Friends, Malaysians, Countrymen & Countrywomen,
One colour is taboo in Malaysia today. Wearing that colour has now been known to invite arrest. It is so taboo that a good citizen like me will not even mention its name. I shall sheepishly call it the opposite of white.
Surely we can’t lock someone up unless he or she is a serious and immediate threat to society, I hear you ask. What have these people done?
These people have a view, and publicly displayed their view. They also encouraged and urged others to join them. In Malaysia, if the view is disliked enough by the government, doing so is called incitement or (if it is said to touch on certain subjects) sedition.
How can that be a crime, you innocently ask again. How can they (the authorities) do this to people just because these people are promoting a contrary view?
Ah, but it is not really “they” (i.e. those who have nothing to do with us) who are doing this. It is the persons whom we (i.e. the majority of us) have chosen who are doing this. So do not wash your hands off it yet.
May 7 is an opposite-of-white day for Malaysia. What transpired in the Perak State Assembly is a mockery of democracy. There was no sign of anything “by the people” or “for the people”. It was all down the throat of the people. It was winning at any cost.
As if that was not bad enough, what happened outside the Assembly turned ridiculousness into madness. Many were arrested and detained just for advocating a view, denied access to lawyers, and then 5 lawyers who were trying to provide legal assistance to the detainees were themselves arrested. What’s next? Arrest doctors who try to give medical assistance to opponents of the government?
This is stepping up the governance by fear. This is the curtain raiser for 1Fear Malaysia, a futuristic preview of a land of people united [pronounced “cowed”] by 1 single fear, the fear of the authorities.
There are many ways to govern, e.g. by the rule of law, by consultation, by participation, by cooperation, by coercion, or by force & fear.
Governing by fear is the simplest but most undemocratic form of governance. It demands little of intelligence, principles, convictions, ideals or the desire to serve the people. Instead it requires large doses of shrewdness, hypocrisy, manipulation, the insatiable thirst for power, and ruthlessness in putting down everything that stands in the way. Governance by fear is disgusting and cruel, but could easily succeed in the short term, from the point of view of the governor of course (and not that of the governed). In the long run, however, it breeds its own destruction. The breeding period is fed by oppression, frustration, anger, despair, so much needless suffering, and the blood sweat and tears of our children and future generations.
There is truth in the sayings that we ultimately get what we deserve, and that every people deserve the government they get. Except that these sayings are not scientific or accurate enough, because they do not take into account the incubation period. More correctly, therefore, our children will ultimately get what we deserve, and every people do get the government their previous generation deserved.
Friends, Malaysians, Countrymen & Countrywomen, what shall we do during our incubation period, so that our children will not suffer the sorry consequences of our neglect and inaction?
I take into consideration the reality that only a small minority among us will have enough conviction and courage to follow in the footsteps of strong-willed and fearless leaders like Wong Chin Huat. I am in the majority, though I am not proud to say so.
Fear does not go away when you give in to it. It comes back to haunt you over and over again, in larger and larger doses. The only way to overcome fear is to conquer it. At first blush that would require a lot of displayed courage. Not necessarily so.
Those of us less brave can and must nevertheless work and contribute towards conquering fear, for the sake of our future generations. We must treat the menace of fear like the Swine Flu, being always alert and conscious of the fact that it might come, unseen, to harm us and our loved ones. No one can be immune, until we conquer it. We must raise our resilience against fear. Our resilience must be like that of water. It can remain silent, but not resting, for the time being. It can be calm on the surface, but advancing beneath. It can spread to and permeate every nook & corner. It flows at every chance. It refuses to be reined in. It quietly meets and gathers, and moves on to meet and gather others. When it is ready, it will be unleashed to dowse any fire of fear, and to break any wall of oppression.
This is not poetry. This is not rhetoric. It is a call to action; silent, sustained, continuous and resilient action, for those of us who are not frontline workers or leaders.
There is no time to waste. We must do the following, and continue doing them:
(a) Raise our own level of awareness of the importance of each individual’s participation and action in building our society and in electing our leaders. Each person counts.
(b) Raise the level of awareness and resilience of the people around us: our family members, relatives, friends, and acquaintances. Everybody’s eyes must be opened wider than ever before, and remain open for a long time to come.
(c) We must ask those who are convinced by us to in turn educate and convince as many others as they can to join the quiet streams of chastisement.
(d) We must not allow ourselves to ever forget the lessons we have learned, the injustices we have witnessed, or the wrongs that we or others have suffered. If forever is too long a time to manage, try a shorter target of 5 years.
(e) We must not be engrossed solely with caring for our own courtyards, and not bothering about what happens to others, because when the fire of fear strikes, it is just a matter of time before misfortune will spread to our own courtyards.
We need not do any of that in full public view if we choose not to; but do it we must, unless we want to become sitting ducks in acceptance of a 1Fear Malaysia.
It is crucial that we treat the above as part of our work or job, part of our mission in life, and part of our responsibilities to our families and children. Treat it like our health, something that we must do enough to take care of no matter how busy we are, or how seemingly alright we currently feel. Know that the result of our neglect or inaction will be only one: a disaster for ourselves and for those we love.
The Front-liners Club has never been crowded. I hope to start a new club for those like me who do not particularly savour limelight. It will be called the Silent Undercurrent Club. The ideals and aspirations of this club will be well understood by all who join, but they may not necessarily be fully ventilated in public until, as the politicians we elect are fond of saying, the right time. We believe in subtlety.
The official colours of this club will be all the known colours except the opposite of white. It is thought that having a single official colour will not be reflective of the inclusive and accommodative nature of the club.
Membership drive will start tomorrow and will last for a week (but may be extended if the response is overwhelming). In order to subtly indicate an interest to join the club, Malaysian citizens should wear any colour of your respective preferences (except the opposite to white) to work, to school, to the streets, on the road, to shop, to the cinemas, to the petrol stations, etc. Invite your friends to do likewise. No need to fear arrests. Wear any colour will do, except the opposite of white, which should only be worn by those who have no desire to join the new club. We will respect their right of choice, but are powerless to protect them from incomprehensible detention.
I call upon volunteers from all over Malaysia to report the number of persons wearing the opposite of white in the coming week, purely for statistical purposes. After a week’s tabulation, we will know how many members the Silent Undercurrent Club has managed to attract, by subtracting the number wearing the opposite of white from the total population of Malaysia.
I can smell success in the air. Will you join me, and convince others to do so? Or are you still leaving it to others, and waiting until it is too late? Do you still doubt the power of each individual’s action, the Power of One?
Yeo Yang Poh
8 May 2009