THERE is a well-known fable about a father who called his four sons together and gave each one a stick; he then asked them to break their sticks and, of course, all four easily broke their sticks. But when he asked them to break 100 sticks held together, they failed.
The moral of the story is that phrase you all must have heard of before: “United we stand, divided we fall”. People can easily break you, crush you and disregard you if you are alone, but when you stand together, nobody can touch you.
Last month saw the formal ascension to the throne of the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia. The institution of the King is the embodiment of all Malaysians irrespective of gender, creed, colour, religious inclination and any other stripes we can think of. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong himself has also said that he wants to see a Malay-sia whose citizens are united and living in a peaceful, stable and harmonious country during his reign.
Such an aspiration can only come if we, as citizens, can think for ourselves and accept one another as Malaysians first. The operative word here is “accept”. For a long time we have been operating under the word “tolerate”. To tolerate is to allow something or someone that you dislike to exist without interference. Acceptance is embracing that something or someone as part of your world, as your brethren.
This is how we should build our society.
We should build a society where all Malaysians are seen as one. Where race or religion, culture or background, don’t determine positions and opportunities. Where we know that these are not what gives us special positions over others.
We should build a society that embraces this diversity because it is what makes us collectively great. A society in which we work with each other as equals towards the common goal of making a better nation where we all prosper and progress together.
Is that so difficult?
I think not if we are determined to see it through. I have come to the conclusion that if we aspire for a better Malaysia for our children and our children’s children, we, the citizens of this nation, need to do the work ourselves.
We cannot depend on politicians. Politicians cater to the lowest common denominator. They are about power first and they sacrifice ideals at the altar of power.
May 9, 2018, showed us the way. Though it may seem a long time and a thousand disappointments ago, our government was changed by the votes of moderate, liberal and progressive Malaysians of all races and religions, working in concert.
Yes. The moderates, liberals and progressives threw out a kleptocratic government that had been in power for 60 years. We did that.
This scared those looking out only for their own interests. They became loud. Politicians, being politicians, succumbed to the loudest voices, catering to those making the most noise. They practically forgot who voted them into power. Because politicians, true to their very nature, have no convictions except to power and to retaining that power.
I know whenever you see injustice, you feel like saying something but at the same time you feel afraid. Fear of reprisals, fear of upsetting people, fear of getting caught by wide-ranging laws – there are so many fears that you end up keeping quiet and hoping the injustice will just go away.
It won’t, it doesn’t. It will build momentum and, soon, it will become a permanent feature and by then, it is too late.
But what if you have support and back up from like-minded people? You become brave and stand tall against that injustice and face it. You have courage because you know there are people standing with you, supporting you against that injustice.
To deal with any injustice, we need to fight together, only then will we see the change we desire.
But how do we move forward from when we were united on May 9 to where we truly want to be? Relying on politicians to affect change is a mistake – events of the past year have shown us this.
The people need to be the ones to show the way. This, to me, is what Merdeka is about this year.
Moderates, liberals and progressives are the real movers of this nation. They are the ones powering the economy of Malaysia. They provide the intellect, the progressive capacity, and the hard work that has developed this country. They are the ones underwriting the subsidies that help build better lives. They are the ones who will continue to be that source of national wealth and health.
If you believe that you are moderate, liberal and progressive and proud of it, you cannot shy away from your responsibility to change this nation into a truly just, fair and equitable one.
I can no longer do it alone. This is, therefore, a call to action for all Malaysians to unite to make this a better country. To set the agenda to take this country higher. To be active with one voice and one body. We need to stand and be counted. We need to put our money where our mouths are. Let us organise and get active. We can make it happen.
A group of like-minded friends and I have put together a platform for this very purpose. We have incorporated the Malaysian Action For Just And Unity Foundation – in short, Maju.
The foundation came about from a realisation some of us had as long ago as a year before that momentous May 9: We realised that the voice of moderates, liberals and progressive Malaysians was weak and disorganised. It is a voice that is always trying to walk a soft path for fear of offending, and thus its message was being lost.
Subsequent to May 9, those thoughts became almost prophetic. We need such a foundation more than ever. We need a voice and a platform that will be a rallying point for progressive citizenry, that is consistent, loud and unwavering in its causes, expressed without fear or favour.
It took us a while but with our own initial funding and lots of hard work and perseverance, Maju was approved and incorporated in January this year.
A public launch is just around the corner, gift-wrapped for all Malaysians in this month of Merdeka.
We want you, the individual citizen, to be our supporters and funders: We will be funded with a minimum RM50-a- year-contribution from each person who registers as a supporter. We want to create a nationwide network and branches of supporters to carry out our agenda and activism.
We need your support to make a developed and progressive Malaysia a reality. Vision 2020 may not arrive next year but Maju intends to see that reality happen no matter how long it takes us.
We intend to achieve the goals that will make Malaysia great by:
> Promoting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
> Empowering civil liberties;
> Protecting marginalised communities;
> Ensuring progressive education.
The last point is vital. Through-out history, it is basic science literacy and its progress that has propelled technology.
Nations did not develop due to commerce first; instead it was the scientific discoveries that were the engines of technological progress, which in turn gave a nation’s commerce a distinct advantage that led to economic prosperity. We need to make a science-centric education system a reality.
We want Maju supporters who are science educators and academics to help us revamp the system to ensure our children’s education is substantively science-based from the primary level until students leave the secondary level.
We believe an emphasis on science will also have the by-product of producing students who are strong critical thinkers regardless of their final chosen vocations.
Join me. Let us Maju together and make a just, fair, equitable and progressive Malaysia a reality. As Mother Teresa once said, “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”
The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Sunday Star.