Category Archives: Politics

The story I will not tell

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“I’m blind,” he screamed.

I turned. My face half-covered with my scarf, blinking through the tears, I grabbed his hand and kept on running. We were in the mayhem inside Tung Shin hospital, crossing a cloud of tear gas. It was that, or facing arrest. And for me, a foreigner, being arrested could very well have been synonym with deportation or blacklisting. I wanted neither. We ran.

Man, how I wish I could start telling you romantic tales about my Bersih experience! How I would go into the details of the rush of adrenalin, the emergency decisions, the cat-and-mouse game with the police, the shy smiles I threw at fellow demonstrators… But I won’t. Because this had all been covered extensively, and sometimes beautifully, by other rally-goers.

As everyone, I want to tell my story. Strong emotions, mixed with out-of-the-ordinary times and here you are: a urge to share, to relive, to relish into the memories. Yes, we have been there. And yes, we should be damn proud of it.

But should we be proud of it to the point of forgetting ourselves in it? In 10 days, we saw dozens and dozens of stories flourishing on the Internet and various medias, be it blogs, videos, twitter #Bersihstories and especially online newspapers articles. As everyone, I dived straight onto it and gorged myself with anecdotes, tales of friendships & unity, battles scars and rightful indignation. But, then, the articles kept on coming, and coming. And coming.

Reading is just another form of procrastination. It’s like studying 100 books on the best way to build a house. The right angles, the right materials, the right order… But without ever reaching for the hammer.

Guys, it’s time to stop reading and get out there. Not in the streets like on July 9th. Reading Bersih stories and articles only put you in touch with people who are already in, people who have already gone through the mental process of deciding for themselves. You don’t need to convince them anymore, they are already on the wagon. What we need is, to touch the whole world of “others”.

Let’s talk about those undecided. Those who don’t care. They are the ones we need to reach out to. Not the one who are siding with the government point of view. For one, those already have an opinion and everyone is entitled to theirs. I hate it when people try to convince me, give them that and leave them alone (for now). Two, they are convinced already, and bringing them to our side would take a lot of energy. It goes into the 80/20 rule: 80% of the energy for 20% of the results.

The people we need to concentrate on are the ones who are wavering just within our reach, both in terms of relationships and in terms of ideas. Friends, families, colleagues, who are not so sure of what to think about all this.

Putting a Facebook status asking people to register is all very good and well-intentioned but, let’s be honest, it is not going to work. Or it will, but to a small extent. You know that, to reach your friends, you need to talk to them directly, face to face, and have a real conversation. A 3-line status, lost in the middle of other updates, will do little.

Get out there. Explain, talk, teach. But don’t push too much either. Changing mentalities is all a matter of times, it doesn’t happen in the snap of a finger, and you don’t want to lose a friendship over it. Be patient. Being patient doesn’t mean being idle or being ineffective. It means acting in the right way.

We just need more people to register to vote, more people to start learning a bit about political issues (and I’m not talking about the political scandals here), more people to start making up their own opinion. Ask them questions instead of providing your personal answers. We don’t need clones of ourselves, we need people who think on their feet and who have the power to act, when election times come.

Talking to Bersih-minded people alone will not make the wheel roll. This is why I am not going to tell you my story. Because, however pleasant it would be to relive it once more, it would just be a waste of time, now that others have already done their story-telling part. I’ll keep my Bersih Day for my grand-children.

Now, let’s get out there…

It’s time to roll, people!

Of discordant voices

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I have a confession to make. I am not a communist. And… I know I am French but, I swear, I don’t go on a rampage around the world, trying to destroy every monarchy on the planet.

I am not anti-Muslim. And, more importantly, I am not some stupid hooligan planning to wreak havoc upon your beautiful country. Yet, this is what the government wants you to believe about me. And still, I hope to be someone tolerant, peaceful and logical.

There is no need for me to introduce Bersih. We all know what it is about. Oh, wait… do we? As I have come to notice, there are a lot of conflicting reports on the topic. So, before I proceed, please allow me to define what Bersih is, based on my opinion.

Bersih is a movement by citizens, for citizens, asking for free and fair elections, which are usually seen as a pre-requisite for any healthy democracy. But all those conflicting reports have generated conflicting opinions.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I have no qualms with people having different opinions to mine. On the contrary! It is a great opportunity for us to exchange ideas, to have a dialogue, to… dialogue?

