ETC. Op-Ed.

TAYLORMADE OP-ED: An Analysis Of Bersih 3.0, And The Next Logical Step

[A TAYLORMADE EDITORIAL]

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We are willing to bet that never in the history of Malaysian social media has Twitter been flooded as much as it was last year during the Bersih 3.0 rally.

#Bersih was trending massively. Top tweets included ones such as that posted by Nuffnang founder Timothy Tiah:

“Tomorrow is the 1 day in a year that Malaysians go out together to get sprayed water at, tear gassed, beaten up and arrested. #bersih”

and by Subang Jaya state assemblyman Hannah Yeoh:

“My special assistant bought me everything that is probably needed for Bersih rally. The next task is to figure out how to carry everything”

Bersih 3.0 was fast snowballing into an avalanche. Local artist-activist Fahmi Fadzil tweeted at 10.46 p.m.:

“Lots of car honks. LOTS. Busses, cars, taxis, bikes. Chants of “Bersih! Bersih! Bersih!” I guess the rally has kinda started.”

Mortals like us (quote-unquote, and we bet you were one of them) were equally excited for Bersih as well. Tweets flew through cyberspace. Those unable to go made their dissatisfaction clear:

“Another year where I’ll be at home feeling crappy for not joining BERSIH – under mom’s order. Specifically, I’m not allowed to go to KL.”

…or just decided to do their bit for the cause online.

“Jam 8 malam kita flood timeline twitter dgn hashtag #Bersih. Sebarkan.”

Even if you can’t understand Malay, you should get the idea.

This is an age where way has been made for the sufficiently galled to make their dissatisfaction eminently clear. And the fact that social networking exists today means that “eminently” is best replaced with “bloody”, as in bloody clear, as in to put it bluntly: we are bloody pissed. You all need to clean up your act. End of story. Habis cerita.

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The thing is that the Internet has empowered us in a way never seen before. People everywhere are now for the most part free to speak their minds whether their governments like it or not. It’s like fire, really. Students – young, fresh, opinionated students – are beginning to realize that what they have in Facebook and Twitter is very much like what fire first was to man (or the average pyromaniac child): Oooh, fire! It’s exciting and intense. If used correctly, it can and will shake the whole wide earth. If used incorrectly, it can burn your whole freaking house down.

Which, of course, brings us to the logical question: how?

On one hand, we need to speak our minds and make ourselves heard as functioning and voting citizens of a nation. On the other hand, there has to be a way that doesn’t end up with bloody revolution which, while definitely capable of making an impact, is also just that: bloody. It’s the kind of revolution touted by extremists which we should fear, the kind that after the rulers have been overthrown, replaces them with the chaos and anarchy that Egypt is currently experiencing, simply because the people had no idea how or what to replace their governments with. Their thoughts never went beyond the overly simple we want you out end of story finito. Writer Terry Pratchett expressed this condition rather succinctly in his book Night Watch:

“Don’t put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again. That’s why they’re called revolutions.”

So what then should we do? Something hard and fast will not work. It will only end in a crash. For all the noise made during the last elections — anyone remember the Kelana Jaya gathering? — one should wonder: would the support of the nation have gone beyond the heat of the moment? Has it? At this moment, are there as many people now devoted to thinking about how to reverse the supposedly sorry condition their country is in?

You say (for example) our national education system is terrible. And that it may be. But have you ever thought yourself about how you as a citizen could help the system work towards correcting its egregious flaws? Even if it won’t happen in your lifetime, it’ll happen in your children’s lifetime, or your grandchildren. But if you truly do not care, then you have no business protesting in the streets. You’ll just be an idiot sloganeer, screaming along with the crowd.

This has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with your responsibility. And this responsibility is not to your country, but to your children and grandchildren. If you don’t care, then all is well and good and you can push off to whatever foreign country you please, just as suggested by certain irresponsible parties. But if you do, then you can begin to, in your own way, help our country work towards change.

This is why teachers teach and why social workers exist, working within and without the system. They don’t do it for king, country, and whatever fragile notions of patriotism you may have.

They simply do it for the future.

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