Much ado about “bang”

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 Today I read and watched in dismay as I learned about the mass shooting that occurred in Aurora, Colorado, where a 24-year-old former PhD student at the University of Colorado shot 70 people, leaving 12 dead. This is, of course, a sobering fact that not everybody is normal (in a mental sense), and even the brightest people pursuing the highest degree has that kind of capacity to commit such monstrosity.

Earlier on in the afternoon, I was having a rather lengthy discussion with an instructor from the Wind Science and Engineering Department (in fact, we share the same office) on the issue of firearms possession. I fully respect the Second Amendment which empowers the people with “the right to bear arms”.

What I wanted to know was whether he had ever felt fearful about walking out on the streets knowing that there are people out there with such easy access to guns, and whether he was ever worried by the fact that there are individuals who might not be in the right state of mind, and yet it does not show on their faces. He replied that he does not need to feel fearful about encountering a person with a gun, because he owns firearms as well and that he is able to defend himself with them. In the state of Texas, the people are allowed to “conceal carry” their guns, meaning that they do not need to have their firearms strapped and displayed openly. The rationale to this is that if criminals do not know that you have a firearm with you, they are less likely to attempt an attack on you. There are states which allow the people to “open carry” their firearms, where they are required to be displayed openly (meaning you will be openly showing to the people that you have a gun on your person). Arguably, there are pros and cons to the “open carry” and “conceal carry” concepts, but those are the details that I would like to leave out for now.

I wasn’t very happy with the reply that my instructor could defend himself with a gun when the need arises, because there is always a question of, “What if you’re the first person being shot and you don’t even have the time to react (to retrieve your firearm and fight back)? Even if you have a gun, it would be of no use if you were already dead.” He concurred that the idea of being able to defend himself only applies if he is not the first target. I would also surmise that if someone is shooting indiscriminately, having a gun to take down the shooter could mean less loss of lives.

There are people who, understandably, argue that even if the country were to impose a firearms ban, people with criminal intent would still be able to obtain firearms illegally and carry out the massacre. They say that it is not law-abiding citizens who kill people with guns, but criminals. Looking back to Malaysia, there seems to be some truth in it. In mid-May, a temple worker was shot in Butterworth despite the fact that firearms possession in Malaysia without a permit is illegal, and ordinary citizens like us will not be given permits to bear firearms that easily. The point is that if a person has criminal intent, then they will try to get a firearm to inflict damages, whether through legal means or otherwise. If a person already has criminal intent, the legality in the process of obtaining firearms is not relevant at all.

Nonetheless, this is all hardly a reason for firearms possession laws to remain as status quo. Although all firearms sellers perform a background check to make sure that buyers qualify to purchase firearms, clearly there are loopholes or problems in the “gun control” mechanism. After the Virginia Tech shooting, the Columbine High School massacre, the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, the recent Oikos University shooting and now the Aurora, Colorado, movie cinema mass killings, isn’t this time to think about what has gone wrong? Perhaps I’m not a very qualified person to talk about policies, seeing that I’m not an American, but as a foreigner living in this beautiful land, I have my concerns, and I believe I am also entitled to my opinion.

I am not calling for the ban of firearms, considering that the right to bear arms is so closely associated to the American identity, and I can respect that. However, with all the shootings throughout the years, all that I could see were people mourning, people denouncing the act, people proclaiming their utter shock and disbelief, etc. when all I’m thinking is, “This is something waiting to happen.”

The harsh fact is this: no amount of mourning, or denouncing, or flying the flag at half-mast is going to bring the dead back, nor will such acts prevent the recurrence of such monstrosity in the future. None of the sympathy or thoughts will prevent an even worse massacre if nobody takes the initiative to look into the issue of “gun control”.

Piers Morgan, a British journalist who hosts the programme “Piers Morgan Tonight” at CNN, was adamant about debating the issue of “gun control”, despite receiving numerous responses from the public that he put off his debate for another day, and that today should be dedicated to the mourning of victims and survivors of the horrendous incident in Aurora, Colorado. Being a Brit, it is not unexpected that he received many mean tweets from some members of the American public for having the audacity of discussing about the right to bear arms.

