Teach our children well

We must admit that one part of our society is moving backwards from our avowed aim as a multicultural, tolerant society 

WE NEARLY burned down the kitchen last week. We were trying to toast bread using a blowtorch, as per the instructions of a recipe we found on the Popular Mechanics website. 

The idea is not as ridiculous as it sounds — apparently people use blowtorch to toast bread all the time, especially if they’re reading Popular Mechanics and would surely have one of those flame throwers around. 

Heck, cordon bleu chefs use blowtorches in the best kitchens in the world, so please lower that eyebrow. 

Why were we following recipes off an American magazine that publishes “articles on home improvement, automobile maintenance and new advancements in technology and science”? 

It is because I am researching for new stuff to interest my grandkid, so that she can experience real things and not fall into the faux life of social media. 

Right now, being only three, her exposure to the Internet is limited to Blippi and Dora the Explorer, but waiting in the wings just round the corner are the evils of modern telephony — Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Shopee and God forbid what else in the future — ready to pull her astray. 

So, we are going to distract her from all those evil Internet stuff by giving her real experiences, which currently is things to do while camping. 

There is nothing like getting bitten by bloodsuckers while being drenched by a tropical rainstorm to teach experience. 

Anyway, I got off with just singed hair and a lot of smoke, but the incident is an illustration of how easily we can get carried away using information off the Internet, especially when it is as easy as turning on your phone. 

People have always been doing crazy things since time began, like bell-bottom jeans and platform shoes, but they were never destructive like now. 

The real craziness began when they introduced the front-facing camera and the selfie videos were born sometime in 2012 when Instagram came into life. 

At first, it was all fun and games as we updated each other of what we ate, or wore with whom, you know fun things. 

But recent events have shown that social media is no longer a safe place for us in Malaysia. 

I was taken completely aback when a hung Parliament pushed some disturbing content on social media recently. 

The hate and anger shown by our young in these nebulous days after the elections revealed an underground groundswell of kids having some strange and destructive ideas in our country. 

We weren’t ready to see some fresh-faced kids spewing untruths and fear-mongering on our timelines or FYPs in the name of race and religion. 

But there they were, encouraged by politicians who should know better than poke a stick at this reservoir of resentment that hide in our midst. 

Things were going the wrong way fast that the police took it seriously enough to mount their Operation Omnipresence countrywide. 

The police presence and a few arrests later have pushed the narratives underground again, but it is never far from the surface and a long-term plan to address this situation must come soon. 

But first we must be aware and admit that one part of our society is moving backwards from our avowed aim as a multicultural, tolerant society. 

Once that is done, we can start weaning our children off that destructive pseudo-experience of the Internet. 

Just don’t burn the house down in the process. — pic Bloomberg

ZB Othman is an editor at The Malaysian Reserve.

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition