We Have No Time for Boomdiboomdiboom

[IA’s note: The title of this post refers to the social media viral campaign of the same name]

I am not an activist. But there are issues that I am interested in and I advocate. In today’s time and age, misinformation (or half of an information) is sexier than whole truths and we often miss the mark because we are seduced by the flavour of the day.

Despite rebuff and criticism from some quarters who feel that by sharing my story I lose my sincerity and credibility, I’d rather be thought that than allowing other people to be my voice.  So go on, critisize me all you want.  Life’s too short to worry about hate mails or who will be un-friending me on facebook or twitter.

Feel free to disagree. Peace!

Update: By request, here is the link to An NEP Beneficiary’s Side Of The Story which was published in 2009.

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[Re-worded from two separate posts in facebook. To make this readable to all my non-BM speaking friends, I have translated the entire post into English]

I read everything. I read about the outrage, the protest, the call for transparency. I read them all.

I even read an article written by a reader that was posted on Malaysian Insider (see here).

I don’t agree with her tone and the way she worded her thoughts. In fact, I don’t agree with most of the sentiment echoed by well-meaning citizens who are offended and outraged by the GE13 outcome and the “Tsunami Cina” label.

For me, the path to change is in moderation and in time. Political awakening in Malaysia is young. Such words, angrily typed in the name of justice, could tear the country apart and encourage divisiveness rather than inclusiveness. Reading her piece, I wonder if she can relate to how the majority of the population lives. Working with all these big names and listing down her achievements and those that she has the pleasure to reject is impressive. But…

Have you worked in a factory earning minimum wage? Sell nasi lemak? Worked as a farmhand in a chili farm? Bathed in well water and live without electricity? Have you ever tapped rubber or break your back carrying palm fruits? Ever sat in a government hospital for hours consoling parents with kids that have terminal illness because they didn’t have the money to get better or private healthcare? Saw people die from tuberculosis when this disease should have been eradicated from the country?

Have you ever intervened and stopped a bloody fight between multiple races? Helped accident victims in an area that are mostly populated by people of the other race? Have you sat at the same table with the hardcore poor, saw them cry when all you could do for them was help fold their laundry or teach their kids to read? Have you ever given money to your office cleaning lady because she didn’t have any in order to use public transportation because her salary was gone within the first week of receiving it?

I have. Those were incidences in my life, not just a home placement or homestay experiences of an urban kid who spent 5 days living in a rural area. I have lived that hard life. I come from a rural background.

And no, I don’t identify with the writer’s sentiments.

Unity starts with embracing the good, the different colours, as well as the bad guys.

Why would we want to create a common enemy in the form of the current government? If we start thinking of the government as the “enemy” then we will never be able to move forward. Love thy neighbour, yes? If he is in the wrong, let’s help to show him the way. But not by witch-hunting and burning him at the stakes.  Emotions are high and it is irresponsible to do this thinking that no one will “pay” the price. This “us against them” sentiment is archaic and irrelevant, especially when uttered by this bright young, progressive Malaysian, this top two-percenter.

The fact is, “we” and I use inverted commas as I do not consider myself part of this “we”, think that we speak and feel for the majority of Malaysians just because we are enlightened and smart and educated.

The truth is, as of today only 82% of our students finish SPM; 32% drop out for whatever reasons. And out of 29 billion rakyat, less than 29.7% are able to go to university (we are not tracking how many dropped out etc). So if you translate this into the number of “aware” voters, the number becomes very very small; the math is the same if you compare rural vs urban voters. “We” think we are big because we are loud and vocal, but we are not. And the way to open the eyes of the majority of the population to accept change and reject bad practices like race politics, corruption bla bla bla is not through using sentiments and rousing their anger.

I reject that.

Firstly, the rural majority have real issues like how to put food on the table, so they will respond to the party that gives them money to vote. Money politics is despicable, but the reality is, these people need money more than they need ideals. Politics is expensive, if you don’t know that already then you need new advisors or consultants. If you want to win these rural voters, you have to show how you can improve their economic and social conditions. This is why BR1M works because it goes straight to the heart of the situation. It is a temporary solution, after all how far can RM500 go, but that RM500 probably helped a mother feed her children for a month and pay off some debts. Would that be reason enough for her to vote for whoever she likes? Yes. It is her vote after all, why would you want to quibble and deny her of her rights and call her stupid just because she chooses with her stomach?

If we want to show we can govern better, we need to address grassroots issues and provide real, PHYSICAL solution, not just theories because theories can’t be eaten. We can’t govern better by mud-slinging and insulting each other, or by critisizing for the sake of critisizing. Look, if we love the nation and our countrymen, we should think and come up with ideas to help improve the socio-economic conditions of 70% of us who are still behind its urban counterparts. Why do we need to ask for policies and subsidies that will further the interest of the 30% urbanites who already can afford a lot of things on their own? We should look back, and see for ourselves how the majority lives, and instead of condemning the Government, wouldn’t it be more productive to provide solutions so that these 70% can some day say “I could have chosen not to come back,” and proudly hang degrees from France on their living room walls just like you do?