When he interviewed Prof. David Kopel from Denver University to initiate a debate on the issue of gun control, a rather upset professor expressed his disappointment at Morgan for insisting to talk on the gun control issue when that moment should have been dedicated to the discussion of the victims.

“Honestly Piers, I think this is the wrong night to be doing this and I really wish you’d waited to have this segment until after the funerals,” said Prof. Kopel, to which Morgan shot back rather coldly (figuratively speaking):

“A lot of people have said that today, a lot of people who don’t want strengthening of gun control, have said, ‘This is not the day to debate it.’ I’ll tell you the day to debate it, it would have been yesterday, to prevent this from happening. When you have a young man like this – able to legally get 6000 rounds of ammunition off the Internet, to buy four weapons including an assault rifle, and for all of this to be perfectly legal in modern America, allowing him to carry out the biggest shooting in the history of the United States – that, I’m afraid, means that it’s too late for this debate, for those people who have lost their lives.  So don’t patronize me, about when we should be talking about the gun control debate.”

And I think that that was quite a brazen remark from Morgan. But I must concede that he has a strong point there.

I don’t believe that Americans would not be appalled by all these mass shooting incidents. But having said that, so little has been heard from American politicians on this issue. Is this out of fear for risking the possibility of a political suicide? Nobody really knows.

But what is for sure is this – that people have lost their lives senselessly because of some lunatic carrying a gun and shooting at other people indiscriminately. It is so easy to put the blame at the psychology well-being of the shooter, but if this is a recurring problem with similar roots, isn’t it high time to take measures so that this ugly incident will not happen again in the future?

My thoughts and sympathy to the families of Aurora, Colorado, who have lost their loved ones, and to the survivors of this incident who have to undergo such harrowing moments of their lives.

More of the PTPTN fiasco

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When students from a local public university participated in a protest that called for the abolition of PTPTN, it was met with great responses from both sides – people who support the abolition and people who don’t. Some of the politicians who advocated the abolition of PTPTN even went further to suggest that tertiary education ought to be made free.

However, many have failed to look from the point of view of local private institutions of higher learning, as well as the number of institutions of higher learning that are available in the country. Granted, the nation does have many local public universities, where tuition is very much affordable and cheap, but they are not able to cater to all college-going students. Many students who have been denied an opportunity to study in a local public university naturally turn towards local private universities in the hopes of securing a placement so that they may pursue their tertiary education.

Many who opt to go for an education in a private institution of higher learning find themselves in a tricky situation. Often, the tuition is much higher than that of local public institutions, and to expect their families to fork out hundreds of thousands of ringgit for tertiary education will place a great burden on their finances. It is for this very reason that PTPTN is such a boon to those who need financial assistance. For students who managed to secure a PTPTN loan, a great portion of the financial burden has been lifted off their shoulders.

The sensational issue revolving the demand for the abolition of PTPTN (with all their debts cancelled) and the advocating of free tertiary education has not just irked me (who believe that the whole idea of the abolition is absurd and uncalled for) but also the government, which, to an extent, is understandable.

Nonetheless, the recent freezing (and subsequently the removal of the freeze after a day) of PTPTN loans to students studying in Universiti Selangor (UNISEL) and Kolej Universiti Islam Selangor (KUIS) took the public by surprise and utter bemusement. The mainstream media reported that the freeze was meant to put the opposition party to the test, for they had advocated the idea of promoting free education, and the subsequent removal of the freeze after the appeal from UNISEL apparently proved that PTPTN is still very much needed.

What many did not point out was the fact that the freeze imposed on UNISEL and KUIS have been unfair and unobjective. Although UNISEL is a university funded by the state of Selangor and therefore its welfare and survival is in the purview of the state government, ultimately the victims of the freeze were not the government, but the students who committed no wrong whatsoever. For 18-year-olds and 19-year-olds who are just beginning their tertiary education in UNISEL, the freeze only takes them by surprise, and without the right to be involved in issues pertaining to politics, they are utterly defenceless.

What is more appalling is the fact that institutions of higher learning have always been told to maintain neutrality and abstain from getting involved with sticky political situations. By imposing the freeze on the universities, it has indirectly dragged the affected institutions into politics. Students, who may or may not advocate the abolition of PTPTN, became direct victims of an issue being politicised too much.

