As the eve of “Brexit decision day“ approaches, I’ve been pondering why there’s so much nationalism and populism showing up in western democracies lately. Understanding most people on the planet aren’t at the high-end of the economic scale, frustration with large-scale cronyism, élite billionaires and corporate greed is obvious. Realizing it’s not limited to western democracies, I’ll share a perfect example of average citizens versus “the man” that’s right outside our condo’s window. Having foregone convenience by not living closer to Penang’s shopping, amenities and other things that make retirement worthwhile on the island, we chose the beach town of Batu Ferrenghi for its relative peaceful atmosphere and 360 degree stunning views of the jungle and sea. As the one year anniversary of our tenancy nears, we’re slowly losing the never ending war being waged on Penang island’s natural resources by greedy developers.
While there’s many reasons for retiring overseas from lack of gun violence to an inexpensive cost of living, quality of life issues exist on this side of the earth also and my biggest pet peeve is the burning. Proving that any democracy is only as good a the government legislating the rules, I’ve maintained that well-intentioned national laws are useless without enforcement. With a strangely misguided sense of pride, everyone from our building manager to the local food vendors tells us that burning is illegal in Malaysia. Excluding the haze season (which is mostly not Malaysia’s fault), telling us that nobody burns in Penang is about as correct as our property agent’s “guarantee” that the jungle surrounding our condo is “protected land” safe from future development. Unclear whether people turn a blind eye, are too busy to notice or simply choose to believe what their government officials tell them, it’s an outright lie. Unlike Myanmar, where we saw a real “developing nation” with rampant poverty and no waste management resources, Malaysia enjoys the highest economic status in the ASEAN but sometimes still acts like it’s still 1957 when it comes to environmental awareness.