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I was on the late bus home one night and all was at peace, when suddenly a band of teenage boys came sauntering in with their low, loosely-hung jeans and chains jostling around from their pockets. The night would have been relatively uneventful if not for what happened next. Halfway through the ride, one of them started to yell out the window a great yard of who knows what to a random lady walking on the street. The only word any of us could make out was the use of the word “Slut…”
Almost immediately, the bus driver stopped the bus with a jolt. Everything froze. In true movie-like timing, he stared the boy down through his rearview mirror for a few good, well-paced seconds, and gave a look that bore into the soul of everyone watching.
“ HEY BUDDY!” he glowered. “That’s NOT very nice!” his voice boomed from his driver’s seat.
The boy cowed immediately, folded in his resolve, and started to apologized profusely. “I’m sorry sir I wont do it again I promise.” suddenly the voice of a five year old boy took the place of the ‘tough-man’ exterior he held so proudly before.
The entire bus fell deafly silent, waiting to see what would happen next. Only when he was satisfied with the apology did the bus driver proceed along the route home again.
From what I’ve experienced, Canada impressed me with their insatiable intolerance to wrongdoing. Racism, sexism or any form of –isms has no place here, and from what I’ve seen ( which is of course limited to my own experiences), no one, not even Canadian friends, classmates or bus drivers have ever let any wrong-doing slide.
When the majority of a society chooses to do something about unfavorable situations, its almost impossible for the less civilized to not learn to follow suit. Collective action is powerful, the problem with Malaysia (one other problem) is that we are collectively steering towards the less favorable type of actions.
During my holidays back home, I was at the head of the line in a public restroom when in walked a lady. This lady saw the line, ignored it, and immediately decided to walk ahead to stand right in front of the doors. I was the next one to go, and by right I should’ve said something, but I didn’t. I let it slide. Why didn’t I say something? This wasn’t right. Why didn’t I reaffirm my rights to what is fair? Why did I let her walk ahead? Why did no one else in the line say something?
I had a moment of weakness, one that I had never let myself forget, one far from my proudest moment and one that I would never repeat again. I had let my fears for looking like a fool get in the way of what’s ‘right’. If I am unable to stand for what is ‘just’ with a little thing like lining up, how can I stand for justice in the face bigger things?
And this is precisely the problem. Things happen, wrong happens everyday, and what we so often choose to do is to let it slide and then only gripe and complain about it later- Online, to our friends. Then we let our frustrations ride its wave till the next one comes along.
In another day, I was talking to a Canadian friend about my classes and was having what would be a usual conversation. For some reason I started describing my French class, and further went on to note that my French lecturer was ‘Indian’, without much of an afterthought. The moment the words left my mouth, I knew I had inadvertently made a mistake, not because my friend had responded in any way that showed offense, but rather it was more in the way she didn’t respond. She merely blinked at waited for me to finish my sentence.
What I was used to, I suppose out of a terrible habit, describing someone by their race would be met with, noted reaffirmations of understanding. Her complete lack of response to the added description made me immediately reassess why I felt the need to say she was ‘Indian’. Its as if her thoughts could have been, “what did that added description of race have anything to do with it?” In actuality, I didn’t mean anything other than- it is unlikely that someone ethnically Indian would speak French, but I felt like a fool that committed the worse faux pas.
Because she was color blind, I immediately stopped in my tracks and resolved in my heart that I wanted to be too. At where I’m at, their ignorance is wonderful. Going back to that bus driver, his lack of ignorance was wonderful. I applaud him for standing up for what’s right and I immediately yearned for my society back home to do the same; but yet I know our bad habits die hard.
Back home we’re all so anti-confrontational because we want to keep the peace. I know I hate confrontation, but I also know I hate injustice more.
Put it this way, the more people know that their wrong doing would be result in someone scolding them, and publicly humiliating them, the less likely people are going to act wrongfully/unfairly in society. The more our politicians see that their actions would be met with judgement and pressure from the public, the more careful they will want to be, and the more it will keep them from screwing up.
Pressure is also a powerful thing.