The continued dumbing down of the people
APRIL 30 — I have lost count of the things our government thinks Malays should be protected from.
Everything is a threat to the Malays and Islam, it seems. Malay-speaking Christians. Feminism. Concerts. Dogs. Pork. The Chinese. Zionists. Atheists. Upin and Ipin. What next? The Teletubbies?
At every chance it gets, our government likes reminding us how easily confused Malays are. This is perhaps the only government in history that gets away with calling its citizens stupid and using it as an excuse to clamp down on freedom of expression and basic human rights.
Truly, self-righteousness should probably be added to our Rukunegara as it seems to have become part of our national psyche.
We have somehow made it socially acceptable to be busybodies in the name of God. We have also declared God is so weak, that His name needs protecting with the power of our legal system.
I know though, that writing this column is an exercise in futility. Lawyers, doctors, journalists and yes, politicians, have no problems leaving their brains at the door when the topic of religion comes up.
There can be no debate as it will just become a neverending loop until in the end, the people with more sense throw their hands up in the air and give in to the temporarily insane.
This is what a (hypothetical) debate would look like:
A: “You know, tampering with the country’s Constitution to achieve your ideal of a theocratic state is disrespecting the Constitution and opening the way to injustice towards minorities.”
B: “Shut up, I am doing this for God.”
A: “Your trying to force your (narrow) interpretation of religious laws on all citizens is infringing on their rights.”
B: “Shut up, infidel. This is what God wants.”
A: “How do you know what God wants? Did he send you an email? Or let you make a collect call?”
B: “It is written! Somewhere, I am not entirely sure where, but I heard it was written so I am telling you to shut up now!”
A: “So your defence of religious law is entirely based on sentiment, hearsay and conjecture?”
B: “Shut up, you unbeliever. This is my religion, respect my religion. I wouldn’t expect you to understand. You just want to convert me and turn me away from the One True God.”
A: “This conversation is getting old. Bye, I am moving to Australia where they have non-racist policies about welfare and education, higher living standards and oh, look, no religious laws.”
B: “Shut up.”
I admit I was wrong. Our politicians aren’t stupid. They’re clever about ensuring the population remains stupid. Stupid people are easily manipulated.
Just wave the religion stick and everyone is distracted enough to forget about our dismal education standards, stagnant wages, racist economic policies, bloated civil service and endemic corruption.
Who cares about the economy when we have a God to defend? A God who could surely strike us all with lightning but for whom we put people in jail for being offensive about him.
Note to religious people: secular is not a dirty word. Secular laws and a secular state protect the rights of all its citizens (in theory). You’re only saying that secular laws persecute you because they don’t give priority to your religion.
Faith should stay in our hearts and if you truly believe in God, you should let him do His work while we do whatever we feel called to do... apart from persecuting people in His name.
I have just sent God a telegram asking if he’d send me an early departure ticket as seriously, the show’s getting rather stale and the comedians keep rehashing their material.
Maybe someday you’ll be reading my column sent from the pits of hell, where I hear all the cool people hang out. In the meantime, I’ll be buying insurance protection from lightning.
- Erna Mahyuni The Malay Mail Online Opinion Wednesday April 30, 2014 07:17 AM GMT+8
What you can do if you’re not the protesting type
AUGUST 5 — “I wish I was braver,” a friend said to me. He told me he felt like he could, should do something in the light of current events but he didn't know what to do.
What we as citizens need to remember is that we are not powerless. There is more to taking back the country than politics and you can be forgiven if you feel you need to do something but are unwilling to align yourself with a political party.
If you're unhappy with the direction the country is going, then perhaps start by immersing yourself in civil society.It is not about toppling governments, but it is about advocacy and action, finding worthy causes and pulling together resources to aid them.
1. Ask yourself, what do you want? What can you do?
What keeps you up at night? Is it education? Is it racial integration? Is it rising crime? Inequality, whether the class divide or civil rights? What can you do about it, what do you have at your disposal? Can you donate however small a portion of your salary? Are you willing to volunteer your free time, perhaps weekends? Even the smallest of things, if done by the many, can lead to bigger things. Never sell yourself short; we each have value and capabilities.
2. Find a community champion
They aren't that hard to find, if you ask around. For instance, there is Syed Azmi, the man who went from wanting to touch a dog to now touching hearts with his community projects. If there's one thing social media is good for, it's the ability to find these people who stand out, but while one person may be the figurehead of a movement, what you don't see are the people who help them along. Who do you know is doing something that inspires you? Reach out and ask if there's any way you can help.
3. Learn that NGO is not a dirty word
NGOs are often vilified in this country, made the scapegoat of purported ills. NGOs are nongovernmental organisations, bodies that might work with the government but do not work for them. Being outside the government trappings lets them see what people on the inside can't. Do your research and find out who is worth listening to and if they're worth your time, drop them an email. If you can read this column, you can find an email address or website.
4. Resign yourself to constantly learning
I know. You're tired. The news is wearying. But if the noise is bothering you, then just zero in on one issue and find out all you can about it. Don't rely on just one website, try a few. Ask questions on Quora. Find someone you trust, who is not going to benefit from not telling you anything but the truth.
5. It is better to focus on one thing than too many
Once you find a cause, don't feel the need to advocate for everything and anything. “You're protesting for whale rights? But what about the seals!” Do not let other activists or even people you know guilt you when you don't have the bandwidth to take on another cause. Do what you can, to the best extent of your capabilities and understand that even the best of activists were primary advocates for one cause in particular, which often consumed all their time anyhow.
6. If you can't protest, but empathise, you can help too
So maybe you want to join a protest but you're scared/been warned not to by your employer or school/working... for whatever reason it's not feasible. You can still pay attention to what they're doing. Spread the word. Visit police stations after arrests and offer to contribute to bail money. Respond to any public appeals for assistance. You can't be there, but you can still care.
7. Be patient
Perhaps you've looked and asked around, and still there doesn't seem to be a concrete way you feel you can contribute. Don't give up so soon. Just make yourself available, wait for an opportunity. Ask questions, after all, the Internet led you here. Just don't hold on to those good intentions too long, because in the end, intentions mean nothing without action.
And just remember this: if anyone ever belittles what you do, know that it's better to do something than nothing at all. Better to care than be another of the living dead lost to apathy, better to say at the end of the day, “I tried. Did you?”- Erna Mahyuni The Malay Mail Online Opinion Wednesday August 5, 2015 07:10 AM GMT+8
- Erna Mahyuni The Malay Mail Online Opinion Wednesday August 5, 2015 07:10 AM GMT+8