Secondly, there will always be the hot-headed bunch among us; those who equate fighting with rebellion. These people, pure as their intentions may be, misguided under the banner of patriotism, can misunderstand our tone and message and think it is a call for a revolution. I was there when the opposition party was first formed. The so-called “peace” march along Jalan Raja Laut that turned into a bloody mess. I was also there during the Indian-Malay altercation in year 2000 at Old Klang Road where both sides started to bring  machetes and just slashed anyone who was on the road if the person was Malay/Indian. I remember the A&E in University Hospital where the lobby was flooded with blood, I cradled one of them in my lap – 5 were killed, 37 injured and 153 arrested in four days, 96 weapons were seized including eight homemade bombs, machetes, knives, samurai swords, catapults, chains, steel pipes, batons and axes. And it all started over something so small: an drunken Indian guy accidentally kicked a chair at a Malay wedding and then ran away to the Indian funeral nearby to hide. It was not even something as big and as emotional like race relations or politics, it was just about an overturned chair!

Play the race card, and we will pay a heavy price.

It takes very little to turn an ordinary person into a violent one. Mob mentality is very dangerous, very real and very powerful. All of us need to be bigger and larger than this, and look beyond the Tsunami Cina comment and race politics and who won what.

If people start kicking and slashing each other on the road, do you think they will stop and say “Are you a BN or PR supporter?” before they slash your neck or hit you or smash your car windscreen? They will do it without question just by looking at your race. As long as Chinese, we kill; or as long as Malay, we kill; as long as Indian, we kill; as long as Bangladeshian, we kill et cetera. Sorry for putting it so blatantly that way.

No, in fact, I am not sorry.

So I reject all the writer’s outrage and claims that she is not an ingrate.

I reject them totally and completely.

She does not speak for THIS intelligent, highly productive, top two-percenter.

I think the way to show we love our fellow countrymen is in the act of doing so. Not by branding those who do not agree with our political leanings the enemy. This “If you are not with me, you are against me;” war cry has to stop and has to stop now.

There is an old folks saying that reads don’t play with fire.  You want love, you show love; not by forcibly twisting people’s arm to change and accept your point of view. Words can hurt more than you can see.

People think I am radical and progressive because of the way I am. But actually I am just practical. Not everything can be accomplished with anger and by speaking loudly. Everything has a price. In the corporate sector, in order to voice my objections, I had to take myself out of the game. I paid that price and I am glad I did. But we are voicing our objections over something larger; the price will be much much higher and much much more damaging. We should know better. We cannot call ourselves justice-seekers if we are not pacifists ourselves.

My non-partisan stand does not mean I love the country and my fellow countrymen less than you do. Your outrage does not mean you speak for me or for people like me who climbed our way from our rural existence to become a top two-percenter.

You want change? Roll up your sleeves and do the heavy lifting together with the Government and the opposition and everyone else. Don’t  just furiously type an article to convince people how smart you are. This is not a “Follow The Leader” game. This is a game of you and I working together to build a Malaysia that we can be proud of.

Start small. Look within your circle of influence. Let’s not argue about macro issues; let’s solve the problems in our neighbourhood first. Feed the homeless. Sponsor an orphan to get through school. Read to children. Practice civic-conscious behavior.  Support  our sports team and the arts. Get to know the name of the cleaning ladies in your office. Buy local products. Be kind to waiters. Smile. If you don’t have the time and means for anything else, the least you could do spread a message of love and unity, rather than one of hate and anger.

EVEN SUNSHINE BURNS.

So there. Use your intellect for that.  I challenge you. Because frankly, we have no time for boomdi boomdi boomdi boom boomdi boomdi boomdi boom.

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IA’s Note:

I would like to add a little here. I am not invalidating the writer’s feelings or opinion; nor am I saying that what she is saying is wrong. I am merely stating that I am choosing a different approach than hers and that she is not speaking on my behalf. I have my own voice.

I don’t believe we need to serve in a government agency, or in a think tank, or in PIBG etc in order to initiate change. We don’t have to be in a position of great power in order to be a better member of the society.  I don’t believe that I have to wait for someone else to solve these problems. UBAH starts with me, not with politicians be them from the opposition or ruling party. In myself lies the solution, and I am harnessing that power no matter how small to make a difference, hopefully lasting ones so that those walking after me will experience a kinder, more caring society regardless of creed or colour.

I do not agree that the Westerners have better ethics than us Easterners. Asian values, culture and principles all advocate moderation, truthfulness, diligence, honesty, inclusiveness, humility and above all else, respect and love for one another. I think we should choose whichever that work for us, without diminishing the other, or claiming that one is a superior/inferior culture.

And lastly, I consider being given the opportunity to serve the government as a great privilege and a great honour. If there are wrongdoings in there, as a strong, vocal and intelligent Malaysian, it is your duty to try to right these wrongs. If, for whatever reasons, you had to throw in the towel, it simply proved that change is difficult and time and patience-consuming; and all the more reason we need to be united on all fronts in order to push the change agenda.

We are not enemies. We are comrades. We may have different strategies, but we have the same end goal. Just breathe. You will see that you are stronger and more capable than you thought you were and that the power of change, truthfully, honestly, is in our small, collective hands.

-END-

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