Third Class Mentality: Society As It Is

Written by: Nadira Shahida Shaharuddin

“Only changes in mindsets can extend the frontiers of the possible” – Winston Churchill

Malaysia’s persistence to develop and upgrade the present infrastructure has resulted her being one of the well-developed among the newly industrialised countries. Malaysia can claim of having world class facilities in terms of highways, airports, skyscrapers and many more. However, even though Malaysia is determined to progress on her infrastructure and facilities to first class, third class mentality still prevails among most Malaysians.


In a statement made in the Ninth Malaysia Plan 2006-2010, by the former Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Dato’ Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, stated that “There is a danger of the country possess first-class infrastructure but third-class mentality. In order to pursue further growth and development, Malaysia will need to fortify its moral and ethical foundations while enhancing its mindset and attitude towards excellence and performance.” Based on the statement, it is clearly understood that in order to achieve excellence and performance, we need to enhance our mindsets and attitudes. Therefore, there is a need to nurture “First Class Mentality”. In the second thrust of the National Mission in Ninth Malaysia Plan 2006-2010, it also stated that it is very imperative to produce a society with “First Class Mentality” for the nation’s future competitive advantage in this new era.

However, the lack of basic social etiquette and manners among most Malaysians speak volumes on their mentality and social behaviour. Despite the frequent references to “First Class Mentality” in recent years, the effort of finding supporting literatures on the subject was a ‘pleasant’ surprise to find the term is used mostly only by Malaysians and a search hit on Google returns only articles by Malaysians. There are also some articles from the media that emphasised on Malaysian manners and social etiquette but sadly portraying the lack of mentality required. Even with modern infrastructure, it is disappointing to know that it does not reflect the mentality or the attitude of most citizens.

Third class mentality are evidently seen when people do not clean up themselves at public areas such as recreational areas and self-service restaurants, when people park their cars in spots that are designated for the handicapped, indiscriminately throwing rubbish, smoking in non-smoking areas, people occupy seats that are meant for the pregnant and infirm in public train or buses, the wet public toilet, and traffic offenders. The list of discourteous behaviours and bad habits can go on and on and on. In simplified words, among Malaysians there are some who lack of basic social etiquette, manners and empathy.


However, nowadays, as we turn to the local radios, community messages are being played repeatedly and most of these non-commercial ads are dedicated to promoting basic social etiquettes, ranging from obeying simple traffic rules, queuing, flushing the toilet after every use, plus many more. It is comforting to know that there are so many community messages to promote good values among Malaysians. On the contrary, is it not odd when people have to be reminded every day of some very basic propriety to conduct themselves properly in public? Why do messages remind Malaysians that the lack of basic social etiquette permits daily reminders of such basic stuff on how to behave in public? Base on what is happening in Malaysian society, yes, we do need these reminders. These reminders help to instill good values and social etiquette that could one day influence society’s behaviour.

There also have been numerous national campaigns to promote courtesy and noble values among Malaysians. Having campaigns to promote good values are well and truly essential thus it could result for people to put it into practice daily and make it a norm for them. Moreover, to practice these values, it should start in early childhood, when and where children could absorb what they learn and adopt good behaviour as well as attitude. Parents play a significant role when it comes to their children’s mental development and upbringing. With that done, all good traits fall into place in their daily life, thus developing their mentality in a positive way.

It is undoubtedly known that manners and etiquette play an important role in nurturing a society that has “First Class Mentality”. With reminders of good manners and social etiquette to society, they will be able to show their respect to other individuals in both formal or informal environments thus decreasing misunderstanding and conflict in communication exchanges and behaviours. The elimination of bad habits, embracing positive attitudes and new ways of thinking is then possible, creating the desired society.

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