Dignity is all about looking at ourselves

TK Chua
19 Sep 2015

Dignity is now a big word in Malaysia. But what is it?

It is self-respect, pride, self-esteem and self-worth. It is the quality of being worthy of honour or respect.

Dignity is not what others bestowed on us. It is how we carry ourselves. It is how we portray ourselves worthy of admiration and respect by others. Only we can insult our own dignity, not others.

I agree stomping on the pictures of Najib Abdul Razak and Hadi Awang was not the right thing to do. But it is how we react to that stomping that defines our dignity.

In any political event, it is always important to look at the intent. The intent of the Bersih 4 rally was not to insult a particular race or religion. It was to demand for good governance, strong institutions and clean government. These are universal objectives, certainly not with parochial, seditious or incendiary intention.

Bersih can’t be held responsible for the idiosyncrasies of all individuals participating in the rally. Inevitably some will be more overzealous than others. However, did those who stomp on the picture did so because Najib and Hadi are Malays and Muslims? How about they stomped on the picture because Najib and Hadi have failed them as their leaders?

I think there are subtle differences which we must take cognisance. I would prefer to think that it is not about race or religion; it is about frustration, unmet expectation and anger. In Ukraine, the people there even physically threw one of their leaders into a trash dump.

That is why dignity is all about looking at ourselves. When others dislike us as their leaders, have we looked at ourselves? Have we asked whether we have provided reasons and justifications for others to doubt our performance, behaviour and integrity as leaders? Why must there be spontaneous reaction that others hate us because of our race, culture and religion?

Now, let’s look at the red shirt rally. Is there anything universal that they are fighting for? Why keep agitating that the dignity of the Malays was injured. I don’t think Chinese Malaysians are foolish enough to insult the Malays deliberately. But is there anything wrong if they have only desired to see the nation more competently governed?

Put it this way, if Chinese politicians were to cause the malaise inflicting the country today, I think the protest from them would be even more vehement.

Of course we can all accuse each other for being biased and parochial due to our racial and religious differences. But ultimately accusations must be verifiable and justifiable; otherwise they will only further erode our own dignity.

To me there is no justification at all for the red shirts to react the way they did to the Bersih 4 rally. It was not the fault of the Chinese if fewer Malays chose to show up. Bersih 4 was not concerned with race or religion. I just can’t understand why there was a need to retaliate when Chinese Malaysians have done no wrong to the Malays and Muslims in general.

Why keep insulting the Chinese community knowing that it has neither the means nor the power to defend itself? This is not dignified or upholding dignity; this is cowardice and bullying. The world is watching.

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