What can one man do?
MAY 23 — I ask myself that question because in the recent turn of events — the butt exercise exhibition, pelting of eggs and another Bersih 4.0 to clean all previous Bersih(s) — I am reminded of how easy it is to get disillusioned with things back home.
It isn’t the “I’m done with you!” sort of disappointment, but rather a thinly-veiled fear that comes with multiple sighs. This isn’t the direction that I want Malaysia to go — a country so caught up in the heat of things to the extent that we forget that the freedom to disagree doesn’t necessarily mean we have to be disagreeable. But what can one man do about it anyway?
I could string together a few sentences in an article decrying the aggression of it all, but then the sceptics (as they always do) would simply brush it aside under the guise that it’s all talk and hardly anything substantive. Sure, there are ways to respond to such an impasse, but at times beneath that armour of resoluteness lie moments of quivering doubt that the sceptics could have a point after all.
I’m sure my experience isn’t singular and the tales that I’ve encountered with my peers are of those who want to make a difference but are paralyzed by the enormity of the challenges that engulf Malaysia. They just don’t know where to start. And it doesn’t help that our national politics have a greater tendency of eliciting nausea than a sense of public service.
Studies have shown that people tend to be more disheartened and put off by problems that are too massive in scale. It is my opinion that that is one of the main reasons why we seem to churn out people who have a greater tendency of standing by the sidelines.
The questions posed to the public are often framed in terms of grand strokes from the likes of “What have you done to eradicate corruption?” to “What can you do to change our education system?” If those questions don’t scare you — kudos! But I know many who will freeze or run for cover.
One of the things that have always amused me over here in the United States is how some could be so worked up and persistent about matters that seem so trivial in the grand scheme of things. For example, pressing for a hearing to change the street lamps of a college town into LEDs or protesting across the New York Central Park over the stench of horse droppings.
But I guess their minds are wired very differently. To them, nations are built and changed from the collective of many seemingly insignificant actions. The primary concern is the participation in the process of nudging their nation into a more perfect union that matters, and not necessarily the subject matter of their contention.
So, no, Bersih 3.0 or politics aren’t the only avenues to make Malaysia a better place, especially if it’s not your cup of tea. It could be making sure your municipal council ensures that your rubbish is picked up on time, or joining your neighbourhood watch to ensure the safety of your home.
These actions may not seem much, but they add up in their own unique ways. The most important thing is to understand that while others are free to tell you what they think, you are under no obligation to subscribe to a pre-fixed view of activism. Don’t ever be bullied into subscribing for a line of action at a pace that you are not comfortable with.
So what can one man do? A lot. It all boils down to what you’re comfortable giving.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.