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Listen to Shahrifah Zohra ― Darren Nah

JAN 16 ― Malaysians all over the globe are pouring spiteful derision at an unknown, supercilious lady, Shahrifah Zohra, whose bubbling partisan affinities and inability to address the contentious issues posed by a contrarian student, Bawani KS (now an overnight sensation), led her to do what all noisome vixens do: Raise a whole lot of malarkey and hullabaloo about monkeys, cows, goats and, yes, even sharks.

Her bestial [pertaining to beasts] diatribe came in an interminable, rapid fire succession. Shahrifah Zohra went from calling Ambiga (a Malaysian public figure fighting for free and fair elections) an anarchist, to asking the student, Bawani, to leave the Malaysia given Bawani’s dissatisfaction, and to then doling out Galaxy Notes gratuitously to a body of passive, browbeaten students who was indifferent to the whole Orwellian mis-en-scene, and merely parroted affirmatives and clapped in support of both sides. In Shahrifah Zohra’s deluge of half-baked, quasi-educated Malay-English creole verbiage, many might mistake her fulmination to be a truculent message sponsored by the Selangor Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

However, Shahrifah Zohra does artfully credit Ambiga, the “anarchist,” with one thing: enlightening Malaysians to human rights, which in this case, it so happens to be the right of free speech. Shahrifah Zohra, of course, in trumping the right of every individual to free speech, does not hesitate to remove her opponent’s (Bawani’s) microphone, and quickly proceeds to up the volume-ante to an audibly deranging holler.

Aside from the (hopefully) non-permanent ear damage that Shahrifah Zohra’s twenty-minute harangue has caused, it is very odd that Shahrifah Zohra should undermine her own case by saying that “it is my human right to speak, and you to listen” (paraphrased).

Shahrifah Zohra‘s logic is a non sequitur. If everyone has a human right to speak, it does not follow that every human has a right to not speak when another speaks. In other words, you can’t stop me from speaking simply by saying that you have a right to speak. We can both speak at the same time, though no one would be listening. (Bawani by this time has gone back to her seat, probably fatigued by her obtuse opponent. Stupidity can be very tiring!).

In fact, Bawani’s real contention was with the lack of free education in Malaysia. Or more pointedly, the lack of quality education in Malaysia was her main complaint. Which good citizen does not complain about her own nation, not to bring it down, but to build it better?

Again, Shahrifah Zohra’s non sequitur logic resurfaces, this time in international fury! She beseeches Bawani to leave Malaysia and go to Cuba, Libya and Argentina. Shahrifah Zohra does not mention the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia, but third-world nations. In her logic, we’re meant to compare ourselves with Libya. Right. I’m sure you win a race by running with handicaps.

It is very sad (and here comes my plangent tone) that the Malaysians in the video were so indifferent. “All the students in this hall,” Shahrifah Zohra vaunts, “are happy with whatever the government does for them.” And to a great extent, this is very true. The government does too much, and the people too little, and this is how we’re silenced.

People like Shahrifah Zohra can speak with such temerity at another co-citizen simply because, she knows (and we know) that the Malaysian government can take away whatever it has given; free education, petrol subsidies, free this and free that. One can even say that Bawani, by asking for free education, indirectly empowers people like Shahrifah Zohra!

No one stops to think about the larger picture. No one talks about the appropriate role of government. Everyone talks about democracy, but no one talks about mob rule. Everyone wants things free, but no one sees the hidden charges.

Maybe this article is too harsh on Shahrifah Zohra (now alienated by her own Party), and too light on Bawani (now an overnight celebrity). Nevertheless, it is not the individuals that are bad or good, generally, but most of the time, it is the institutions of our civil and political life that lead to (wo)men like them.

People are what they are because of their surrounding influences, and in a nation where dependency is rife, one will always find the haughty superior and the rapacious dependent; and in a nation of dependent subjects, one will hardly find free men and responsible individuals.

But these are hard pills to swallow. Who doesn’t want cheap government goods, government scholarships, government medicine, government tenders, government schools, government housing? All I can ask, for those too afraid to find out the truth of the matter, and prefer attacking Shahrifah Zohra and not the system, is to, “Please listen.”

* Darren Nah reads The Malaysian Insider

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

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