I had watched the recent rebirth of our nation with both hope and happiness. There was a scent of idealism in the air. That we could be better than the gutter, parochial racial politics that permeated our existence here. That we were rising above it. That we could really stand side by side as Malaysians.
What a letdown the last year has been. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so optimistic, should not have rose tinted my glasses. I should have been more of a realist, more aware of what years of conditioning could do to one. And by conditioning I am not solely referring to the all pervasive conditioning that permeates our political landscape, but the conditioning that extends to our family and friends and how we propagate this conditioning and ensure it’s continuance in the choices we make.
Every day I look around and shake my head. I look at the papers and read statements that say Bumiputera quotas will be increased. Articles that say Chinese businesses predominantly hire Chinese. That the Indian chamber of commerce is asking for more assistance for Indians. Private ads that say Chinese only or Bumiputera preferred…
But what is truly gut wrenching if not puke worthy is how we conduct our personal lives on a daily basis.
I was at the Curve dining with a friend yesterday. As urbane an environment as any. And yet, the usual gatherings were there. Groups of Chinese, Malays and Indians, all distinct and in isolation with perhaps the odd exception. Malaysia after 50 years of independence and we don’t even mix outside of our own ethnicity. We have Chinese who use expletives like ‘tau see’, Malays who mouth of ‘keling’ at the drop of a hat, Indians who call out ‘natta’… Our everyday conversation is littered with such rubbish. Why don’t we stop? Because it’s nice to be nasty? Or just that we don’t recognize or acknowledge our bigotry or worse think it’s actually acceptable?
We constantly hear the vents against the racism and bigotry that exists here. Facebook is riddled with comments from users. The Blogs constantly rail against it with user comments all expressing their angst against some perceived racist act, statement or slant by some politician or other. Yet we don’t conduct ourselves any better than the very people we condemn. Is our sense of a better Malaysia only applicable to others? For us to self righteously pass judgement on whilst we ourselves wallow in the gutter? Or is our public altruism far more base, that it is placed, exhibited and stated purely out of self interest so we may carve out more for our own ethnic communities?
We are told that we are 1 Malaysia, a shining example of racial unity, but the truth is far removed from the spin. By pretending that everything’s fine and kosher all we do is allow this ugliness to not just prevail but flourish. We should face it head on. With courage and dignity. And if it shames us to see this side of ourselves, well then we should change. Take those steps. If not, then we should just stop pretending that we are concerned. That bigotry and racism are an anathema to us when point of fact is it’s a source of comfort to us like a well worn blanket. Something we draw on and retreat to, to bolster our petty fears and insecurities.