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We’re living in perhaps one of the most important times of our country’s history.
Today, our generation stands accused of many sins, we are too apathetic, too indifferent, too shallow to care. We have acquired a growing cynicism, and have been brandished with jaded ignorance; but today, I think we all witnessed something that gave us the unquenchable hope that we’re better than we gave ourselves credit for.
It was reported that “…the crowd was made up of many Malaysians in their 20s who were first-time demonstrators… ”
Ibrahim Suffian, director of independent research house Merdeka Centre, referred to them as the ‘Facebook generation’.
He said, “Other than the usual opposition supporters, I noticed a lot of newcomers this rally. This may signify that Bersih 2.0 has managed to spark something through Facebook to galvanise this kind of support,”
From the 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, or was it 100,000 strong legion that walked for you and I; From the very young to the very old, from men to women, from the all too beautiful stories told, here’s proof that as long as we stand for something, there is still hope.
I don’t know what your political views are, where your affiliations lie, your preferences, I don’t know whether you are for Bersih or against it, whether you were there that day or whether you were at home watching it from your screens. Maybe you’re afraid, you have your reasons, or you were bound by something else, but frankly, why should it matter? What happened today is a firm reminder for why we continue pressing for democracy and change.
Realistically we know, change doesn’t come by one act of civil disobedience. Reaching our demands require an ongoing process, of trial, and trial, and trying again, until we get there. What is important, is that we continue pursuing it, no matter how many rallies or organizations it takes. Like what Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
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We’ve been told for too long- “Malaysia is racist and we are intolerant to religion/difference/change”, But I question, just why do we let ourselves believe this? For too long we have allowed lies made by politicians to seep into our mentalités, and we find ourselves repeating these same lies casually in conversations with others and to ourselves without question. We want to see it that’s why we find it; that’s why we blame everything on a person’s race, because we’ve just been taught to. These are the same statements made by politicians who have sat in their brazen, leather chairs for too long, and have forgotten what it was to be on the ground, feeling the earth beneath their feet.
From where my 20,000 countrymen stood that day, the world looked pretty damn beautiful. There was an Indian man in crutches making his way in steady strides towards the city centre. That 72 year old Chinese uncle that came all the way from Sarawak just for the rallies, waving the Malaysian flag strong and proud, eyes set in an unwavering resolve. In similar fashion, one Malay aunty had the same flag wrapped around her, while being forcefully whisked away by policemen.
In one story, a lady had been confined to a wheelchair. She was unable to walk, but remained walking for democracy, and the crowd roared, “Hidup Rakyat!”. In another account, when asked why they were there that day, one elderly couple responded, ‘I walked for my children…”
Twitter too had been awash with news and up-to-the-minute constant updates,
@KennethKoh2 said: “The real 1Malaysia was down in the streets today. I joined hands with Christians, bowed my head with Muslims praying for Msia”
@_haniz: “Chinese chap handed us salt &water.Wife gave choc to a stranger.Sang Negaraku together.I perhaps almost all felt the tear gas”
@azlanngali: “TQ to two Chinese guys who pulled me away frm teargas canister&rub a pinch of salt into my mouth as I was completely stunned”
How do we disregard something so real? From the experiences of so many?
Then how could we forget, our very own Malaysian Lady of Liberty, the genteel elderly aunty named Anne, who took the bus from Setapak alone to the city in support of the demonstration. She wore her yellow t-shirt, held her flower, and waved it at her fellow Malaysians, encouraging them, walking with them, and getting them to stay low when the tear gas struck. . . and there were so many more stories like this.
Everyone, Malay, Chinese, Indian, rubbed salt, shared water bottles, ran for cover, picked each other up. What is race? Why are we still talking like this in distinctions and set boxes we have to tick while filling out forms, we are all so strikingly, distinctly Malaysian. This is the real Malaysia, the Malaysia I know to be there. The Malaysia I want to be there for my children, and my children’s children.
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In the words of Wong Chin-Huat, Monash lecturer and Political Activist:
“What do you call a country that makes Clean a dirty word? Kotorland? No, PM Najib and the police may believe that they are ruling a Kotorland but I will not be a subject of theirs.”
“I am a proud citizen of Malaysia. I believe in the promise of freedom and fraternity in the birth of Malaysia 48 years ago. If my belief that Malaysia is a free nation is seditious, I am guilty as charged.”
“I am fearful but I am more fearful of letting this country and the future generations continue to be colonised by fear. I am fearful but I am going to overcome my fear because I want to be free. There is no peace in fear.”
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Its what we all wanted all along. I choose not to look at today as politics, today was about more than that.
Today was about a roof over our heads, its about food on the table, it remains to be about a better life for our children where they can be free to work and play without fear and discrimination. We want a country that is free, a land that is truly ours, where our taxpayer’s money goes where it should. We want a place where we are given the freedom of education, and a good one- where we learn truths about the world devoid of whether its in English or Malay. With a failed economic policy, corrupt electoral practices, and many, many shortcomings, I believe and will continue to believe that change will come. Maybe its blind faith, but if we learned anything today, its that my faith in the many, countless unsung heroes and brave countrymen is hardly blind. This is the real Malaysia. Real men and women that walked under the unifying message for freedom.
Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Australia, New York, New Zealand, for wherever there are Malaysians, they stood for the same things. Turns out we never needed any slogans to unite us after all, just give us a government that isn’t doing its job, and there we’ll be.