As a Malaysian, I complain about a great deal of things.
To be honest, it really isn’t that difficult when there are so many delicious topics to choose from. One could even say that certain hot issues, usually involving MPs with perpetual foot-in-mouth disease seem to make it all too easy for us. It would take great discipline and/or RM50 million with a few APs thrown in to shut us whining lot up.
Sometimes massive public outcry works. More often than not, they don’t. But hey, we still complain, right? If God had wanted us dumb, He would have stopped at the nostrils. After all criticism (constructive or not is debatable) helps keep the powers-that-be in check, and if we make enough noise then maybe someone, ANYONE would hear us and you know, do something. For once, heh.
Despite my sceptical tendencies, I am actually an optimist at heart. There were considerable doubts regarding the effectiveness of a peace forum that I had previously blogged about. And a little further back, there was the issue of the Arab Square being built along Jln. Bkt. Bintang, sparking unofficial slogans of ‘Visit Malaysia. It’s Like You Never Left Home‘. How many people blogged about (and made fun of) it? How many others spoke up in the papers screaming for our Malaysian identity instead of a copy-and-paste project? The Arabic Square is still there, isn’t it? What are you going to do about it? Cry? Bleah.
But somehow, I still believe in speaking up, especially when the occasion calls for it. It’s not an easy transition for me, being a really shy person in real life and all (I have a small voice). But if I have this blog and what little popularity that comes with it, why not? Besides, I have a real, genuine MyKad that is my passport to whining about the on-goings of this country I call home. Pain is love, they say and I love Malaysia very much. True, if I don’t love my country, I wouldn’t give two flying hoots about what is happening. You can build a bloody pyramid right next to KL Tower and I would continue baking a cake or whatever.
I know a lot of you wish that the Tun would just be zapped by aliens and disappear off the face of the earth, but believe it or not, the old man actually makes sense sometimes. Whether or not he adheres by his own sayings is another matter altogether, but I am still going to quote him:
In Liberal Doses by Marina Mahathir
(ISBN: 98399507-7-0, published in 1997)
Foreword by Dato’ Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Society needs critics. Without them society can go very wrong, complacent with everything it does. Critics are absolutely necessary for those playing a leading role in society. Without criticisms they would not know when they are wrong, and may not even know what is going on around them. Society and leaders of society should therefore not just tolerate critics but should welcome them.
And truth to be told, I am rather grateful for having an avenue to express my thoughts. Where I’d be a lone voice if I didn’t blog, I have a few hundred random readers who for their own reasons return to this blog to read my antics or the other. Some of you love me, some of you hate me, some of you don’t give a fuck about me, hey, that’s your prerogative. But you are here all the same. And if you could separate the message from the messenger, great. Whether or not we agree, at least we are thinking of the same issues at hand.
But critics can be carried away by their own wisdom or even their own influence and power. For critics do have power despite not being officially or legally vested with any authority. And power may go to the head. This is something that critics must always bear in mind. They are often right, but not always right. In particular when criticisms are based on hearsay and are not adequately researched, the hurt they may cause to the subject can be quite painful. This will be especially so when for some reason or the other the critic is unassailable.
I don’t claim to be influential (very very far from it in fact). If you would look at the blogging-greats (whatever your definitions) I am but a minion that types away at my keyboard, sometimes without brain intact especially when the grey matter is overused from other important things, such as earning my keep. I’ve been doing this for many years, as it is my hobby and like I’ve said, I’m an optimist.
As years go by, I am becoming more and more aware of what I write on this blog. A few reasons – one, I have left my teen years behind me, and am going through a new chapter in life. At 25, I don’t really want to behave like an 18 because I have no more excuses for it. The grey hair are showing. This I have to constantly remind myself not to repeat the same mistakes I’ve made in the follies of my youth.
Two; Unlike the big US of A, we Malaysians do not have the First Amendment to protect our hides. It’s okay, our brothers and sisters in Singapore do not have this privilege either. I was born the year the Tun assumed leadership, and having been brought up during his tenure, I can tell you how ridiculous some unfounded fears are. I couldn’t sit at a mamak in a small town and say his name without being told to hush, in case someone nearby overhears and decides to lodge a report against me, a 15 year old for babbling about state affairs. Kamunting calls, oi! When I found out that the late Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah had a queen 50 years younger than him, I couldn’t comment on that because… some people will come and murder me in my sleep for I am insulting the Sultan just by questioning where, why and how.
Maybe we didn’t know better. Maybe we had cause for concern. Maybe our imaginations were working way overtime. But as an impressionable youth, you say I paranoid or not? All the noise surrounding us, with no clear guidelines of what we could or could not say or do were confusing, that led to indignant silence because as I’ve said, I was born in 1981 – not 1971, not 1961, not 1951, not 1941 and didn’t know what it was like before the Tun.
I am not speaking for everyone my age. Everyone were exposed to different elements growing up, I am just sharing what was mine. The point, and I have strayed far from it is this: I will constantly hold myself back in case I go too far, where the line is I will know when I reach it through experiences and advise from others, and promptly avoid it if it spells trouble for me. I am not that noble as to go through a rice and curry experience.
Neither would most Malaysians.
We live in an imperfect society. We are all imperfect individuals. This is no excuse for us not to try to be perfect, to do what is right and avoid what is wrong. To know when we are right or wrong we need a mirror. The critic holds up the mirror so we may see ourselves, warts and all.
Hence I greatly admire those who dare cross the line, not just in Malaysia but other countries as well. They do it with their own styles of course – some vigorously hint, some use humour and satire, some dish it straight out. Where platforms may be restricted due to media ownership and their associations, they continue to search for and find alternative ways to get their points across and ultimately getting heard. One alternative method proving to be rather effective is using blogs; thank
God Tim Berners-Lee for the Internet.
Bloggers are not always right. People being people, are restricted by their own limited knowledge and exposures, some wanting to stay within their own caves preaching to the converted, disallowing different opinions than that of their own (ironically adding to what they have been trying to eliminate in the first place). However they do offer this: the OPTION to declare OTHERWISE, whether they are correct or not is up to the judgement of the individual reader to DECIDE, and to me, that FREEDOM to agree or disagree is the best thing since tenderloin steak.
But the critics too need to look at the mirror if we accept that none of us is perfect. Perhaps when they look into the mirror they would become slightly more tolerant of the faults and foibles of others.
This post was originally meant to be a reaction to Singapore’s Mr Brown’s latest furor – the suspension of his column in TODAY after a negative response by Singapore’s MICAto his published article, S’poreans are fed, up with progress!
Whether or not the above that I have written makes sense, I don’t know. It is 4+ in the morning and I have lost all coherence to relation. If you’ve read the article that Mr Brown wrote, you may be like me, rather puzzled at the fuss is and wonder how this relates to Malaysia. I’ve got some ideas but at the moment I’ll be keeping them to myself until the right time comes.
Even as I write this, Stephen Baker of Business Week
is saying that the wrote an article with the title ‘The blogosphere is not “credible”‘, but individual bloggers can create and establish their own credibilities. For what it’s worth, I think Mr. Brown has earned that merit many times over. Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore him, especially his commendable efforts at bringing blogging to mainstream media in Singapore.
For us here in the land of nasi lemak and roti canai, let’s see what else we could do, eh? Watch this space, or go fly kite or spin tops, whatever it is that you fancy. Personally, I can’t wait.