It’s all because of them

By Justin Ong (The Malaysian Insider)

AUG 9 — Them; it’s such an innocuous word. In the purest sense, all it does is describe a party beyond you and me. That’s simple, isn’t it? There’s you, and there’s me, so that makes “us”. Anybody that’s not “us”, well, that’s “them”.

But nothing in life ever stays that simple. Soon, “them” becomes more than just an identifier. It starts to highlight the differences that exist between us and them. We seek these out, so that it becomes easier to know who’s who. There is now something to measure. Then, all of a sudden, it becomes a source of discontent.

We begin to notice all the things that belong to them. All the jobs that go to them. We see all their quirks, their weirdness, their “customs”, their wretched existence. The more we know them, the more we despise them.

Life would be so much better without them. We would have nicer houses, fatter paycheques, bigger cars, and fuller plates. Our skies clearer; our grass, greener; our sun, brighter. If only it hadn’t been for them.

What if we could just send them all away? Or, better still, just get rid them once and for all?

There’s really no way of knowing but it isn’t hard to imagine that one Adolf Hitler thought along those lines. If life ever gave us a poster boy for the “us/them” distinction, there has never been a better one than the moustachioed Austrian.

Beyond just thinking those thoughts, Hitler acted on them. With extreme prejudice. Anything that was not us must be eradicated, lest they be allowed to contaminate us with their filth. Today, there’s a fancier name for the manifestation of his thoughts into action. Holocaust.

Left to their own devices, there’s a part of Malaysia that secretly admires Hitler’s bravado in going beyond fiery rhetoric. In the dark, dank recesses of their hearts lurk hidden fantasies of re-enacting a modern-day Holocaust.

I was born in the Seventies so the infamy of May 13 was before me. All I know of it are drawn from the sanitised versions in school textbooks, gritty accounts from those that lived through it, and the abundance of literature that has been written of the time. While the context differs from one to another, one thing was clear: May 13 was a day of shame and sorrow, not of glorious defeat.

Any right-thinking Malaysian can only ever view the horrors of May 13 as perhaps the darkest chapter in our young nation’s history. Yet it’s obvious that some see it as a failed attempt. And that this time, this time they will get it right. The most frightening part of all this ugliness is that it appears to be given sanctioned daylight.

It’s perplexing why there is such a strong affinity for this “beggar thy neighbour” mentality. As though another’s prosperity can only mean our poverty. Their joy can only be our sorrow. Must that truly be the case? Surely not.

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