Parties have the right to agree or disagree with another individual, but to take it out on other people who are mere end-users is crossing the line a bit too far. They can take it out on each other, but the rakyat is innocent. They are powerless to do anything, except at the ballot box.

The fact that UNISEL made the appeal against the freeze does not necessarily imply the inability of the state government to provide “free education”, but that the administration of university understood the dire situation that it was in and that it needed to rectify the whole issue immediately. From the point of view of the university, it was taking a proactive measure, although it was at no fault in the first place.

The students who initially protested against PTPTN and called for its abolition are apparently scot-free. A financial aid provider who gives out funds in terms of a loan does not force students to pursue studies that they are not interested in. More often than not, students have already chosen their course and started pursuing their tertiary education before they apply for a PTPTN loan. The idea that PTPTN is being unfair to students who have obtained funding from the former sounds preposterous, but careful thought must be made on who is to be accountable for the whole fracas, and UNISEL shouldn’t be it.

 

PTPTN: To Go Or To Stay?

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I never had the need to apply for an education loan from the National Higher Education Fund (Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional, or PTPTN for short) to fund my tertiary education in Malaysia. However, I do know of quite a few of my friends who took a loan from PTPTN, completed their studies, got a job and are now servicing their loans dutifully.

Lately, there has been much furore over PTPTN, with quite a number of undergraduate students demanding the abolition of PTPTN, as well as calling for the end of the ruling coalition.

While the group of protesting students, which numbered to about 500 people, claimed that students who took up the loan from PTPTN are saddled with debt and that they should be entitled to free education, it is interesting to note how a non-political entity (i.e. PTPTN) can be dragged into politics.

The students’ demands for free education is not unreasonable, but a careful consideration has to be made on this. With most of the students studying in local public universities, the amount of fees that a student has to pay is much less compared to what their peers studying in local private universities would have to fork out.

While demanding for free education, from a taxpayer’s point of view, is not unreasonable, there is a need to understand that in order to fulfil such demands, some sacrifices will have to be made, such as raising taxes. It is the same as saying that if you want to have cheaper cars (that is, to remove the sales tax and import duties), then it is only fair that the fuel subsidies be removed. This is not just plain talk. The United States is also an oil-producing nation, yet their fuel is not subsidised. The people, however, can purchase cars at a much lower price (in fact, a Volkswagon Passat costs about $22000).

One important thing to keep in mind is that we will not have any form of objectivity if we start mixing up the issues of PTPTN with the ruling coalition. Countless students have benefited from PTPTN – in fact, many have had a university education simply because they received financial support from PTPTN. The good news is that PTPTN does not just provide loans to students who pursue their studies in a local public university, but they also provide loans to those who pursue their education in local private universities, such as UTP, MMU, IMU, etc.

And it is clearly understood that if you have applied for a loan and are offered such a loan, then you are definitely required to pay it back. It was, and still is, never called a scholarship. Students should be well aware of what they are signing up for. PTPTN never coerced students into taking up their loans – they offered loans because students applied for them. This meant that setting up PTPTN was never meant to make students be saddled with debt, but to assist them in getting their university education.

There is never a need for a big fuss when it comes to apparently being “saddled with debt”, as the loan repayment scheme is meant to be friendly and easy on fresh graduates who have just started on their jobs.

Clearly, there is a problem with the loan recovery process on the part of PTPTN. Had they been more stringent about recovering their loans, the issue of having RM43 billion in outstanding student loans would not have surfaced in the first place. However, to protest against PTPTN and asking for its abolition just because of such a petty issue is equivalent to saying that we should not allow knives to be sold or made simply because of its potential to cause fatal injuries.

It is not possible for a government to provide everything freely for the people. The United States, despite its countless amounts of taxes being levied on its people, still does not provide free university education to its people, nor does it even have free healthcare. There is no such thing as an American version of PTPTN, and students have to obtain loans from banks. Depending on where they study, their debts would amount to $60000 or $70000 easily upon graduating. Unlike in Malaysia where scholarships or sponsorships cover the tuition, accommodation and other living expenses of the students, scholarships here in the US cover only a small amount of the tuition, and depending on the amount of the scholarship given to you, it might even be subjected to tax! A student here is free to take up a part-time employment, but even so, the wages are also subjected to income tax. This means that despite being a student (where the impression is that a student will have no steady income in the first place), they are not exempt from paying income taxes if they are working part-time.

