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Thursday July 16, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday July 16, 2015 MYT 7:23:30 AM
by marina mahathir
Changing society: Many ordinary Malaysians are stepping up to change society and help one another, often a step or two ahead of the Government.
It’s great to meet youths who want to change things.
I’VE been told that recently I’ve become strident and fierce in my columns. This was a bit of a surprise; I thought I’ve always been fierce and strident. But I suppose my readers see a noticeable uptick in the tone of my columns these days, hence the comments.
Is it surprising though? I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s holding my head in despair at the endless drama that our country is experiencing daily these days.
It would be one thing if it were a drama where everyone goes home happy at the end of it. But here we seem to slide from bad to worse, on a greasy slope with no brakes.
I’m not going to comment on the “high-level” goings-on since that is well covered everywhere. Except to say thank God for the alleged “whistleblowers” and “leakers” whoever they might be because if it were not for them, we would still be in the dark, not realising that our entire carpet is being pulled from under us. There must be some people with a conscience after all who can no longer tolerate the blatant disregard for our people anymore.
I was talking to some young people recently who want to spread the “virus” of positivity among our people because there is so much negativity around that it cannot be good for anyone. It’s wonderful to meet young people who are not yet jaded and disillusioned and who have the energy to want to change things.
They are right; there is too much negativity around, coupled with apathy that is unproductive. We complain endlessly but forget that complaining by itself does nothing except make others complain, too.
Indeed, while it is certainly part of the Malaysian make-up to constantly grouse about something or other, of late it’s taken a mean-spirited tone as well. There is undoubtedly much to complain about these days but at the same time there are many Malaysians, mostly ordinary people, who are doing many things to change our social landscape, to make it more open and accepting, to build peace and create harmony in our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious mix.
Some of these efforts may be one-off, some may take a while to bear fruit, and some may not work at all. But far more important than the immediate results is the process of engagement with one another towards a common goal through an event, shared interests or anything else that brings people together.
We’ve seen ordinary people step up so many times over the years, to help one another, to show that Malaysian citizens are so much better than their failing and flailing leaders. We’ve banded together to help those affected by the floods in Kelantan, we feed the homeless, we’ve demanded a humanitarian response to the boat people floating about in the Indian Ocean. Always a step or two ahead of our Government.
Yet I see people being unkind and mean spirited about these efforts for unexplained purposes. If people are doing good, why put them down? What are those who are willing to roll their sleeves up and help others doing that might affect those who do nothing, except perhaps make them feel some shame for their own inertia?
Is the cynicism about everything so bad that we can’t even differentiate between sincere and insincere efforts? Or is it just our addiction to putting down everything others do as simply a craving for publicity?
I don’t blame our cynics entirely. After all we look to our leaders to set the example of good behaviour. When they completely fail us, how can we complain when our people do the same? How can we excoriate anyone for thinking wombats and pigs are the same when we don’t have leaders who display any higher level of knowledge anyway? How can we check those who pass on unfounded rumours of racial riots when some of our leaders are often quick to do the same? When our leaders are silent on these issues, how can anyone feel optimistic that reason will prevail?
We’re all looking for positive inspiration these days and yet it’s so hard to find any. Our leadership is too lazy even to remind us of the need for restraint during Ramadan, and has nothing to say when people go overboard. In its absence, we have to inspire ourselves.
Perhaps we need this holiday weekend to come up with some inspiration. Perhaps if we take a break from the news and focus on family and the joys of celebration, we can recover our reasonable centre.
With that, I’d like to wish everyone a Selamat Hari Raya, maaf zahir batin. May the advent of Syawal bring an end to the current madness and instead usher in new light and new hope, God willing.
Marina Mahathir is a human rights activist who works on women, children and HIV/AIDS issues. The views expressed here are entirely her own.
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Marina Mahathir, columnist
It’s great to meet youths who want to change things.
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