Beyond Government and Opposition: The Human Side

Hate only begets hate. Fear only begets fear. We’re not homogenous sheep. We’re human and it means we will have differences of opinion and ideology. If we can accept that our differences are not unique in time and space, we will understand that it is virtually impossible for us to ever have similar views on anything.

Mohd Ikhram Merican

There was once a farm with many animals in it. The animals, not very happy with their human master, are incited by 2 pigs to revolt. After chasing the human ‘parasite’, the animals rename the farm and adopt 7 commandments, one of which is: “All animals are created equal.”

Gradually the pigs become overlords of the farm, subjecting the rest of the animals to more terrible conditions than their human master had. But the animals ignore the corrupted machinations of the pigs until one day, it is too late. Now, “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

The Animal Farm is a revolutionary book that amongst other things exposes the danger in indifference towards corrupt leadership and blind obeisance to political masters. There are so many parallels to The Animal Farm in the context of Malaysia today. Whatever your position in the political sphere, we cannot and should never be reduced to soulless zombies, just another cog wheel in a malfunctioning system.

We must celebrate our humanity through an appreciation for our intellect, which comes preloaded, with a conscience. Without it, we become animals in the proverbial Animal Farm.

So what does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be a discerning individual with a conscience? I can’t tell you what it is exactly, but I can give you some examples.

It is about respecting one another, it is about being tolerant of one another, it about protecting your fellow humans from harm, it is about being judicious, it is about accepting different views, it is about empathy, it is about the pursuit of the truth, it is about being dignified in defeat and magnanimous in victory, it is about common sense. These are but a few examples yet I’m sure they provide a basis for understanding humanity in its broader context.

These examples are yardsticks to be applied in the context of our lives, not glitter to be fancied on occasion. They are precious to our advancement as a civilization. They are important if you want to encourage progress in our society. They are vital if you value your right to freedom of thought, speech, and association.

When we have thugs intimidate and heckle students in Dataran Merdeka while the police drag their feet at any action, we cannot afford to keep mum about it. When a minister says the students deserve it, he is chiselling at the foundations of that great pillar called humanity. The students were expressing an opinion. Whether you believe in their purpose or not, should we accept that a group of thugs can march into the heart of Kuala Lumpur and threaten a group of students?

Are we to tolerate bogeymen opening burger stalls in front of a lady’s house because she is the chairperson of Bersih? The bogeymen’s reason for this invasion of privacy and intimidation tactic? They lost RM 200,000 in potential revenue. I remind you again, we are intellectual animals. Any gathering of large crowds is always good for business. It is why burger stalls converge at stadiums during football matches. This is not about lost revenue. This is about sending Datuk Ambiga a message through intimidation. Whether you agree with Bersih or not, this should not be allowed to happen to any citizen of Malaysia. Why? Because we are a civil society and our conscience must weigh on us as human beings.

It is sad that when someone like Tunku Aziz expresses an opinion, he is condemned with damning words by the very same people who preach for freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is the right of every human being. It is not and should never be exclusive to any group. Tunku Aziz’s opinions were lauded when he was critical of the government yet when he stuck to his principles, and differed in opinion with his party, he was lynched in the blogosphere.

Politics is changing Malaysia and I fear that we’re being consumed by an unhealthy mob mentality. Let me share a story about mobs. One day, I witnessed a police car chase in front of the Curve in Mutiara Damansara. The suspect who was driving a silver Waja tried to cross over a divider in vain. His car was lodged on the divider and could move neither backward or forward. Realizing that he was stuck, the suspect alighted the car and ran on foot. As 2 policemen chased after him, on foot too, an angry mob caught hold of the suspect and pinned him down.

As the mob grew bigger, so did the anger. I observed as young men ran up to the pinned down suspect and kicked him or spat on him. They did not know what the suspect had done wrong. In the frenzy, people who had no reason to be raving mad at the suspect were going wild. Even I was consumed with anger. Social psychologists call this “herd behaviour” or “crowd hysteria”. It affects even the best of us.

Fortunately, we have a conscience. We intuitively know right from wrong. We are able to empathize, something no other animal is capable of. It is why we do not have to succumb to a mob mentality. Every Malaysian should have his freedom as enshrined in our constitution. She should be able to support the ruling government or the opposition. She should be able to hold on to her principles. If you do not agree with her, disagree with civility. If you can, engage in healthy debate.

Hate only begets hate. Fear only begets fear. We’re not homogenous sheep. We’re human and it means we will have differences of opinion and ideology. If we can accept that our differences are not unique in time and space, we will understand that it is virtually impossible for us to ever have similar views on anything. However, there are certain values that hold universal. We immediately know that corruption is wrong. We know violence is wrong. We know we should not tolerate racism.

In the end we should all be united in preserving our humanity. Allowing the ends to justify the means is never a good thing. It is healthy that so many of us are becoming concerned with how the country is run. It is wonderful that we’re becoming involved with the politics of our country. Yet, politicians don’t guarantee our rights. It is us citizens who do that. Our politicians are a reflection of us. They represent all that we are willing to tolerate and overlook. They represent the extent to which we’re willing to stretch our values.

Lest we become another Animal Farm, we should start calling a spade a spade and condemn any breach of our collective conscience. Whether you’re Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat, we can stand united in this. Let our humanity take precedence over our political differences.