Contrasting that to our Malaysian students, scholarships or sponsorships amounting by the hundreds of thousands of ringgit are not subjected to tax by the Internal Revenue Board (IRB), and if students choose to take up a part-time employment (if they are able), the wages collected are not taxable. American students have to pay income taxes if they are working, and on top of that, they still have to pay for their university education.

In many ways, our students have got things very easily, and they are not aware of the kind of predicament that students in other countries have to face. Our students’ predicament is no predicament in the first place.

To politicise every issue is not a great idea at all. Things have come to a point that if politicians continue to politicise every issue, it only reduces their credibility. The opposition coalition must take this into consideration as well. Sometimes talking too much will just simply mar their reputation.

Recollections of Past Years

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The year 2012 happens to be a very special year, not because of the Mayan prediction that the end of the world will come this December, but rather because my school will celebrate its centennial celebrations this year. Yes, I am speaking of St. Michael’s Institution, Ipoh (I have to make this clear because apparently there’s another school with the same name in Alor Setar), where I spent eleven years of my life there.

How I got into the school (beginning with SK St. Michael 2 before moving on to SMK St. Michael) is perhaps part of the story that I am not very clear myself. In fact, looking back to my first year in primary school, I couldn’t help smiling at how naive I once was. I remember clearly the day when my teacher issued out the Physical Education written test, but I found that I had no idea how to do the test. At that time, I had no idea what a test was, and I thought it was just another schoolwork that could be taken back home to do as homework. When the teacher requested for the test papers back, I did not submit mine, and yet the teacher did not count whether she had got all the papers back.

That night, I showed my mother the “homework” which I did not know how to do, and to her surprise it was actually a test. She then told me that I was not supposed to bring it back home, but had to be completed within the stipulated time and to be given back to the teacher after that. Needless to say, the next day I went to school with my mother, who had to do some explanation to my teacher. They had a good laugh while I remained ignorant about what was happening. I had no idea what happened to the test, and I don’t recall getting any grades for that – well, not that it mattered anyway.

I also recall another silly moment when I sat for the Malay Language test and one of the questions required that I rearranged the words to form a complete sentence. There was this “Port Dickson” in the question that I did not know about – my proficiency in English at that time was such that I had no idea what “Port” actually meant. As I had never been to Port Dickson (I live in Ipoh – so Port Dickson is quite a great distance away – besides, in the early to mid 1990s, the PLUS highway to Port Dickson had not even been completed yet), naturally I thought Port Dickson was a name of a person. The fact that there was “Encik” (Malay word meaning “Mister”) in the sentence actually made me even more confident that Port Dickson was, in fact, the name of a person. After all, as weird as it might seem to be, Dickson is an English name. I suppose that, by this time, you would have guessed that I actually wrote “Encik Port Dickson…” in the test. Naturally, I got that question wrong (only God knows what my teacher’s response would have been at that time). Annoyed that the question was marked wrong by the teacher, I brought the paper to my mother. My mother, though horrified that I wrote “Encik Port Dickson”, had another good laugh. Of course, she could hardly blame me for making that kind of error, for I had, at that time, not heard of a place called Port Dickson in Malaysia at all! The only places I knew then were Ipoh and Penang.

But as the years went by, I grew confident and curious. I was curious to know why certain scientific things happened. I was very happy to be given an encyclopaedia which answered most of my questions. As I moved into secondary school, participating in the Michaelian Debaters’ Club, the Michaelian Chinese Orchestra, etc. made me more knowledgeable and confident about forming opinions and arguments. The opportunity that I was given to participate as a performer in the annual school play (Flower Drum Song in 2002, and The King And I in 2004) made me felt that my school life was, as a whole, very fruitful.

Till this moment, I have a sense of pride in being a Michaelian; the heritage of the school, the teachers who know (or knew) me, the school building, etc. culminated in this Michaelian pride.

