Bolehland Baharu vs Kiasuland Lama

A few days ago, Twitter erupted somewhat with Singaporeans and Malaysians taking pot-shots at each other. The storm was took off because one particular user, @meinmokhtar, chose the Singapore flag as the answer to his Worst Country.

From that tweet, the insult trading started, with one (pro-Singaporean) user even suggesting that @meinmokhtar be reported for hate.

What follows is my own droll contribution to the fiery exchanges, or what I’d like to call the never-ending saga between Bolehland and Kiasuland.

In 2018, Bolehland became Bolehland Baharu. In contrast, nobody wants a Kiasuland Baharu, and it isn’t clear if Kiasuland’s leadership is enjoying Bolehland Baharu anyway. What is obvious is that everyone wants Singapore to be Lama, only with more buildings, more trains, more technology, more money i.e. everybody wants more change for Kiasuland as long as nothing changes.

In Kiasuland, the leadership is (traditionally) super-smart and everyone else just follow as long as they’re making money. In Bolehland, the leadership is (traditionally) super-stupid and everyone else (especially those in sitting in kopi-tiams) believed they were smarter. But after May 2018, the leadership’s collective IQ shot up 100 points but Malaysians still believe they are smarter than the gomen.

In Kiasuland, people generally feel superior to those in Bolehland but are too polite to mention it. In Bolehland, people generally feel inferior to those in Kiasuland but are too proud to say so (except if they’re earning Kiasuland currency, then you’re sure to know). Once I was in a cab from Orchard Road to some non-Orchard place, the cabbie was dissing KL all the way. He then mockingly asked me if Johor Bahru was safe ‘nowadays’. I said yes, JB is safe─but not for Singaporeans. He kinda stopped talking after that.

In Kiasuland, the Malays are discriminated against yet the Chinese feel more victimized (“because they are Chinese”?). In Bolehland, it’s the exact opposite. Xenophobic paranoia is cross-cultural. In Kiasuland, the lions dance like they’re bored; in Bolehland, our lions can jump along stilts in reverse before delivering a somersault kick to whoever deserves it. This is why in Bolehland, the lions are world champions but in Kiasuland the lions only peel oranges.

In Kiasuland, the MRT stations are squeaky clean and the airport is a 5-star hotel with a runway. In Bolehland, the trains are only clean if nobody rides on them, and we have two airports but one of them is really a walkathon training ground in disguise.

In Kiasuland, the only things NOT modern are the artifacts in the museum. In Bolehland, the only thing modern is the names of the buildings. In Kiasuland, every building is cleaner than the year they first opened. Sad to say, more people jump off Kiasuland’s buildings than those in Bolehland because, for the former, nothing is worse than failure.

In Kiasuland, the borders are patrolled very carefully. It’s nearly impossible for illegals to go into the island undetected. But─for some strange reason─Kiasuland can’t seem to stop their own criminals running to JB on a whim. In Bolehland, our only border is the sea and the jungle.

In Kiasuland, the police are efficient though usually hidden. In Bolehland, the police are efficient only when escorting big-shots on the road (thus inconveniencing everyone else) or during the Merdeka Day parade. And no they’re not usually hidden but they sometimes like to hide in strange places, especially during pre-festive seasons.

Bolehland’s police are remarkable. They’re always inviting drivers over for tea and biscuits on the road, near tricky junctions or u-turns. I love these guys. Too bad some cars have actually refused and driven away (fast, very fast) despite being called to attend. Maybe these drivers have already had their kuih. Or maybe, just maybe, they know the cops are so busy they probably won’t bother with doing a high-speed car chase along an already congested LDP? Sure, our police could just take his license plates but as we’re probably the only country where the cops give discounts for paying summons, maybe some drivers have decided to stop caring.

Kiasuland is almost all about status and position, and everyone has a mental scorecard about who has more or better. Bolehland folks are also concerned about status and position, but most people are too distracted eating and scolding stupid politicians to keep score.

By the way, both Kiasuland and Bolehland can learn from another land: Koala-land. The Aussies, the last I went, didn’t appear as hung up on status as such. I mean, they’re always wearing clothes which resemble formal beachwear, and don’t evince that obsession with “how much I possess compared to my neighbor”. Maybe it’s because Australians always swimming or cycling or horse-riding every spare second they get. When you’re surrounded by relaxing nature and fresh air (as opposed to KL concrete and weather), maybe your thoughts don’t drift so easily to getting a bigger car than that idiot next door who just bought a Lexus?

In Kiasuland, efficiency is prized above much else. In Bolehland, people usually live like there’s more to life than being efficient — or at least the smart ones do. In Kiasuland, there’s a time, place and government department for everything except a meaningful existence. In Bolehland, all times, places and government departments shut down during the holidays which seems to make life worthwhile and─believe it or not─ nobody cares what any other country says about that.

In Kiasuland, academic excellence is non-negotiable and every school looks like a private international school. In Bolehland, we barely have enough teachers and even private international schools can look like public schools. But in Kiasuland, the price for academic achievement is a lack of options for the non-academically gifted; which could be why more Singaporean teens jump off buildings than do Malaysian teens (who, unfortunately, tend to be more into drugs).

In Kiasuland, everyone walks fast and urgently like they’re forever on the move. In Bolehland, often nothing moves (except the mosquitoes) and nobody is sure what we’re doing (not even Pakatan Harapan) so people tend to learn how to enjoy their families and each other’s company more. In Malaysia, the stronger sense of tradition ensures that family and community remain their own rewards and even if corporate earnings are not lucratively forthcoming, that hardly makes life less worthwhile. I’m not sure Singaporeans would agree.

Finally, Malaysian food is the best in the world. And there’s no better reason to stay─just ask those who left?

Edu-trainer, Žižek studies, amateur theologian, columnist.