|Praba Ganesan is Parti Keadilan Rakyat's Social Media Strategist. He wants to engage with you, and learn from your viewpoints. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @prabaganesan|
JULY 5 — David came around from his counter to show me some of the more interesting items in the store. He then gave me a special penny which I’ve lost since, and he also gave me the story of his involvement as a volunteer in the failed Jesse Jackson campaign for the democratic nomination to run for president of the United States in 1988.
He was very proud of being involved in the first serious campaign by a black politician to seek the highest office in his land. This man, who was a store clerk but with a broad knowledge of history and culture, was proud of his volunteer days.
It was early January in 1995, and I can’t imagine him still being at the store on the main street in Princeton, New Jersey. But watching Barack Obama’s inauguration in a similar January winter day, 14 years later, in 2009 reminded me of David as I saw Jesse Jackson among the dignitaries, weeping.
I’d imagine a middle-aged David would have been doing the same somewhere.
All these came to mind over a weekend tweet. My tweet expounded on how Malaysians can exceed all expectations and set imaginations afire. A friend asked if I was just being wishful.
No is the answer to him. All nations are only several chess moves away from a winning position. Let me move a few pawns now.
All people have dignity and a nation must protect its people’s dignity. Belief is what men with dignity require to exceed their own limitations. A country with enough people with that spirit will be successful, will be prosperous.
A country is always about promises. A nation’s wealth does not define the promises, its commitment to right does.
This is seen through its laws, that the laws show the urgency to defend human dignity.
My example of David was to show what idealism does to a person, and why it is important that it is nurtured even if the crudeness of modern life laughs at the simplicity of wanting the impossible.
A state’s basic premise must always be akin to a hopeless romantic, to quote Robert Browning, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp. Or what’s a heaven for?”
The perfection of its dreams may always elude the country, but its aspirations to it keeps its engine purring.
These walls waiting to crush us
Malaysia under this Barisan Nasional government does not approve of idealism. It never has. Those with decent intentions trying to work the system will always fail as the leadership core of the coalition have only been committed to keeping things as they are, so that it is business as usual.
This is neither unusual nor shocking, for they are feudal lords. Therefore for the longest time, we have been a feudal state. Democracy is something they manage, not something they champion.
A feudal state does not believe in the greatness of its citizenry. They’ll tell you anything you want to hear if that will shut you up.
If there was no information revolution, you would not be reading this column. The exponential growth of TV channels today is because many nations already had that many channels in the 1980s — it became too embarrassing and obvious.
The law still only allows the foreign minister and Yang diPertuan Agong to have satellite dishes not issued by Astro (belonging to the company closely associated with BN). Their newspapers have headlines that you can imagine a nanny reading to you.
The late prime minister Razak Hussein, mind you, was education minister before, and wrote the basic plans for our public schools, and then proceeded to send his children abroad during middle-school.
And this is long before the decay of our public schools system.
But these are just slash wounds on our collective wills.
It is the decades of reminding us that our worth is through them which has impaired us. Be grateful to the government of the day, which means actually, be grateful to your feudal lords.
I love my country, I love my land. Since all my countrymen can only match my love for my country, my land, why would I be grateful to any particular one of them?
We are all patriots.
They justify the bending of laws and the running roughshod over them to necessary evils to keep all of us safe.
For them civil liberties and personal space, unless for them, are too disconcerting.
They are adamant that dignity for Malaysians comes through their graces and not through laws.
When desperate they huddle together and point to the world beyond as the reason why things are bad at home. “It’s them, not us” going on and on like “Four legs bad, two legs good.”
They have started to accuse Facebook and other social media tools for the malaises enveloping our society. They are running out of bullets.
When these shackles are removed
What will the alternate reality be?
As I began, to promote belief in our people possessing dignity.
All the jingoism won’t allow belief to course through our veins if Malaysians are not granted their dignity.
The era of jobs without decent pay must end. The depressing of wages has always been the means to keep millions of Malaysians relying on government handouts — the thankful will pay with their silence.
Jobs make or break governments. But jobs with low pay, enslave and not empower the masses. As U2 put it in their song “Van Diemen’s Land”: But a day will come in this dawning age, when an honest man sees an honest wage.
The second will be seamless, a democratic voice to all Malaysians. What is already enshrined in our Constitution will see the light of day in our lifetimes.
BN’s media companies can carry on, but when corporations are free to put their ringgit where they like, then other media companies will compete in the main sections.
Imagine, no monopoly.
Finally, personal freedoms.
Though we are generally free in Malaysia, we’ve always lived with the fear all of these might be pulled away from us.
From forced confessions to the brazen overreach of moral policing. All the result of no process allowing our population to deliberate on what is permissible.
We have ended up living other peoples’ morals, while those who have decided these values for us having not to endure them themselves. All about doing as I say, and not doing as I do.
There will be no quick fixes, but talking about them will lead to us to distinguishing what is a fist in your face and what is something you don’t understand but doesn’t harm you.
Fear will take a backseat, as reason and humanity drives this society forward.
And to greatness...
I am convinced that when these conditions are met, there would be a larger Malaysian population living with dignity.
And optimism that more Malaysians will start to believe in themselves and by extension in the country again.
Far too long we’ve just been a country of people who just get by, and pray and hope that someone, somehow will win an Olympic gold medal.
We are sluggish, literally, and we are always waiting.
This new-found belief will steer the country forward.
There is no other way. It’s time to swim, not to sink anymore.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.