OK, so, this is where I am getting all hyped up. Let the NGOs, the government, the opposition deal together, sort the legal stuff out and untangle the whole situation. What I am really concerned about is the lack of reasonable arguments, of any real dialogue, at the grassroots level, between citizens.

I am worried about the way normal people, people like you and me, react to this situation. Doesn’t it look like a lot of people are popping out of their minds recently? That common sense has just gone rushing through the gutter?

I tried having a dialogue with some anti-Bersih people. Some are actually moderate and we can have a nice cup of tea and talk like civilized friends. But too often, I get those deaf monologues.

The “I speak, I speak, I speak and I won’t listen to whatever you have to say” kind of conversation. When I post a pro-Bersih statement on Facebook, some other pro-Bersih’s will “Like” it, some others would comment on it, and then comes an anti-Bersih.

He counter-argues. With two words, “Ambiga keling.”

Are you kidding me? Is that all you have to say? Is that your strongest argument against Bersih? I swear, sometimes I feel like a cartoon character about to pull off her hair out of frustration!

Ask an anti-Bersih a legitimate, logical question to understand his point of view, and he will most often shoot himself in the foot by avoiding the answer and ranting about something else. How to look credible and sensible with this kind of reaction? Another example:

Anti-Bersih, on my wall: Malaysia is not like Egypt, Libya or Syria. There’s democracy, elections and freedom in Malaysia. We should be grateful to be Malaysians.

Me, trying to use reason: Freedom? What about the freedom of speech and expression? The right to peaceful assembly? Those are ensured by the Malaysian Federal Constitution, Section 10, Articles 1A and 1B. How come then that they are not respected?

Anti-Bersih: Malaysians are peace-loving people. We can have teh tarik, roti canai and nasi lemak anywhere without disturbance. We don’t like violence.

Aaargh, pening! Just answer the question!

Not being able to run through a dialogue would be bad enough, but the anti-Bersih’s are also making themselves guilty of what they are accusing us of. Yes, let’s talk about threats of violence.

I am sure you have all heard of this Silat master planning to call on all his students to go to the streets and fight to protect the country. Can you imagine them? “You shall not pass.” (To be pictured with a Silat pose.) It would be funny, if they were not serious about it.

Who would be starting the violence? Am I supposed to look like a dangerous warrior, hiding weapons up my sleeves, lurking in the dark, killing innocent citizens?

And yet some people are getting really frantic and personal about it. An acquaintance of mine, an army veteran, went to the point of making threats. I am going to quote him on this. “Old soldiers never die, they fight all the way. We are determined to demolish all these evil people once for all, enough is enough. These idiots have underestimated us, we will see what happens. Are we going to just sit and watch? You know what ex-French legionnaires are capable of!”

He concluded by telling a friend “If they attack the Istana Negara, there will be bloodshed.”

Any attempts at rationalising the discussion, at calming down the situation, went to no avail as this veteran is the Ambiga-keling-I-won’t-answer-your-question kind of person.

Am I violent? No. Am I planning to overthrow the monarchy and the government? No.

Am I planning to destroy the country? No.

So why make threats of violence against me? Yes, I am scared. And I do believe that rising above your fears is very important. But one disturbing statement made by this ex-soldier keeps running through my mind. “I hope to meet you on July 9th.” Oh really? What for? I don’t want to find out…

Between threats of violence, kindergarten-level reasoning and refusals to have a civilised dialogue, anti-Bersih’s are most of the time harming themselves. I do agree with one anti-Bersih argument, the one stating the opposition’s hidden political agenda. Yes, the opposition is trying to hijack the movement and, no, I don’t like this one bit!

But I am open to dialogue. Are you? Will you listen and try to understand my arguments, as much as I try to understand yours? Let’s start a dialogue. A real, mature one, amongst normal citizens, between you and me.

Please. For the sake of democracy. For the sake of this country. Thank you.

***********

NOTE:

* This article was originally published in The Malaysian Insider on July 7th here.

* Following which, I heard of comments stating I was a Jew. I’m not. And even if I was, it would not be relevant to my political opinions.

* I also received a comment stating that I should look at how we treat Gypsies in Europe before commenting on other countries. I believe human rights are universal and, as such, I would fight for human rights wherever I am. Me having an opinion on Malaysian politics doesn’t mean I am sitting idly when human rights are concerned in Europe either.