Now that I am in the United States pursuing postgraduate studies, many people have been surprised at my proficiency of the English language. They find that I am able to communicate comfortably in not just one, but three different languages (plus a dialect), and this somewhat amazes them. With the Americans, I speak in English, with the Chinese, I speak in Mandarin. Had there been more Malaysians at my university, I could have used Malay more extensively.

While I must credit my parents for my ability to converse in Mandarin quite smoothly, due credit has to be given to St. Michael’s Institution for my proficiency in English. It is, without any sense of shame, specifically the Michaelian Debaters’ Club that has given me that capability to have a strong ground in the English language.

My alma mater has never played a small role in forming my education and my character. Its enormous contribution to the development of future talents is undeniable.

I am rather sad that, despite my promise of attending the centennial celebrations of my alma mater, I am not able to go back to Malaysia to celebrate this joyous occasion.

Nonetheless, I wish St. Michael’s Institution a very happy centennial celebration! Quis Ut Deus!

The Dilemma of Being Neither Here Nor There

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When I read what my friend from the University of Southern California wrote in his blog (you can read it here), I felt compelled to also offer my two cents on about the same subject. While I must admit that my friend wrote immensely well in his article, I am certain he will agree that both of us will have to disagree on certain issues. Therefore, what I write here does not necessarily agree with what he had written. Nonetheless, his article provides a personal insight that Malaysians should have some appreciation for it.

Like my friend, I have been away from the country for exactly half a year already, and I had travelled to many places and even stayed at one place for a month, travelling away happily. Well, after a semester of hard work, I certainly deserved the opportunity to widen my horizons in a leisurely manner.

I daresay that a great number of my friends do not know that I have gone abroad (so this might be the first time that they found out) – I had been keeping things rather quiet about my departure from the country. Many would believe that I have gone to a much better place – a place where opportunities are aplenty, and “everything has to be better than Malaysia.”

Well, personally, I could not deny that I have a better quality of education than I had in Malaysia. That is  not to say that I had lousy or unqualified lecturers or professors. In fact, I did have wonderful lecturers who mean so much to me, but to have lecturers who are not compassionate about your struggles as an undergraduate student and one who did not hesitate to express how stupid he thought of his students (i.e. my friends and I) almost killed my interest in my first two years of undergraduate studies once and for all. While I was visiting the University of Southern California during my break, I met one of the faculty members who visited UTP during the summer of last year when a group of USC architectural students and lecturers came to UTP to work on a project with UTP civil engineering students. She invited me graciously to attend her lecture, which I gratefully accepted. In that one hour, though there was nothing written on the whiteboard and nothing projected on the white screen, I felt that I have learnt so much more than I could if the lecture was delivered using PowerPoint slides.

Perhaps the most striking difference between the two countries would be the level of efficiency of workers. In my years as an undergraduate student, dealing with the administrative staff was, more often than not, an ordeal. The amount of red tape that a student is subjected to is ridiculous, even till today. Things that would require only three days at most would need a week to be done. Things that could be done online are still done manually. The time that is spent doing all the unnecessary paperwork could have been spent on more productive things if a common electronic database was kept. And the red tape does not stop here – it is also there in civil service. Things are, however, completely opposite even though I am in a small city where the pace of life is much slower than the pace in Ipoh. It boils down to how serious one is with work, and how trustworthy one is. Surfing Facebook during working hours is clearly an abuse of the trust.

But as much as things seem rosy here, it is not without its imperfections. Though my experience in this foreign land is not as bad as what my friend had, it is something that we would be concerned back at home as Malaysians. Here, homeless people can be sighted almost everywhere very easily. They sleep in the streets and some of the streets smell of urine because that is where they would answer nature’s call (I unintentionally saw one answering his nature’s call in an alley some 100 metres or so from where I was standing).

In this country where “freedom” rules, the kind of things that you can see on a daily basis can shock one who has already lived here for decades. People do things (provided that they do not flout the law) in the name of freedom. There are things seen here that might never even see such light in Malaysia, and if it does make an appearance, it signifies that something is seriously wrong about society.

