Building a civic society

ONCE, after having parked my car in Puchong, I noticed a woman a few cars away walking to and from her car to the drain by the shops. Every trip she took was followed by clonking sounds of something being thrown into the drain. As I continued walking, I saw that she had many empty plastic water bottles strewn all over her MPV, and she was conscientiously cleaning out her car and dumping them into the drain.

Dumping rubbish isn't the only thing our country seems to be progressing towards; we have incredibly rude drivers, people who cut queues, jaywalkers, commuters pushing and shoving to get on trains and buses, the list just goes on and on.

When I was younger, there was a subject in primary school called "Tatarakyat" which was later renamed "Siviks". It taught us about citizenship. We spent time learning that we should help those in need, help the elderly and people with special needs to cross the road, avoid littering and sticking chewing gum under desks; things that could be seen as simple hygiene or just how to be a good human being.

In later years, we learnt civics in the sense of how our country works. We learnt the basics of how the Dewan Negara and Dewan Rakyat work; what elections are all about and why we need to vote. It was packaged and presented to enable 11 or 12-year-olds could understand the subject.

A few years later, after I was done with primary school, Siviks was scrapped for "Moral". I am not sure what "Moral" taught but it seems fairly obvious that it failed to uphold the idea that one shouldn't litter or one has duties and responsibilities to other citizens of the country.

A friend, who remembers this development, said, "Yes, of course they would scrap Tatarakyat for Moral because people are so sex-obsessed!" Even in that regard, it seems the subject wasn't particularly good, considering the rise of unwanted pregnancies, among other non-"moral" activities, including corruption.

Civics is not important just because it teaches us how to behave in our country, it also teaches us our rights as citizens and how the legal system works. It is almost an everyday occurrence when we see the inadequacy of understanding on how our legal and constitutional system work among our leaders whenever they say something, whether it is on how our government works, the function of the Cabinet, the powers of the municipal authorities, the duties of the civil service, the list goes on and on. And because the public has little knowledge of Siviks to fall back on, we just accept what is said as the truth.

So here's the thing. We are citizens of this country. I know there are many who prefer not to think so, but until they have got citizenship elsewhere or have emigrated, Malaysian citizenship is their state of affairs. We need to look after our country and treat each other with respect. Every single one of our rights, duties, responsibilities and privileges, to the country and to each other, is in the Federal Constitution. Nothing in other legislation should impinge on this.

If this is the case, isn't it time we picked up a copy of the Federal Constitution and read it? Shouldn't we teach our children how to build a stronger country together, not to litter and not to do anything that contravenes other people's rights under the constitution?

Isn't this a more constructive solution than taking photos of errant citizens and posting it on social media? I think so, and I hope you do too.

Daniel freelances in writing and fitness training, and has a deep passion for health, fitness, sleep and travel. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com