Malaysians should not be allowed to think

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Malaysia Today’s readers come in two categories. One category welcomes the new-found freedom to express themselves (though some do not quite know how to use this freedom yet and think that cursing and swearing, what the Malays would say ‘maki hamun’, translates to freedom of expression) and the other dreads this borderless freedom of expression as they feel an open passport or blank cheque to freedom of expression is too dangerous.

Granted, we are treading on very dangerous ground here. Since way before Merdeka (Independence), Malayans have never been allowed freedom of expression. In those days, the British Colonial masters would detain under the Emergency Ordinance those who spoke out against the government. Three years after Merdeka, our own Malayan leaders fine-tuned the Emergency Ordinance and called it the Internal Security Act.

This reminds me of ‘Animal Farm’, a book I would recommend all Malaysians read to better understand how the animals drove the evil humans off the farm after a bloody revolution and declared their independence where animals ruled animals and humans were no longer allowed to mistreat the animals. Three years later, just like what our own Malayan leaders did three years after Merdeka in 1960, the pigs became the leaders of all the animals and mistreated the other animals even worse than the humans did before that.

The pigs, of course, still propagated democracy and equality except that ‘some were more equal than others’ and if you are not a pig then you did not become one of the leaders. I suppose even animals with their limited brain power understood the concept of leadership in that one has to be a pig before one can qualify to become a leader.

Anyway, back to the subject of unlimited freedom of expression. Many feel that Malaysia Today should not allow this unbridled freedom as Malaysians are not yet ready for it. When then will they be ready for it? Malaysia has been independent for almost 50 years now. Do we wait another 50 years?

It is like saying that one should not drive a car because one has not yet learnt how to drive. How will one ever learn how to drive unless one gets behind a steering wheel and learn how to drive? So, to learn how to drive, one must actually drive.

Let me put it another way.

A knife is a very useful tool. Without it we cannot prepare our food in the kitchen. However, in the wrong hands, a knife can kill. Should we then ban knives and eat our food whole and uncut like a lion devouring a goat? Do we rip the food to pieces with our teeth?

A fire is required to cook our food. We cannot eat our food raw and uncooked the way animals do. Further to that, uncooked food is a source of diseases. However, in the wrong hands, a fire can kill. Should we then ban fires and eat our food raw and uncooked?

Freedom of expression can be very useful, even necessary at times. But freedom of expression, in the wrong hands, can also kill. Wrongly applied, freedom of expression can start fights, cause riots and result in racial or religious strife. Should we then ban freedom of expression and detain without trial under the ISA all those who propagate and practice freedom of expression?

Well, if we want to start banning freedom of expression, then why stop there? Thinking is also dangerous. If we start thinking we might start questioning our government or even religion. We might start asking for proof that there is a God and an Afterlife. We might start thinking that much in religion is not logical, though religion is not based on logic but on faith (and that is why we call it FAITH — such as ‘Islamic Faith’, Christian Faith’, Jewish Faith’ etc.). Should we then ban thinking as well?

Think, Malaysians, think! Where do we draw the line? Everything is dangerous. In fact, thinking is the most dangerous of all the freedoms, more dangerous than talking. A man who talks without thinking is an idiot. A man who thinks without talking could actually be planning something very evil. I would rather a man talks than thinks. At least if he talks we know what he is thinking. If he thinks without talking then only God knows what he is up to. So let’s ban thinking first before we even think of banning talking.

Anyhow, Malaysians, in particular Malaysia Today’s readers, must learn how to use freedom of expression wisely. Malaysia Today is a free forum, and it is here to stay; it will not go away. But decorum must be maintained. Do unto others as you would others do unto you. If you do not like certain things said about you, then do not say the same thing to others. Debate by all means but debate intelligently. Don’t talk just for the sake of talking. Argue with points and facts, not by name calling. And, if you whack someone, be ‘gentleman’ enough to accept that you will get whacked in return.