Despite living in a country that boasts of “the American dream” (and perhaps is something that many people in Malaysia wish for), in these rather short six months, one could already start to ask the question of whether this new place can really be a place that you call home. In a way, adapting to life in a foreign land isn’t tough for me, as language has never been an issue (many are surprised that I speak four languages), nor has food. But the fact remains that I have few friends whom I could find a common topic to talk about. Even friends from China and I have hardly anything in common – after all, what do I know about the goings-on in Chinese politics, or the kind of jokes that only people from China would understand? I could still find comfort and solace in one thing that I enjoy best – music, and that keeps me company most of the time, aside from my three American friends whom I have the pleasure of knowing. Though I can be physically “home” here in a foreign land, my psychological being is still very much struggling to adapt.

In this foreign land, I am an individual with this Chinese-looking face. And though I speak Mandarin (here simply known as “Chinese”), Chinese students here do not really think of me as being “one of us”; I am but a guest. And though I speak English in a manner that would surprise many of the locals here (they would expect that my spoken English would have a thick Chinese accent or something like that), ultimately I am but just another foreigner here. These are harsh facts that I have learnt to come to terms with – I am a Malaysian, and it is with Malaysians that I could truly be “home”.

People here have asked me of my plans for the future. I have expressed the possibility of staying here for some work experience, but ultimately I am very likely to go home – back to my own country, Malaysia. That is where my family is, and there is where I need to fulfil my responsibilities as a son. Whatever happens after I go back is another matter altogether, but as much as my country is also riddled with imperfections, it is still the place I call home.

When friends ask me about my country, I find myself in a difficult position. What do I tell them about my country? Do I tell them about the issues that are plaguing the political scenario? Do I tell them about the fiasco of “kangaroo courts”?

I find that the things that I take pride to relate about are the diverse cultures that are unique to my country, and also the variety of food that we all enjoy as Malaysians. And that’s about all. Being a small country that is not well-known in the international arena, it is difficult to talk about the history of the country (even if it is about Malacca).

Perhaps the one thing that the people standing in the corridors of power need to realise is that they need to put themselves in our shoes before passing judgements. People like me who never had a choice on where my place of birth should be should never be objects to be victimised politically. The balik China remark that still stings till this day only hurts more when you consider the fact that I am just a guest in a group of Chinese students, and yet I am seemingly not welcomed in the country where I was born in.

Friends have told me that if I desire to see change in my country for the better, then I should be in the country and be the proponent for the change. However, it cannot be just the effort of one single person (the individual will flame out easily) – it has to be a collective effort of the people with those in the corridors of power going along with the effort. As much as it seems noble to be selfless for the sake of the country, there is a limit to how selfless the individual can be.

As much as I seemed to have benefited a lot from what the country has given to me, it didn’t come freely. As much as I should come back to my nation to give back, is it not fair for me to expect a reason for me to stay and continue giving back?

Personally, I believe in giving second chances – therefore I am certainly going back home one day. The bigger question is: will my home keep me?

Judge Your Judgement

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At a Subway outlet at Sunset Boulevard, he walked towards the counter where an employee was serving her customer and said:

“Excuse me, excuse me!”

The employee glared at him, and gave him a disgusted look for interrupting her service.

“Oh, how rude!” her customer said, clearly annoyed.

“I’m really sorry,” came the reply. “But I really need to use the restroom.”

“Then go!”

“But the door is locked.”

On a nice, sunny day in Flagstaff, Arizona, he was at the top of the hill in his sled, getting ready to slide down the hill. His cousin kept telling him to go, and with great trepidation, he pushed himself down the hill.

He did not realise that he was sliding down the hill towards a young woman who was seated at the foot of the hill. A marshall was signalling him to have him steer his sled away, but it was too late. The marshall evaded collision and he sledded into her.

“I’m sorry, so sorry! I didn’t mean to…” he was apologising profusely.

“You mother f**king dips**t!” she started screaming. More expletives followed.

He felt really bad for causing her so much pain, and though he hates people shouting expletives at others wildly, he thought that he deserved it at that moment.

