One day a friend of mine was driving. Suddenly his car swerved and hit an embankment. The two rear tyres was suspended in the air. He saw a white male. He asked for help. Well ! Guess what? The man asked for USD20. My friend was dumbfounded. Only after some time he agreed with the man’s demand. He was about to enter his car when the man asked my friend to pay him first. What really tarnsfired in the mind of the white male? It was about culture. Experience taught them that some coloured people were not to be trusted. There you are. Any coloured people automatically comes into that category. What a pity. A simplistic discriminatuion. USD20 changed hands. The car got pushed. Well, a win-min situation maybe. A tragic comedy.
It was summer 1985. A group of Malaysian students was on their way to Canada. I and my family were in one of those cars. Six altogather. Northward bound. First stop Niagara Fall and somewhere across the border. I was very excited. Firstly, I never drive out of Pittsburgh for the past six months. Secondly, I was really excited to be driving on the right of the road. All vehichels are left-hand driven. I felt great on the road. It was Friday. Somewhere north of Pennsylvania, nearing Buffalo, my friends exhaust fell off. We were in the middle of a corn plantation. Miles and miles into nowhere. It was an experience. We did not know what to do. The incident happened at around 2.00 pm. No towns in sight. No dwelling in sight. Very few cars passed by. All in a hurry. At around 4.30 pm came by a lady and her station wagon. A down to earth lady. Just like any lady in a far away kampung in rural Malaysia. Plain simple. Eager to know what has happened to us. I could not remember if any of us flagged her down. Maybe she was Allah’s help. She stopped to enquire. A concerned being. Real human being.
She stopped and enquired about our predicament. Hearing our plight, she was full of sympathy. Very eager to help. Of course some of us told her of who we were. Where we stayed. Where we were going. Of course the main topic was my friend’s car. And so on and so forth. She never doubted us. Maybe because there were our wives. Swarmed by our children. Who could doubt such situation. It made her really enthusisitic to help us. My friend who lost his exhaust pipe followed her slowly to a nearby workshop specialising in exhaust only. A black guy. When they reached the workshop, the guy was about to pull down the front cover of his workshop. The lady really pleaded on behalf of my friend. At first the guy was adamant. Come on Monday morning, he said curtly. The lady was really an angel in disguise. At last the guy relented but with one condition. Pay his overtime. No problem my friend said. Half an hour later it was done. We continued our journey to Canada. To the north. To me it was into unknown territory.
There was so much to learn. Being human takes no colour. No religion. No race. No gender. No age. Nothing. Just give it. A lot will be taking it. That lady was an angel. Helping was in her blood. It was a simple genture to her. To us it was simply great. An inter-race happening. An inte-rcontinental rapport. A devine help.
Two incidents. But two contrasting phenomena. A city dweller who was so materialistic. Always wary of other people. An out-of-town dweller who was so simple. Full of zest. Overflowing with inclination to help. The land of contrast. Culture at its best. I sampled both. Nothing wrong. The city dweller simply played his part as city dweller. He needed the cash. He was nothing without cash. His survival. For the lady, it was not cash that mattered. Values that she must uphold. Human value. simply being human. I suppose she could still remember that day. We could only offered our thanks.
The secenereo can be seen everywhere. The social contrast. The disparity. It is not only common in a developed country. It can happen anywhere. But the stark difference is that in developing countries we tend to give different value. We sort of feel ambarassed doing what has been our culture. We try very hard to ape the west. Something that is not our culture. Something that we may not understand the rationale of it. We were being propagated that their cultures are superior. Advanced in nature. The trend setter. Internationally accepted. We may not know that the West respect other culture if we really protect it. Nurture it. Thrive on it. Develop value around it. Better still if there is economic attachment.
Humans are forever humans. We behave as humans. We thrive as humans. We experience shortcomings because we are humans. But culture is something that we should treasure. A guiding factor for our wellbeing. We should be resilient in pursuing a culturally sound society. In a turbulent and volatile environment that we experienced now it is only fair that we preserved all the good things in our culture. Ours is always the best. Our own heritage. Nobody should ever take it from us.