Inevitably, when one travels, unconscious comparisons are made between holiday and home. This is human nature, but does not normally become any more than idle thoughts in one’s mind. However, having just returned from an extended trip to Colorado, USA and Alberta, Canada and because of certain events that have happened here during the holiday and within the first 24 hours of my return to Ipoh, I am prompted to write about the different attitudes to life in First World North America and Third World Ipoh in the hope that we in Ipoh can resolve to do better. Having said that please understand that I am not saying that everything in North America is perfect – it is not. They have their problems as well, but overall they do seem to have a more pleasant attitude to life than we do.
So let us start with our attitude to other people’s property. The home of friends where we stayed in Colorado is isolated a few miles out of the town and out of sight of any other house, but when they go out they do not lock their door – and have not done so for the last 15 years – ever since their young son broke the key in the lock. Yet nothing has been stolen! In Ipoh we have grills and multiple locks but still housebreaking is a very common crime. To demonstrate the point, while we were enjoying Colorado, our water meter and associated piping was stolen, leaving precious water gushing out until a plumber could be called by our neighbour.
On the same subject, those in Alberta who have open-backed trucks always leave their supermarket shopping in clear view there while they complete their errands in adjacent stores and yet it does not get stolen, but while shopping in Ipoh (at Jusco Supermarket) less than 24 hours after arriving home, my wife’s empty, recyclable shopping bag was stolen from her trolley. How small minded can one get!
Then there is our attitude to road safety. In Alberta, as soon as one places a foot on a marked pedestrian crossing, all traffic stops for you. At junctions where there are no marked crossings or lights, again one foot on the road is all that is required to halt the traffic. But we in Ipoh do it differently. Within an hour of arriving home I was half-way across a marked crossing when two cars raced past just inches away, one in front and one behind me. Fortunately I am still here to tell the tale.
Now what about our attitude to indigenous people? In Canada they call the Red Indians the “First Nation”, never “Indians” or “Natives”. They are respected members of society, treated equally alongside others. They own their ancestral lands and take part in everyday life. Where tourism is involved they are particularly welcome and keep alive their traditions for the benefit of the country. More than one third of Calgary’s museum is dedicated to their culture. True, on the reservations they do suffer from the historical problem of alcoholism, but much is being done to try to overcome this. Need I mention our attitude to the Orang Asli? I think not!
Next there is the environment to consider. In Alberta despite there only being one garbage collection a week and that limited to two bags unless you pay extra, there are no illegal rubbish dumps and the streets are clean. There are recycle bins absolutely everywhere and people use them constantly. The council has also set up hygienic recycling centres where citizens can take their paper, cans, glass and plastic and get paid for them. As part of the project the garbage collection men actually refuse to collect garbage that is fit for recycling. Why are we so different? It is our environment too!
Finally there is our attitude to heritage. Alberta’s modern history goes back just about as far as Perak’s and yet their major cities are thousands of percent more developed than ours, but they still value heritage. Where development is necessary for the good of the people they consider heritage first. But that does not mean zero development. In the smaller towns areas are classified as heritage enclaves where development is prohibited in much the same way as Penang is striving to achieve. Other planned development is allowed up to a specified population density.
In Calgary, a city of about one million, there is nothing but high-rise in the centre, but as far back as 1964 the City fathers nominated a 127 acre green-field site to be their heritage park (http://www.heritagepark.ca/virtual.htm.) As necessary development goes ahead, historic old buildings are moved and rebuilt in the park, lock stock and barrel. This project has continued for 46 years and in 2009 two more buildings joined the others, an art deco service station and a late 18th century, small wooden Synagogue. This park must be the best ‘living history’ museum in the world and with its 1,200 retirees employed as costumed guides it draws millions of visitors every year. Back in Ipoh we have discussed a Tin Mining Heritage Park or gallery for many years, without one jot of progress! Why?
Ipoh Needs Your Support
I have written this expecting to be told “Well if you don’t like it here, then go somewhere else.” The problem is that I do like it here and do everything I can to support our city, but I am concerned that the quality of life in Ipoh continues to deteriorate. Something positive must be done to bring us up to the 21st century living standards so often found elsewhere, both inside and outside Malaysia. Why should we fall further behind? To me the lesson is clear, attitudes must change at all levels; Government, the Civil Service, the City Council and the people of Ipoh, you are the key. If you stop condoning these ills; violence and theft, road bullies, mistreatment of others, environmental vandalism and a disregard for heritage, much of which often involves profiteering, you can make the change. A concerted and genuine effort in this direction would allow us to leave the Third World behind us and join the First World, but it needs your support – each and every one of you.
Ian Anderson, retired Royal Naval Commander and permanent resident of Malaysia, is the man behind ipohWorld, a history preservation organisation based at the Ipoh International School in Perak.
This active 71-year-old British who is passionate about Ipoh, devotes most of his time managing ipohWorld which was established to promote awareness and appreciation of Perak and its unique, diverse and rich heritage. The education-based, not-for-profit organisation has its particular focus on Ipoh and the Kinta Valley.
Since its inception in 2004, the organisation has collected a broad variety of items and information on Ipoh and Perak from worldwide sources. ipohWorld goes through a systematic method of disciplined recording and preservation of old photographs, documents, interviews, artifacts, books and videos. These are archived in the organisation’s digital image database available for public viewing through its website (www.ipohworld.org). A total of 4,700 items have been secured in the database thus far.
Ian is often seen regularly traversing around town – from the markets to the city council, more often than many locals. One high-ranking civil servant once had this to say about Ian, “Here is a man who cares more about Malaysia than most Malaysians.”