Bersih 3.0

What more can I write about on an issue that for the past week, has been all the Malaysian discourse has been engaged with?

The Malaysian media-sphere is alive with splashes of yellow everywhere. Frontdesks from here to the international arena will choose to run and cover the story from all angles possible, for however long they decide until it loses its newsworthiness.

Run and cover, like the protestors did that day…

I’ve been waiting for a bit for the dust to settle, but everyone, from each faction of society, with different motives, keeps on kicking up said dust again and again in different directions.

We’re so concerned with the violence, who’s to blame? The protestors? The FRU? What did all this achieve? What our prime minister could have done? What the politicians shouldn’t have done? And all the he said, she said of politicians and opinion leaders…

Well to be honest the things that have been said so far, hadn’t been that interesting to me, because these are all things that we already know:

Malaysian mainstream media has always been biased, filled with error, misinformation and false reporting.

Our policemen had always been big bullies.

Conspiracies (or truth) are a given. Like undercover cops that were planted to cause the riot and discredit the peaceful protests. Even by now if you don’t believe in the facts, saying that the images were doctored, well Malaysia has always had hooligans and people that throw bottles first instead of think, so what is the big deal here?

Image of cop posing as a rioter, hitting the FRU, then same cop, arresting protestor.

Also the fact that Astro is getting sued by Al Jazeera really is the icing on the wonderful yellow cake, just cause they deserve it. So we can’t be too surprised. Can we sue all the other media outlets too?

I’m not reiterating any of the points today. What I’m really more interested in is driving the point home, and steering it back to us again.

Why, really, why did you go that day? How did you feel when you were walking among the crowds? Who was beside you? What were the things you shouted? What were the things you heard? What are you going to do now? What do you want for Malaysia?

Walking with my countrymen that day, was the first time I really understood and saw what Malaysia could be. I finally understood what it was to finally belong to a citizenship, a nation-state.

When you think about the primary things you want in a country- safety, security, a place you call home. I can tell you right now there wasn’t a moment during the protests where I felt threatened or unsafe. In fact, it felt like my countrymen would all shield me if something were to happen. It felt like they would shield anyone if they needed to, because we were all more or less braced for impact.

If an environmentally conscious country is what you wanted, in addition to the large faction of Anti-Lynas protestors marching alongside the yellow, the people were model citizens. They picked up after themselves- Bottles, wrappers, even trash that weren’t theirs. It was stewardship, something I didn’t think had been part of the Malaysian dictionary, and something I’ve not seen in my twenty-one years living here.

People smiled. They were friendly. However little Malay one spoke, or any ignorance of the Chinese language, really didn’t matter that day. If you saw someone of the other race, you would just communicate in their language, however little or much you knew. When you’re marching, and you happen to lock eyes with someone you would usually glare at on the streets, it catches you off guard, because for once in your life you see an expression of understanding and an expression of respect. Something that says “I’m so glad you’re here. You want the same things I do. So we’re in this together.”

And that’s something really powerful. It finally became clear to me, that THIS is how it should always be. It became so very clear to me why I was walking that day. That this is a vision of what we can aim for for Malaysia, and that this was all possible.

My dad had said something in the past that stuck with me, he said, ” As long as there are people on the streets [in Bersih], Malaysia still has hope.”

That day, there was an estimated amount of 250,000.

What was also so compelling to me, was how collective action didn’t mean a brainwashing or conformity. This strong sense of individualism in the crowds really impressed upon me how the uniform yellow can’t contain who we are as individuals, yet how we were together through our differences. TRULY, everyone was so different. Young equally mixed with the old, partisan, non-partisan, Christian, Islam, Tattooed, clean-shaven, pan-asian, Chinese-educated, possible Oxford-educated, soft-spoken ones, loud ones, funny ones, intelligent ones… I don’t know what anyone really did or what their jobs were, but you knew that this difference was what made the difference.

How we could come to all agree on these common goals really proved to me that we were Malaysian, because we all wanted the same things, and that will be what defines us. Instead of the most commonly touted lines politicians say, “Malaysians don’t protest. Protesting is not a Malaysian thing to do.” Well, let us define what Malaysian is for ourselves, not by what other people say we are.

Then I got home that day, went back online, and was expectant of an overwhelming support. There was the support, but what saddened me later on was that as much as there was victory, there was also overwhelming ignorance. Not even ignorance, but downright stupidity from people that you’d expect to be educated enough to know better. I was angry and hurt, but it was sobering. The reality was that, it really reminded me that the path to democracy isn’t glamorous, and its hard, and it isn’t just going to be won over by one instance of civil “disobedience”. Its going to need so much more energy, time, good, educated, informed people and resources, and many more instances of  action and reaction to get to where we want to be for our country.

Its a long and tough road, but really, April 28th is a day that I would never want to forget, and never can.


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