Small Word Big Impact: How

Food for Thought

By Dr Chakr Nagara

Today we visit another small word – How

This is an interrogative word, and among the various contexts that we may use it, it includes “by what means”, “in what state, or condition”, “for what reason”, “by name”, “with what meaning”, “to what effect”, “to enquire as to means to resolve a problem”, and many other contexts in an interrogative intercourse.

In short, it is used to raise questions to problems or situations that has arisen to give the enquirer reason to be kept informed. In recent years we as citizens have fallen into the habit of not questioning the state of play in the various aspects of our country. We as citizens have developed the lazy habit of accepting things as they appear to be or as “explained” and “pre-digested” by authorities as gospel. This is lazy brain syndrome.

We must get out of this rut and get into the habit of asking the “how” (and the “why” and even the “wherefore”) of situations and problems that vex us. We must not allow ourselves to be lulled into accepting things at face value or as explained conveniently by those who may have vested interests and personal agendas. If we as a public, as responsible citizens, exhibit more interest and inquisitiveness, and show a healthy dose of scepticism, some of the huge problems we now face as a country could have been averted, or at least not have reached the proportions that we see now.

“How” when used often enough and by more and more citizens, will stop the sense of complacency of the authorities. It will force them to realise that the public will not take things lying down but will need to be convinced at every twist and turn. The public demands explanations that are plausible to problems and situations that irks and the authorities must feel that it is their duty to convince us. No more wool over “rakyat’s” eyes. If we had asked the “How” (and Why) to things that affected us years ago and kept on asking, we could have stopped the rot from reaching today’s magnitude.

For instance, the subject of corruption has grown by leaps and bounds, from thousands of Ringgit a few years ago to millions of ringgit only a couple of years ago, and now to the absurd and frightening state of billions of ringgit. When will it end? Are we heading toward for the trillion mark?

It is very possible that the public’s sheer inquisitiveness at every action of the authorities will make them more careful in the performance of their duties, as they will realise that they have to ANSWER for their actions and decisions. In effect there will be improved governance.

Sometime in 2008 someone came up with a “brilliant” idea of making big money and increasing the value of our national coffers. But with the absence of a questioning, and inquisitive public, things got bigger and bigger and at the same time messier. Soon the great idea was not such a great one after all. Rumour had it that some people were taking the national wealth into places which was not where it was supposed to go, strange movement of money and “units” through dubious routes. All this is the result of lack of information at the disposal of the public. There was an appalling lack of due diligence. The grand plan thus changed to a “smoke and mirror” sleight of hand. The financial health of Malaysia is now in ICU.

We must start by changing our culture of “don’t ask, don’t tell” to that of asking, asking, and continue asking. Otherwise we fall victim to those who have negative and dark intent with the unwitting assistance of those who are not capable of seeing through these dark schemes. An enlightened, honest, and inquisitive society would encourage open discourse which would move us toward good governance. Asking the “hows” and the “whys” often can be likened as points of light in a dark space. If questions are asked often and by as many as possible then there will no darkness and our country will be enlightened and our authorities will be made to provide better governance.

Ask how, ask why, ask and keep on asking even to the point of making a nuisance of ourselves. It will be good for the brain and definitely good for the country.

Dr Chakr Nagara can be contacted at

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