Saturday, March 24, 2018

Kurang ajar - The loss of collective memory

The origin and purpose of ancient structures such as the Pyramids, Stonehenge, Nazca Lines, Easter Island and so on is lost in time. We have no idea why the old human communities used so much resources and expended so much time to build these monuments. There has been a loss of collective memory.

Sometimes we get lucky. Someone presciently decided that etchings carved into stones might preserve the written thoughts and observations of the time. Thus, from the confluence of Tigris and Euphrates we learnt from the etchings on the stone tablets of Gilgamesh and his epic saga. 

What of humankind in the 21st century? Imagine a dystopian scenario where a plague took out most of humanity. The infrastructure is intact. But with no one left to maintain them, all machines and means of production will become useless and non-functioning.

How would humankind keep its collective memory and knowledge?

In such a scenario it is likely that the collective memory and knowledge will be mostly lost in two generations. The third generation will have very little memory and knowledge to acquire.

One generation averages between twenty to twenty-five years. 
Malaysians born today will be the third generation.

How much of the collective memory has been lost already?

I was in a business meeting a few days ago. One of my business partners who is in his mid-thirties expressed incredulity that Sabah and Sarawak would require work permits. "Aren't they part of Malaysia?", he asked. Bewildered.

In a non-derogatory context, one might say (or, think) in an avuncular tone, that after the first generation, Malaysians in the following generations are increasingly, kurang ajar.

There is much ignorance borne of indolent minds that has very little curiosity about anything except that which Facebook, Twitter and Instagram fobs into the smart device in hand.

And, it isn't just about the formation of Malaysia. It's about how our Founding Generation wanted to work together and live together in happy harmony; Asiatics who are independent from colonial rule.

How quickly we forget.