DISTORTED PERCEPTIONS: We have become a nation of Don Quixotes, spending too much time fighting imaginary enemies
By Johan Jaaffar
I AM against any attempt to set up stalls in front of Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan's house. And I deplore anyone exercising with malicious intent there. I dread the day when such acts become a new form of harassment. However, I thank Kuala Lumpur City Hall and the police for standing firm not to allow them to cause disruption in the area. Ironically, they are the same people Ambiga defied that fateful Saturday when her cause was hijacked by politicians.
I commend the police for acting professionally to maintain peace in front of her house -- as much as they were trying to contain unruly demonstrators at the Bersih rally in Kuala Lumpur.
City Hall, too, would like to see disgruntled traders reciprocated for their loss of income, but it did not. The officers acted wisely to avoid any untoward incident.
Ambiga must learn a thing or two from this. The law is not meant to be broken by anyone, especially by a lawyer and former president of the Bar Council. The petty traders also can't say that just because they are ignorant they can break the law. It is, therefore, not their fault to question Ambiga's double standards on the issue.
The damage has been done. And the country will be further divided. Which is sad. Ambiga probably meant well, but it didn't turn out that way. She was merely a pawn in a complex game of misguided justice, conspiracy and deceit. She was in fact used, her agenda hijacked. That irked many among her supporters, the thousands who would like to see real reforms in the electoral process.
The Election Commission is not perfect and the Bersih demands have been a wake-up call for them, too. They are doing a lot of soul-searching themselves. They have to buck up, or else they will lose their credibility. But to be fair to them, many of the allegations are mere hearsay and conjecture. Just because names like Kangkung, Harimau, Machine Gun, Atas Jalan, Batu Tiga or Burung came out on the electoral roll, that does not mean those names are phantom voters. As one newspaper has pointed out, there are in fact bizarre names of real people.
Sadly, we have lost our adab (courtesy) in our pursuit of some things. We have little respect for others. We have lost the willingness to listen to others or to hear the other side of the story. We have made up our minds. There are those who demanded to be heard but were rude in articulating their positions. We have surrendered all notions of hormat (respect), maruah (dignity) and harga diri (self-esteem) when we deal with those who do not agree with us. We snub others just because they represent different views. It is eventually about Us and Them.
And sadly, too, we have become a nation of Don Quixotes -- we are simply spending too much time fighting imaginary enemies. Not only that, like Quixote, our perceptions are distorting us. We can't differentiate lies from the truth and falsehood from reality.
I found the Sinar-Astro Awani debate between Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and PKR strategic director Mohd Rafizi Ramli interesting -- two young minds arguing their case without fear or favour and with conviction. There is no need to declare the winner, for both are.
Of course, a debate is not judged by the jeering, shouting and clapping of partisan supporters. What is important is that such debates must be encouraged.
The Malays have had a tradition of intellectual discourse since the days of old, continuing into the early 19th century with reformists from Al Azhar University. The Kaum Tua-Kaum Muda debate redefined the intellectual tradition and history of the Malays. They tolerate dissent and differences, with humility, style and finesse.
Sadly, we have become a nation of selfish and self-centred people. We use whatever platforms we have to lambast others. We are allowing the Internet to be a lawless realm. We forget we have laws, ethics and code of morality. We forget adab matters even on the Net. And the possibility of us being sued for libel or worse. Remember, if it is online, you better toe the line, someone advises. Who cares these days?
We have every right to disagree with anyone. This is a democratic country. But there are civilised ways to do it. Putting up stalls in front of people's houses is not right.
On the other hand, Ambiga should know better the next time she's contemplating another Bersih rally. She will offend many people, including the petty traders. She has to question her conscience first.