When being ‘nice’ accomplishes nothing
|Native Sabahan Erna is (not) Malay but loves Malay literature. Her hobbies: cats/gaming/blogging at ernamerin.com/Tweeting at @ernamh.|
MAY 9 — An argument I find rather bewildering is the notion that demonstrations are “not the Malaysian way” and any problems we have with the government should be brought through “proper channels.”
What “proper channels” exist, pray tell?
Should I, as a disgruntled taxpayer, choose to be satisfied with writing to my MP, my ADUN, and perhaps the local paper about, among many things, the NFC scandal, poor education standards, continually rampant corruption and the state of my home state, Sabah?
I’ve learned, the hard way, that sometimes being nice, polite and reasonable gets one nowhere.
You can (and should) ask politely for your dinner companion to pass you the salt, but when it comes to the government, the only way for the average citizen to be heard is to shout, preferably with company.
There is far too much self-censorship I see around me. I’m not just talking about the media — that’s one whole other kettle of fish.
But I’m tired, sometimes, of not being able to talk to a person and hear what they authentically feel or think.
I’m tired of people being too afraid to broach important issues because they don’t “want to offend.”
I’m tired of people always worrying about pleasing/accommodating everyone else.
I’m tired of people telling me what they think I want to hear, instead of what I need to hear.
I’m tired of people feigning civility or fake politeness. Among the worst people in the world, I find, are the ones too cowardly to admit they don’t like you to your face but happily tell the whole world behind your back.
It’s not that Malaysians don’t have restraint; I fear we have too much. We restrain our tongues, our minds, our thoughts, our actions in the public eye to the point where we forget how to be authentic with others. There is a fear of discourse, of stepping out of line when sometimes, we need to at least try and find where that line is.
Public demonstrations are not my thing. I blame claustrophobia and a penchant towards panic attacks in crowds. But I support the right of my fellow citizens to do what they need to do: make people understand their frustrations.
The media can’t do it for them — it has its own agendas. The politicians are usually looking out for themselves and only make grand shows of “listening to the rakyat” come election time. Pray tell me what other recourse do citizens have but to take up banners and march?
Malaysians are beginning to realise that the more they stay quiet, the less likely the status quo will change.
But some Malaysians are happy to maintain the status quo even if it benefits a select few and harms the rest.
This push and pull between the vocal and those wishing the vocal would shut up is a natural thing.
Democracy is hard. Putting up with other people is hard. Getting Malaysians to unite behind something that isn’t a sporting event is very hard.
All I can say is that the time for passive silence is over and the non-dissenting, non-vocal citizens will just have to get used to a whole lot of shouting.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist