Monday, January 21, 2008

Election musings

Perhaps it's the weather. Or maybe it's because the house is empty. Or it could be due to friends leaving for home to celebrate CNY with family. When I read this article, my chest felt heavy and my eyes were teary. Somehow, emotions were triggered. I think it most probably was because of the situation I'm in at the moment - waiting at the crossroads for the lights to change.

Election musings
Petra Gimbad

American writer Joan Didion once wrote, "Life changes in an instant. The ordinary instant."

Some time back, I granted an interview to a mass communications student regarding sexist parliamentarians. She was not able to see the need for our political leaders to respect women. I doubt that it will take anything less than a personal brush with sexual harassment for her to wake up to reality. We may all arrive at different points of realisations in our own time, but sometimes one wonders whether they come too late.

Sometimes, we never learn.

Election time, we hear, is coming.

Recently, a friend opined that Malaysia is headed for an economic downfall. I cannot confirm the truth of what he said.

Some believe that we should never speak of what we truly do not know. However, one hopes that humbly being aware of how little we know while asking questions fosters better understanding.

Anyway, if covering our own asses is all we care about, no wonder we are in the state we are in. A melancholy hangs over many friends and acquaintances, regardless of whether they have decided who to vote for or not.

Many do not bother to even register to vote, a right people have died for. The answer, apparently, lies in migration. They seem to forget that even successful migrations can take years to complete and not everyone has that option.

What if one has to wait a few years? What happens in the meantime?

What if one’s application does not succeed? What then? Is the only answer to amass more money?

What of the underprivileged who do not have that option?

Someone asked, "Why stay in Malaysia when things are so bad?" All I could reply was, it all depends on your personal calling.

We honour those who perform compassionate work in war zones, and humiliate those who choose to stay, under less extenuating circumstances, for the same motivations.

We forget that for a lot of us middle class English speakers, life is still pretty good. I admit I compare myself to a disabled couple who survive on less than RM500 a month in Kuala Lumpur and refugees who do not even have the legal documents to find work to feed their children; in a society that thinks migration is the answer and forgets that this makes us Malaysians refugees in other countries, too.

Forgetting that our ancestors were once migrants too – whether from China, India, Indonesia, the Middle East, Portugal – you name it. One of my favourite Yasmin Ahmad blog posts lists her crew’s ethnicities from one of her films, illustrating how many Malaysians have their roots placed in more than one country outside of Malaysia.

Is it wrong to make one’s life elsewhere? No. But lest we forget, our country was built on the backbones of our migrant ancestors. Once upon a time, they dreamed of giving their future generations a better life – that’s us. This is not so wrong.

I am not so learned to be able to state for sure whether we are at a tipping point concerning which way our country will turn judicially, politically or socio-economically. However, there seems to be a fear that peace may end.

But I do know that we need to move beyond the fears and beliefs that paralyse us from thinking and taking action. An understanding of how we arrived at where we are, which should include political analysis but also must go beyond political blame.

It is about politics and social science, but also bigger than these.

This understanding also includes our taking responsibility for our action or lack of in the past. To mourn for what no longer can be undone, to thrash with guilt, but also – to let what we know and our sense of justice move us forward, in steps.

I have met a rare few who are exempt from this melancholy. Those who express anguish, regardless of whether they declare their love or hate of this country with passion, are affected by Malaysia’s future.

Whether it is to vote, to read up in order to join initiatives, to write letters to the press or to create our own little solutions which contribute to the huge effort as a whole, we choose or do not choose what we do. We decide to do all we can or less.

We still are the stakeholders of this country.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wish I was like you.

But other Malaysians and our corrupt government has left us jaded.

I will probably never have the chance to vote in Malaysia, and if I do, who will I vote for? I don't have confidence in any, and have contempt in most.