Why am I ‘wasting’ my time at Sogo on 307?

— Kenneth Cheng
The Malay Mail Online
MARCH 4, 2015

MARCH 4 — I have to be frank, this is by far the worst Chinese New Year that I have ever celebrated, not because Anwar Ibrahim has been incarcerated in what is widely perceived as a travesty of justice or the farcical strategic development company 1MDB that may cripple our economy and financial sovereignty.

It is certainly not the advent of GST which 40 per cent households with an income of less than RM1,500 per month will suffer the most. Additionally, I have learn to turn a deaf ear towards Cabinet Minister’s race inciting hate comments which seek to further divide Malaysia and divert the attention away from his sheer incompetency.

Last but not least, I would expect nothing less than RM1,200 worth of hair treatment from our very dear first lady, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor given her “modest” and prudent financial management lifestyle.

Yet, I was crestfallen during this festive period simply because friends and family who I visited, choose to remain dispassionate and detach themselves from the recent political development of our country. Furthermore, questions arise among my peers concerning the rationale of holding massive #kitalawan protest in Sogo. They generally empathise with the partisans and resolve to punish the corrupt regime in the next General Election, but deem there is no meaning in participating in the social movement.

As much as I appreciate their attentiveness toward this political issue, nevertheless I need to accentuate that social progress is very much attainable by effective social movements, be it small or big. Therefore, with the interest of the amnesiac public in mind, it is of vital importance to revisit history and to remind the rakyat how humanity and society have constantly made substantial progress through social movements.

The French Revolution was generally considered to be a violent, bloody and anarchic revolution, and some critics argue that it was a total mess, achieved little and replaces an authoritarian regime with another authoritarian regime.

However, its ideas changed human history far more than any revolution ever happened. The brutality of French Revolution should not obscure us from radical ideas that it championed. For example, The Declaration Of The Rights Of Man And Of The Citizen that emerge from the French Revolution proclaims that men are born and remain free and equal in rights, law is the expression of the general will and every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative.

These ideas-where laws are not made by Gods or Kings and those laws should apply to everyone equally are profound and radical indeed especially given the zeitgeist of the late 18th century. The insistence and universality of these ideas that we come to appreciate so much these days are rooted from the social movement initiated by a group of poor peasants who were disgusted by the privileges enjoyed by the clergy, aristocrats and monarchs when the country was in a dire economical state.

On September 13, 1989, 30,000 Capetonians (The people of Cape Town) led by Desmond Tutu went on a peaceful march to protest against Apartheid and ban of political protest. I remember looking at the archives in the Apartheid Museum and how awe-inspiring it was looking at pictures of Desmond Tutu encouraging the crowd that the struggle for freedom shall not be stopped.

The success of the Cape Town peaceful march sparked similar protests in other parts of the country and it is widely believed that the size of the protest and public pressure is the beginning of an end to the archaic Apartheid in South Africa. A few months later, Nelson Mandela and other prominent African National Congress leaders were freed and the rest, like everyone says, is history.

Social movement is a natural occurrence that seeks to reconsult with reality and it answers to no one but human conscience. Just as the majority of South Africans wanted an end to Apartheid, Bersih rally was able to amass such a huge amount of crowd because deep down most Malaysians wanted a free and fair election. Although Umno Barisan Nasional makes the mess out of the indelible ink issue, but it is still a victory for the people and the country.

Now again, our rights as Malaysians have been trampled on over and over again, we see valiant leaders getting arrested for voicing the truths about the corruption. We witness a total prejudiced annihilation of our opposition leaders just because they have the means and ability to end the absolute rule of the current draconian regime.

The endless, sickening corruption and mishandling of funds make my stomach turn every time I talk or think about it. And yet, despite all these, we still remain unwavering to go down to the streets and let our voices be heard.

Rakyat seems to forget (again) that our rights and freedom are gained through constant overstepping of the boundaries, voices are heard by marching on the streets. Therefore, if we are still reluctant to exercise our rights to protest and assemble to at least remind Umno Barisan Nasional that they are mishandling our country and abusing the state apparatus, then all the efforts for forcing a change in this country proves nothing more than a futile effort.

We are condoning the fact that Sharizat’s cows are being reared and fed in the condominiums, 1MDB is straightly a strategic investment company and projects huge potential in the future, Ismail Sabri is perfectly right about boycotting Chinese traders and perhaps, most unfortunately, Anwar Ibrahim did really sodomise someone.

Democracy does not require perfect equality, but it requires participation, and it doesn’t mean voting once in five years. It entails responsibility to every rakyat to keep the government in constant state of check and balance.

Therefore, to even think that giving up on your political rights and refuse to participate in any meaningful social movements indicates that we are happily obliging to be ruled by those who are inferior to us.

Gathering at Sogo on 7th of March guarantees nothing. However staying silent and complacent changes nothing but ensuring a decline of our standard as being a proud citizen in this beautiful country.

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