The Malaysia of tomorrow


Christine SK Lai, Malay Mail Online

So many things have happened. So many things continue to happen in my beloved country.  Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Many times I don’t even know how to pray anymore. I only know there is this ‘achy’ feeling in the heart. Religiously I think  it’s termed a ‘burden’. And that’s an apt description of something that weighs heavy deep within the spirit.

Who isn’t sick and tired of the politicking, the rhetoric of race and religion being shouted out every other day. We use terms like extremism and moderation. What are they ultimately but positions of self-interest? It just depends on which side of the fence you happen to be sitting on.

Everyone and anyone can lay claim to being right and being free to express that right. You are free to behave like an idiot, even to go to hell if you choose. Isn’t that what liberty is touted to be? You are free to speak what you want, act how you like, whenever you like, even if you offend another. As long as you don’t descend into ‘hate-crime’.

And what’s that supposed to mean? Who defines the boundaries? Talk to the IS champion; I am sure he will tell you he’s absolutely right since he’s just doing his job as ordained by his god. And please don’t blame god. It’s so easy to shift responsibility to god or the devil every time human beings mess up.

So who or what is to be blamed for that ‘something rotten’ in Malaysia? For once I think many of us would agree with that expression though we may not agree with the one who said it. Again depending on your angle, that something rotten can be attributed to this or that person, institution, organization, program, party, race, and of course religion (like I said, we can’t seem to leave god out of it, though we can deny his existence ever so strenously).

Heck, we don’t even know when the rot started in the first place. But it certainly seems to be getting How many of us remember the nascent hope in our breasts after GE13? How many proudly attested to their being ‘there’ on the streets during the Bersih marches? Yet just within this past one year or so, Malaysia and Malaysians have been struck with so many more unprecedented events.

From plane tragedies to dengue attacks and devastating floods to the loss of two great ‘sons’ of Malaysia. Whatever our politics, that’s how Mr Karpal Singh and Tok Guru Nik Aziz will be remembered. And whilst the highest court of the land may have rendered their final verdict on Anwar Ibrahim and put him out of sight, he certainly isn’t out of mind. One way or another, the spectre of one of Malaysia’s most charismatic leaders (the most, for some) looms beyond his prison cell.

I am not into politics but I was struck by how the opposition party seems to be hit by one storm after another these days. Some people see a (sinking) ship without a captain. But storms are surely part and parcel of life. Captains too will come and go; like all humans. As someone puts it, perhaps it’s the ending of one season and the beginning of another in Malaysia.

When all the old must be removed before the new can be ushered in. That’s not to discredit or denigrate the old in any way. Without the seed being planted, without the old digging, laying foundations and paving the way, there would be no new to speak of. So we must salute and honor the old. But we don’t put people, parties or organisations onto pedestals. Yes, they may be heroes. But heroes are meant to be emulated for their good points, not followed blindly, for even heroes can fail and fall. After all, one person’s hero can be another’s devil; which is pretty much the way freedom of perspective functions.

We do it all the time, consciously or unconsciously, all in the name of freedom of course. So one race is just out to suck you dry. Another is too lazy to work. One party is just too religious. The other is corrupt. We are so quick and great at pointing out each other’s faults.  At our cell group meeting, whilst we contemplated the state of our nation, a challenging question was asked, what’s one good thing you can say of this/that other race? I am ashamed to say we had to think hard on that one. But once we started thinking, there were answers forthcoming which proves there is always something good if we look hard enough, no matter.

So we mused on whether the road to unity can begin by capitalising on the good of one another, instead of forever harping on each other’s bad. If we could recognise, support and build on each other’s strengths instead of finding fault and condemning another’s weakness, maybe just maybe we can overcome our inherent prejudices one against the other and work towards a common goal – to see all Malaysians prosper. Let’s be honest and admit it: which race doesn’t harbour prejudices or at the very least entertain stereotypes regarding another?

When will we, can we, stop labelling each other? Malay, Chinese, Indian, Orang Asli. Pro-this, anti-that. Moderate or extremist, what’s the point? To count who’s the majority, who shouts the loudest? If you are the majority, so what? Does that make your view more right, more acceptable? Lest we forget, for all the talk about democracy, a 51 per cent majority still means there is a 49 per cent minority who doesn’t want to agree with you. Like the saying goes, talk is cheap. Anyone can talk, good or bad. And no one can make everyone happy.

But surely nationhood isn’t about talking; it is a doing thing. It’s not about happiness; it’s about living together well in spite of differences. It’s about being part of a family whose members can quarrel but still make up at the end of the day, because all in the family are bound by a love that goes beyond self-preservation and self-interest. Where every member recognises it’s not about vying for top position or power within the family, but about every other member deserving the best of and from each other.  As long as we insist on hollering from opposite sides of the fence, demanding all the time for ‘our’ rights, we are just going to end up deaf. We might as well start throwing stones at one another next. And so as they say, never the twain shall meet…

Maybe I am just getting old, rounding the wrong half of a century, and certainly I’m weary of the same old same old issues thrown up like smelly vomit of the sick. No wonder God destroyed the earth with the greatest flood when He got thoroughly fed-up of all the evil that men did back then, leaving behind only a remnant of 8 persons to rebuild a new world.

It would be so easy to destroy Malaysia; and no, it doesn’t involve God. He’s not the ‘bad guy’. If we don’t know it by now, actually we are our own worst enemies. What will it take to wipe off all the stinky rubbish from the old slate so that a better story can be written over? Is there a new  generation of thinkers, movers and doers out there who can and will rise to the challenge, not of fighting, but of building peace across all fences for the Malaysia of Tomorrow? Now that’s something I can pray for. God willing, I hope to see it in my life-time.