WE, as a nation, are going through tough times. We cannot seem to disagree without being disagreeable. The voices of discord, taken to the extreme in some instances by some quarters, have gone up many notches.
The fragile fabric that holds this nation together, especially with regard to ethnic and religious issues, is under threat.
We can say that these are but the views of the fringe minorities, whose words and deeds are amplified by the media, in particular social media. We can say that this is the price we have to pay for a maturing democracy to truly embrace true freedom of speech.
For a long time, our nation has been treading gently on the free and open articulation of certain issues. The founding fathers and every government since Merdeka have embraced the notion that some things are best discussed behind closed doors. In the spirit of consultation and compromise, we have successfully navigated through many a contentious issue.
This is not to say that there were no extremist views before. In any family, community, state or nation, differences of opinion are a fact of life.
But with Malaysia, we have always witnessed the resounding triumph of moderation and reason because of our principal belief that there is a place under the cosmopolitan Malaysian sun for every citizen who calls this blessed land home.
We would not have got this far, poised as we are to become a fully developed country by 2020, if we had allowed the zealots and the bigots to have their way.
Today, these voices seem to have grown louder, helped in some ways by the proliferation of social media.
We must understand that the days of speaking only to a specific audience are over.
It is no longer possible to say a particular speech is not meant for the ears of others not in the same room as the speaker. In a nutshell, one cannot be moderate with one crowd, and then espouse extremism to another. And that also applies to keeping silent, which can often be read as consent.
Herein lies the dilemma. Do we sit back and do nothing, in the hope that “folly will die of its own poison, and the wisdom will survive” as articulated in a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial published in an American newspaper back in 1922?
What we do know is that now is the time for all good men and women, from all creeds, cultures and religions, to rise up and contribute to the collective wisdom that is so necessary to drown out the folly of the few.
For if the silent majority does not speak up, it may be doomed to become nothing more than the silent minority in the future. And the fears in our hearts may then become real fears instead.
The Star Says Home Opinion Columnists Sunday May 11, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM