Killing Us Softly

Once I ranted about the state of traffic jams in KK and Penampang, and a friend, in a throwaway comment, said “Biasa lah tu.” No, it is not. And there lies the crux of the problem: People (and authorities) just get used to problems that have slowly crept up to them, and they think, “Biasa lah tu.” You know what? People used to ride buffaloes to town along the now-jammed-up Kiansom road. I know—I have used the road for 57 years now.

This is what author Jared Diamond in his book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, called “Creeping Normality”— how societies have slowly destroyed themselves without noticing it until it was too late. These societies did not know that what they were doing was harmful because the affects happened very gradually. An example that Diamond uses is how the people of Easter Island were willing to chop down the last trees of a once luxuriantly forested island. The problem is very gradual process, and people often do not realise until they are in a lot of pain. Like the bliss of no traffic jams and no traffic lights (The first one in the whole of Sabah was that one in front of Wisma Muis; I know—I was there, getting excited for being stopped by a traffic light. Imagine!) being slowly erased from the collective memory of living motorists and road users.

Cheers, Rayner.

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