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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nekulturny! Biadap! Kurang ajar!

Nekulturny’ is said to be one of the worse insults that you can say to a Russian.

Translated into English, it literally means ‘uncultured’ or ‘without culture’.

But in the Russian context, it carries more weight, as culture is, or used to be, the prized possession of each and every Russian.

To lose touch of one's culture, is to lose the connection to one's soul.

It was no accident that many of the greatest works of literature in the world hailed from the Russian homeland.

Home to great literary and musical figures like Tolstoy, Turgenev and Dostoyevsky, the poet Alexander Pushkin, and filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsk

Novels, ballets, films, and orchestral music dot the historical landscape of this wintry land, tales as epic as the actual history of the country itself.

Crowds reportedly pack halls just to hear poetry recitals, theaters and cinemas full to the brim.

Though some argue that nowadays, even Russia is losing its cultural identity, as modern intruders such as rock music made their way into the hearts and souls of citizens..

But to this day, ‘Nekulturny’ is still the worse of all insults.

Similar to insults like ‘hick’, ‘white trash’, 'foreign devil’ and our more familiar ‘biadap’ and ‘kurang ajar’.

In the Malaysian context, culture is one of the things we appreciate, as exhibited by the cultural diversity that exemplifies Malaysia.

But to Malaysians of whatever creed and ancestry, one thing we prize above all, including our unique diversity, is our adab, tingkah laku, budi pekerti, or to put it simply, good manners.

‘Good manners are the core of our souls’

It is also no accident that Malaysians are known worldwide as friendly and pleasant, our Klang Valley traffic commuters notwithstanding.

To us, good manners are the core of our souls, and represent not only our dignity as individuals, but also the lineage of our ancestry.

As our parents who were taught by their parents and so on, will pass to us these lessons in good manners.

To call someone ‘kurang ajar’ (lack teaching) or ‘biadap’ (rude or uncouth) is to cast serious doubt on, not only that person, but on his entire creed and ancestry as well.

While many here would say that Malaysians nowadays, especially the more recent generations, no longer care about manners, ‘biadap’ and ‘kurang ajar’ are still considered as grave insults.

And so such insults flew, I bet, when a certain video went viral recently, showing a forum speaker browbeating a university student.

Though I wonder if the people who threw brickbats at the person they no doubt labelled as ‘biadap’ and ‘kurang ajar’, saw the conduct of their representatives in the Dewan Rakyat.

The word ‘listen’ was probably not used, but the trash talk that both sides of the aisle used on a regular basis, I observed as a Parliament correspondent, amounts to worse.

Some of these so called national leaders, from both sides, were hitting out at a person for doing what they themselves regularly practice in the great House, in lieu of their duty.

While we may pat ourselves on the back after going on Twitter orFacebook to post our own contribution to the online movement to bully the speaker in question to join in the wave of support for the so called victim - a political activist who knowingly put herself before the firing line, to commendably fight for her cause, but intentional nonetheless.

We all - Pakatan adherents, BN supporters, free speech advocates, political leaders, and the public in general - are, I deem, being ‘biadap’ and ‘kurang ajar’ in endlessly shaming the person.

Many of us do not realise that if we look in the mirror right now, many of us have that same smug look that the speaker had when she berated the student.

Many of us have the same tone of voice, expression and worse, the same conviction that we are right without need for justification or consideration.

To quote Friedrich Nietzsche:

"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

HAZLAN ZAKARIA is a member of the Malaysiakini team.

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