Hot heads don’t solve anything

After the events in Perak last week, where everybody seemed to lose all sense of proportion, the appropriate thing to do now is to chill.

By Marina Mahathir (The Star)

GERTRUDE Stein the writer once said: “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” Stein lived from 1874-1946, so this was way before what we now call the Information Age. So you can imagine how much common sense we lose these days.

Nothing seemed to exemplify this loss more than the events of last week.

Everybody seemed to lose all sense of proportion and was reacting in ways that were totally unwarranted.

The chief culprit would be the police.

Why was there a need to arrest someone who was asking people to wear black clothes? Since when has wearing black been classified as dangerous?

Then we should arrest all those women in top-to-toe black burqas walking around, both local and tourist.

So wearing black was meant to be a political statement, and that was deemed offensive.

But people wear political statements on their bodies every day, whether in the form of slogans on T-shirts or even the very clothes they wear, especially on the head.

Are we going to go around and arrest everyone?

And what was the need to arrest people who bring a cake?

So you don’t like the joke. But, by any measure, cakes are not dangerous weapons, except perhaps to those with high cholesterol.

If I were a policeman with common sense, I would have taken the cake, said thank you, sent the cake-deliverers on their way, and then dumped the cake in the rubbish bin. End of story.

Instead, the police gave the cake deliverers exactly the publicity they wanted.

Even worse was the reaction towards students protesting against the arrest of their lecturer.

Was there a need for armed policemen?

Private university students are generally a docile lot, bent on getting the degrees their parents paid so much towards.

But surely loyalty to, and support for, their lecturers is something to be encouraged?

Instead they were made out to be troublemakers.

What is likely to have happened now is that those 20 students, having now observed an injustice first hand, have become politicised.

No guesses on how they will vote in the next general election.

It only got worse. People holding vigils got arrested. People sitting in coffee shops got booked. Lawyers trying to provide legal advice got taken in. Does any of this make sense?

The minister concerned may praise the police for “keeping the peace” but the cost of it is deep anger at the police and the Government, none of which will be soon forgotten.

There may be outward peace but absolutely none deep inside the psyche of the people affected, nor among the observers.

Yet how much would it cost the minister to instruct the police to exercise restraint? Nothing at all, yet it reaps greater rewards.

In fact, if anyone needed arresting, it was probably every single person inside the Perak State Assembly, regardless of political affiliation. The crime? Bringing down the dignity of the entire institution of the State Assembly.

How can screaming, shouting, trying to strangle people and tearing up money serve as a good example to the public?

Increasingly, I think the common sense thing to do is to dissolve the entire assembly, have new elections and hope that none of these people get voted in again.

What is most interesting about this episode is how information is now gathered and passed around. I followed the proceedings in Perak on Twitter, the microblogging application.

Various people were twittering up what was happening, and these were relayed to a large audience.

All this information was not only first hand but being sent out much faster than any mainstream media could ever hope to do.

The news alerts from newspapers that I received on my mobile seemed already stale when I got them.

This is the new challenge to the Government.

You can get the mainstream media to report what you want, you can try and go after blogs and online news portals, but with the advent of Twitter and social networking sites like Facebook, and individuals posting up news as soon as it happens, it is almost impossible to counter any of it at the same speed.

Even photos and videos can be uploaded right after they have been taken and passed around.

The appropriate thing to do right now is really to chill.

Everyone needs to go to a yoga class to calm down.

Hot heads never solved anything so every politician should go for compulsory head clearing sessions.

Common sense should prevail. And perhaps it will tell us that asking Perakians who they actually want to govern them is the only sensible thing to do.