“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!