By Prof Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi
I never knew that there was a mental health day to be honored.
That day is full of lectures and advice by 'normal' scholars and health practitioners to make sure the 25% of Malaysia's population stay sane.
However, in this article I want to turn the table around and stipulate that it's the 75% of the population that is 'mentally ill'. I will argue that our approaches to education, careers and beliefs are completely 'insane' and 'crazy'.
Now, before anyone dismisses my thesis statement, please consider the three 'insane' personalities of history.
The first was a man called Abraham who destroyed all the tribe's idols and proclaimed that these idols could not be God because they could not even defend themselves.
The 'normal' and 'sane' society was supporting these idols through the teachings of wealthy and well-fed priesthood. Abraham was declared 'nuttier than a fruitcake' and thrown into the fire.
So, Abraham was 'mentally ill' because he did not follow the norm of society.
The next guy was from Arabia. He forbade the infanticide of female babies and toddlers as part of the tradition and he gave women many rights to property and dignity. He also said that Allah was The One and not the idols which filled the ancient temple of Ka'ba.
Well, he too was considered 'crazy' and mentally ill because he did not agree with the norm and tradition of the society.
Another even crazier guy was called Sidharta, a prince wealthy in every physical and erotic sense of the words but he came to realize that these were all impermanent sensual delights, not the unchanging truths of permanent happiness and existence.
His father, the King, probably thought his son was also mentally ill as only an insane person would refuse all the honors, privileges and wealth that came with the title 'Prince of the Kingdom'.
Now let us look at our education approach and honestly gauge whether it is sane or not.
First, we set out a number system of who scores the highest mark and who is the number one achiever of the whole group. By creating the highest mark and the number one position we just alienated thousands of pupils who are not number one and who was no where near the highest mark.
Why this silly competition? Why create 95% depressed and second class pupils by creating the upper 5%? Who is the crazy one now?
Next, we have an education that places completing a subject, a course or a degree and saying that it is 'complete'. Or studying a religion and by having completed the 'basic' teachings of prayers and rituals thus one is complete and therefore 'better' than anyone who did not complete that basic teaching.
Who says that that person will guarantee a place in heaven? I have read enough to know that there is absolutely no guarantee of heaven because if there were, then that person is the most arrogant, bigoted and selfish person. Thus, who can we say who is the mentally ill one?
Let's move on to careers. Firstly, why do we tolerate and allow bosses to text you after 5pm simply because the smartphone has an app that makes it possible for you to do so? Doesn't the boss know that texting his worker at 9pm will disturb his or her sleep and cause him or her to stress about completing the assignment in their resting hours? Gilakah? Or bodohkah? The boss should be put in the mental prison or ward and the key should be thrown away!
So, who is mentally ill in this case? The worker who is stressed or the boss who does not care or the society which tolerates such things?
Next, we have a career of promotion by production of amount of tasks, products or attendances.
I still remember my wife, who was a public school teacher, telling me of a teacher who won 'guru yang tak pernah ambil MC'. I forgot whether I was too shocked to speak or whether I fell off my chair laughing!
So the teacher -- who must have gotten mild influenza, would still go to school and spread the virus to pupils and other teachers who have children -- is given a reward for perfect attendance? Who is crazy here? The education department, to me, is certifiably mentally ill.
Then, my wife told me of a teacher who got an award for the most productive activities and highest KPI. I asked my wife, is she married? No. Does she have five children? No. Does she take care of an elderly parent? No. Thus, the education department gauges a teacher with ten children or a teacher with elderly parents as equal to a young, free and unattached teacher in gauging the KPI for award and promotion.
Others would call this practice unfair. I call it stupid. But for this column, I say that this practice is mentally disturbed.
In retrospect, we, the people of Malaysia have allowed our civil servants and private enterprises to develop education attitudes, practices and promotion paths that are time bombs of mental ill health.
Now, some may say how come 75% of Malaysians seem stable? Which 75% you say? Oh.. the 75% who accept politicians who are corrupt and ill-mannered? Or the 75% who think that their religion is better than others and that heaven is only for their own group? Or are you speaking of the 75% who accept children of undocumented parents to waste their precious early life by not being allowed any education? Or the 75% who did not realize there are universities which do not know or care that their students have to climb trees to get clear internet reception for their ill-thought online examinations?
Thus, I rest my case. We should really rethink who is actually mentally ill and who is not. I promise you that the answer is definitely not to your liking.
(Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor at a local university.)