March 29, 2008

Aliens have landed! What now?

I heard this running joke some time ago that Malaysians would only ever unite across race and religion if aliens or some "other" group of people came to invade us. This quip is of course born out of the perception that Malaysians are so communal and will most certainly vote along racial lines, and hence, things will never change.

However, unless you’ve been on Mars lately, you would know that the outcome of the last general election completely disproved this apathetic and unconstructive view. Suddenly there was a deluge of opinions as to what led to the outcome and no lack of individuals who claim that they "saw it coming". Perhaps all these outpourings of analysis and discussions is a cathartic process that we need to go through to process what led to the outcome. But like trying to understand how human consciousness emerged, where every scientist has his or her own unprovable theory, it is equally if not more interesting to know what this means and what we can do at the present.

I would like to believe that a fundamentally important outcome of this elections is that there is now a greater move by Malaysians to be engaged in nation building: to seek to understand how positive change can happen and to be responsible citizens looking to play their part and speaking out against what is unjust across racial or religious lines that has been keeping us apart and dragging us down as a nation for too long.

We are becoming increasingly good at speaking up for our own rights, but I would like to see the day when it becomes a norm for us to acknowledge and fight for the rights of all Malaysians regardless of race, religion, or whatever perceived labels there are.

We may not be there yet, but the outcome of the elections was a crucial event which empowered Malaysians to accept the idea that real and positive change is possible; that it is possible for Malaysians to unite across racial and religious lines for a common good. Maybe aliens have really landed after all, and I would like to believe that the aliens are corruption, racism, sexism, bigotry, arrogance, and hypocrisy.

When more Malaysians reject the use of race-based ways to garner support, the old and tired use of pitting one race against another will be rendered useless.

It is time we move beyond that and begin our process of nation building. I may be speaking for myself, but I believe there are many Malaysians who want the same thing; to seek an identity as a Malaysian away from the divisive one that has been handed down for generations.

Who knows what that Malaysian identity will be? I dare say that I’m excited by this possibility; that this identity will emerge as we grow together and find that voice and language in which to express this; one in the spirit of being inclusive and just.

As much as aliens were seen as the push factor for us to act together, Malaysians were also looking for an alternative political culture when they voted on March 8.

Let us remind each other about this possibility of a shared vision to keep us on track while we still have to contend with laws and systems that stifle a healthy democracy. It is no longer what "they" can do for us, but what we can do as citizens; to exercise that skill not to react to the media’s choice of language, our right to information and to speak up for what’s just.

First published in The Sun, 24th March, 2008


BamH112 said...

Thank you for this wonderful piece of article. I think more and more Malaysian are feeling the same way whether we could articulate it or not.
Thanks for writing again.

Juin said...

Hi there, just stumbled into your blog and can't get enough of your songs. i read your articles in the sun and thought they were great, especially the piece on 'exotic squatter'. Just thought you could tell me where i could get more of your songs please?

meichern said...

Thanks bamh112 and juin, much appreciated...

juin, glad you liked 'exotic squatter'.. it was my first piece for the sun and an issue close to heart.

I've recorded some more songs for a cd.. hope to get it done by july :) will be posting details on them here, and facebook..:)