Based on the first scenario, you would have thought that he should have behaved more properly and courteously by not interrupting the Subway employee who was serving her customer. What you did not know was that he was actually in a bus travelling down Sunset Boulevard towards Downtown Los Angeles when he was in a great need to use the toilet, and in great desperation he alighted from the bus and made his way to the toilet at the Subway outlet, only to find that it was locked. Desperate and despaired, he had to interrupt the employee’s service, hoping to obtain the key unlock the door.

In the second scenario, it seemed that he deserved all the verbal abuse that was showered onto him by the woman, after all the pain that he had subjected her to. What you did not know was that it was his first time sledding, and it is quite impossible to control a sled if it is someone’s first time. On top of that, what you did not know was that the young woman had been sitting at the foot of the hill for more than twenty minutes, and she did not have a sled with her. Why she was there for more than twenty minutes was anyone’s guess – she could have moved away from the scene way earlier, because she had no problems communicating with the marshall. In a way, her decision to stay there for such a long time was a disaster waiting to happen, and it could be concluded that it was not entirely his fault that she was in pain.

The main point that could be drawn from the two scenarios above is that human beings are quick to judge others. In the Subway scenario, the customer was not hesitant in proclaiming his judgement that somebody else was being rude just because his service was being interrupted. In the Flagstaff scenario, the young woman was quick to judge that she was the victim when someone else collided into her.

In many cases, we subconsciously judge others by the way they behave and speak, without even giving them the opportunity to explain themselves. Being too quick in judging others seems to be our nature, but is this a trait that we should be proud of? Or is it a trait that can potentially embarrass us only?

A friend of mine at Durham University once discussed about the issue of people being too quick to judge, or passing premature judgements. Based on my understanding of his discussion, he finds that this sickening trait is one of the reasons why people are slow to progress, and why people can never truly be open-minded, because before one can defend themselves adequately, we would have formed judgements that are often negative in nature. We seem to take pleasure in thinking bad about other people and dig out scraps that could make “excellent gossip material”. However, how often would you take a step back to evaluate whether you are right about your judgements?

Just recently, I was having dinner with my relatives when a man walked towards our table. The first thing that struck my mind was, “Oh, no. What does this man want now? He can’t be begging for alms, right?” However, the man actually wanted to ask where we had purchased the spareribs that my uncle was having. You see, even I am not exempted from being too quick to judge others, as much as I am ashamed to admit it.

It makes me wonder why we pass premature judgements so easily without even realising it. I could only think of a plausible reason that we pass premature judgements because we have encountered some bad experiences that could have been confirmed by other individuals, and as a result, when something similar happens again, our natural reflexes say, “Hey, it’s déjà vu, isn’t it? That guy could be a crook. Whatever that is coming next can’t be anything good.” But we could be wrong, and when are really wrong, we would find ourselves feeling embarrassed that we thought of others so poorly, and people could have a poorer impression of us.

Therefore, why are we so quick to judge others? A friend of mine at Texas Tech University, who is pursuing her doctoral studies in psychology, once told me that there are reasons why we possess certain traits and why these traits differ according to gender, too. The traits that we possess can be explained by understanding how they would be useful if we were living some thousands of years ago when human beings lived primitively. Using the same logic, I tried to see whether passing premature judgement could have been an important trait to ensure the survival of our species. Unfortunately, I found no answer to that.

Nevertheless, in the end, is being quick to judge others a trait that we should keep? For a society to develop and progress, I am of the opinion that we should rid ourselves of that trait. It is so much easier than done – that is true, but being quick in judging others bring us no benefit; there is the “feel-good factor” in being quick to judge others where our premature judgements may be confirmed true eventually, but we were essentially playing a game of chance. On the other hand, if our judgements were proven wrong, then we are in for a round of self-humiliation.

Judges that sit in courts of law have the arduous task of not mentally passing premature judgements against any party. It is important that they hear the cases presented by both the plaintiffs and the defendants before they can even form any judgement. Likewise, for us to be seen as a society that is comprised of individuals with high levels of wisdom and fairness, let us not be quick to judge others; let this be your new year’s resolution.

P/S: I did not mention who “he” is in the Subway and Flagstaff scenarios, but it is actually me. However, how many of you have already perceived that “he” is actually me, without my divulging “his” identity in the first place?