Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A road by any other name …

Hot on the heels of DBKL’s controversial renaming of Jalan Alor to Jalan Kejora comes news that my DAP colleagues are proposing that four roads in Ipoh, Tapah and Petaling Jaya be renamed to honour four party stalwarts “who have contributed greatly towards the party and the people.”

More form over substance. A road name is just a road name, a marker for a location, unless the observer has some sort of personal connection with the honoured. I drive along Jalan Yap Kwan Seng, Jalan Raja Abdullah and Jalan Tun Sambanthan everyday, roads undoubtedly named for historic personalities. But they could very well be named Jalan Satu, Dua and Tiga and I would not notice nor care for the names do not carry any significance to me.

When I was in India earlier this year and asking for directions, I was told to go down MG road. My first thought was. “Wow, (actor) MGR actually has a major road named after him!” Fortunately, before I embarrassed myself, someone said it was Mahatma Gandhi road.

I am not proud that an actor, albeit a very well-known one, took precedence in my thinking over the great Gandhi. Nor am I proud of my lack of knowledge of Malaysian history. But the fact is posters and publicity of actor MGR are part of my vivid childhood memories, whereas Gandhi was a dry entry in a text book.

Naming a road after a historical personality will have a meaningful impact only if the public feels some connection to the person. So let’s focus on the substance. Let’s teach history better for a start. I barely passed my SPM history. It was such a boring collection of facts. My memory of Melaka history, as taught in school, was having to memorise a list of Sultans from 1400-1511; the Emergency and struggle for independence were dry academic treatises.

It was only long after I left school that I came across an Economist feature that brought to life the intrigues of the spice trade and why Melaka was so keenly fought over by the European powers. Most recently, Five Arts Centre’s Emergency Festival! offered entertaining and thought-provoking perspectives on that period.

There have been calls recently for the social contract to be taught in schools again. I fully agree – our history syllabus needs a thorough revamping in content and delivery. We should not need DBKL or politicians to rename roads. Roads should only be renamed when the people speak out and ask for their heroes to be honoured.

5 comments:

Jed Yoong said...

totally agree man....
voice of reason...
keep it up...

Anonymous said...

When I read the news about DAP coming up with some changes to the road names.....I was like...."here we go again".
All this improvements are cosmetic only...pleaselah move on....
Concentrate on flood prone areas, dirty areas including eating places and wet markets, high crime rate areas.....
Start with this first than we can proudly rename some areas....sigh

Anonymous said...

Is this DAP talking. I'm pleasantly surprised.

blong

fred said...

Cant agree more!!!

Why are our people so intrigued by form over substance?

Sigh.. such is what we hear everyday.

J. D. Lovrenciear said...

What is wrong with our policy makers and the people? Between going to war over naming of roads and ensuring roads are well maintained, our focus should be the latter.

But no. It is seemingly better to waste time and money making decisons to re-name roads and us fighting over that silly decision.

That is in essence is the actual state of Malaysian politics and citizens' penchant.