Friday, May 12, 2006

Are We A Nation Of Freeloaders?

Go to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital any morning and you'll see the crowd thronging the Out-Patient Department (OPD); the poor and the rich, the disheveled and the well-dressed. They come either walking from the bus stop, on their motorcycles or in their cars, ranging from the humble Proton Saga to the majestic, sleek Mercedes and BMWs. They are charged the same token amount as fees and proceed to obtain, frankly excellent medical care and treatment. We don't hear stories of doctors 'examining' you with the tip of their pens anymore. All very nice so far. However pay a little attention and you can quite clearly hear the factory worker demanding a medical certificate, the hoighty toighty miss demanding to be seen first, the retired school-teacher demanding another battery of blood tests and the well-heeled businessman threatening to sue the hospital if he doesn't receive his medicines immediately. (The last sentence was for descriptive purposes only and does not reflect on the aforementioned professions.)

Proceed from the OPD to the Blood Bank and inquire on how many of our 'charitable' citizens donate blood and you'll get a very good idea of the selfish nature of our populace. We crowd the OPD and the wards where the service is practically free and pay scant attention to the one place where we can give back something to the hospital. Why? Because we are a large group of freeloaders.

Have you seen the really large crowd at every open house? So very nice to watch on television as the media showcases the spirit of muhibbah among our multiethnic peoples. If only the television cameras could stay 'close-up' throughout the open house at the 'makan' area we may see another aspect of our festive wellwishers. The greed and gluttony displayed while rushing, queue-jumping and piling up the food while stuffing it into their mouths and leaving half-filled plates is quite an appetite suppressant. Why this uncharacteristic behavior in otherwise calm people? Because it is free, gratis.

Some years ago there was a requirement that parents who wanted to apply for free school books for their children had to get a certification from among others a Division one civil servant that they earned less than five hundred ringgit a month. Can you guess how many parents who earn tenfold and more of that paltry sum would have applied with false declarations?

When the price of petrol shot up by thirty sen per litre recently the rich screamed bloody murder along with the poor. Of course it didn't change their lifestyle; no carpooling, using public transport or even cutting down on their trips. So used were our people to subsidised 'everything' that a sudden shock like this was too much to take. They had to actually pay like people in less fortunate countries.

I'm sure many of you can add to this disreputable list. I think in a way the government has indirectly contributed to this freeloading mentality by subsidising a lot of the facilities that it provides, so much so that it has not only been taken for granted but is considered a right and by extension that it is alright to freeload in other areas as well. I am in no way suggesting that the government review those subsidies though.

Finally I would like to ask those of you reading this post to think honestly of any instances where you or someone close to you have indulged in freeloading and try to analyse why you did it and ask yourself why you shouldn't. If you are not too shy you can share your thoughts here by way of comments.


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