Learn to listen to divergent voices

ON Nov 5, I wrote an article that the Chinese community should not be a “political orphan” in Sin Chew Daily to highlight all the possible situations for the Malaysian Chinese community in future.

That was my personal view and concern. It has since drawn the attention of some in the Malay society. Several Malay NGOs and political leaders have met me after reading the article.

Before this, due to Sin Chew’s reports on the Seni Khat issue, I had met with then Pakatan Harapan education minister Dr Maszlee Malik and youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman.

These two gentlemen did not read Chinese but because of what they had heard in the Cabinet meeting, they decided to meet me to find out how Sin Chew approached this issue and what the local Chinese community was really worried about, among other things.

In a world overwhelmed by fake news and misinformation, it helps for people to sit down and talk. This is particularly true in a multicultural country like ours, where different ethnic groups typically live in their own little worlds.

This makes listening and rational exchanges of ideas all the more important.

In reality, different races in a country would usually live their lives with hardly any intermingling.

As if that’s not enough, many of us are being “kidnapped” by our own smartphones.

Under the influence of web algorithms and stratospheres, people begin to live in virtual circles, hence entrenched suspicion and animosity against those outside their ethnic communities, by virtue of differences in political beliefs.

If you were to browse through Facebook comments of people from different races, you could be excused for thinking that this country is virtually having a civil war right now!

Our society has become more and more insular, as hatred keeps expanding.

Sadly, many countries are walking down this path today, including the United States and France.

Back home, many Chinese Malaysians do not seem to know much about Malay society.

Many make trashy talk based wholly on deep-rooted perceptions and prejudices, and they don’t have the slightest clue what our Malay compatriots want and think.

For example, some Malays indeed require cash to survive the current pandemic, but some Chinese would hint that Malays only know how to buy new furniture when they have spare cash.

The reality is, there are many Malays working hard to supplement their household incomes.

In a similar manner, there are some Malays whose cognisance about the Chinese is very much stuck in their stereotyped impressions. As a consequence, Chinese Malaysians are generalised as being unpatriotic and in no way should the UEC be recognised, while SJKCs are detrimental to national unity.

While the pursuit of justice and equality and a strong disgust for corruption and power abuse prevalent among the Chinese do strike a chord with urban Malays, to the majority of rural Malays, their utmost concerns are stability and making enough money to feed themselves and their families.

It is not because these people do not cherish justice and equality, or abhor corruption and abuse of power.

According to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchical theory of needs, a lower level must be satisfied and fulfilled before moving onto a higher pursuit.

Indeed, people need to have their survival and physiological needs satisfied first before they develop secondary psychological pursuits in the likes of safety, love, self-esteem and self-actualisation.

During my meeting with several Umno leaders, I found that they almost wanted to give up on Chinese votes after being abandoned by Chinese voters in two consecutive general elections.

They saw the local Chinese community in equal measure as DAP.

If not eliminated, such prejudice will continue to prompt irresponsible politicians to fan racial sentiments by exploiting sensitive issues, eventually sparking disastrous intercommunity clashes.

Thanks to the systematic exploitation of various social media platforms by irresponsible individuals, in particular politicians, the hatred lurking inside many will get instantly sparked and infinitely expanded, throwing our society into a state of chronic confrontation and making it impossible for people to sit down, talk and reconcile.

Technological advancement was meant to improve our quality of living and bring conveniences to our day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, it has at the same time toddled down the wrong way, negatively affecting or even destroying an entire generation of people.

The Social Dilemma, a documentary on Netflix, explores the dangerous impact of social networking with engineers and founders of Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram and other platforms – how social media has turned angels into devils and how algorithms dictate our daily behaviours in such ways that we get hooked subconsciously, and the huge impact it has on socioeconomic, political and cultural fronts of nations.

Smartphones have become a “vital organ” of the human body.

Whether you are a Chinese or Malay, black or white, smartphone addiction has evolved into a culture common to the human race.

Parents with children know very well that to calm an agitated newborn baby, they need to put the pacifier into the toddler’s mouth to appease his anxiety and restlessness so that he can sleep soundly.

Today, the smartphone is the digital pacifier that will calm billions of addicted earthlings – old, young, and very young – feeding them with often more negative than positive information round the clock.

Everyone gets obsessed constantly with hunting a cache of information on social media sites, make wild comments and hurl curses in venting their own frustration.

People are becoming increasingly restless and jittery, and will easily go berserk emotionally.

Most people living in a world of information overload do not see the truth. They see only what they want to see and mingle only with the like-minded, within distinctly demarcated circles. People living within the same stratosphere warm one another up while antagonising those beyond.

The inundation of fake news has almost gone beyond our control. We are finding it harder to tell between facts and lies and therefore, are more readily instigated.

This is the heavy price humans have to pay for adopting modern technologies. We need to shatter the stratospheres, and learn to listen to divergent voices. Only by so doing we can see salvation for our world, including the country we are now living in.

The writer is the editor-in-chief of Sin Chew Daily. The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

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