Nothing is as sweet as the promise of democracy! That is the clarion call of the rally by Bersih supporters last evening. As oppose to the 1Malaysia-Janji diTepati (promises fulfilled) – BN propaganda theme of this year’s Merdeka.
That latter slogan at once invite brickbats and the stare of disapproval from the critical eye. We wonder…
After 55 years, despite all the progresses we have made, and the journey we have taken together as citizens (because we own myKads) – we are only free in our self-made prisons, but trapped in a make believe freedom that we have achieved a situation dubbed “Independence”.
But independence from who, from what? Are we really free?
Economic freedom bring us more debts, religious freedom lead to more clashes between different faiths (episodes of body/ash snatching by Muslim authorities come to mind), and political freedom – the freedom to vote, associate, join parties – divide us, breed disunity and hatred just because “you are not with me”.
Does freedom of speech free us (in this country?), indeed, some of us are not free after we exercise that very freedom! How about freedom from the ghosts of our pasts – communists or the colonizers? The government has to decide!
The colonizers in our shared histories are not the Europeans or the Japanese. They are the shadows of doubts, the hollows of fears and the elements of distrust which have occupied our minds despite shouts of Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! on Aug 31, 1957.
These colonizers have erected bulwarks and invisible walls between our hearts. 55 years of insecurities made worst by government propaganda – of a racist and religious nature have rendered us a nation trapped in its own mirage. How can we ever claim to be free?
Because we do not take the time – chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – we do not spend the time to know the other. The other then becomes our point of reference, for us to make comparisons, which then becomes excuses for us to consider ourselves different from the other.
Instead of recognizing the similarities among us, we seek the negatives in the other. We learnt that by focusing or highlighting the bad in others, we could claim and show off the positives and good in us. The other then becomes an excuse for us not to look critically at ourselves, that we too have a role to play in this game called ‘Unity’; to ask ourselves “are we doing all it takes to realize this spirit of Merdeka?”
Did our forefathers fight the battle for Independence, sacrificed and shed their blood and sweat for nothing? The saddest outcome of it all, the tragedy is when we use the other as a rallying point for only ‘some’ of us to unite. The politicians are in this – the culprits in that we allow them – to nurture mistrust, hate and suspicion – towards another. The politics of hate, of race and of religion becomes our ideology, our rules and law by which we comply more strictly and seriously than we do our Constitution (think Perkasa! and think of how we view them!).
These so-called ideologies, entrenched deeper by our stereotypes, perception and prejudice of the other continue to delude us that we are free – yes free in the prisons we have build around ourselves, prisons protected by the iron bars of racism, the rose-tinted glass of religion and the multi-laced curtains of different social classes.
As long as we feel safe within these unseeable walls we place around us, we would always be trapped although we are bestowed with the freedom of an Independence, the freedom of a nation in a modern globalized world.
It’s time to look for the windows behind the iron bars, the curtains or the rainbow tinted glass, to look for the door, to turn the knob and walk out free from the shackles that keep us from what we deserve, and for what has been fought for so hard by our ancestors - true independence from our prejudices, stereotypes and hatred.
There is another world beyond the window. A different ocean. A ship is waiting there. This ship is big enough for the 27 million souls breathing on our land, if we have the right plans, sound policies respect for diversity. Reach out for that ship. Have courage, set sail – there are only two things that can happen – either we end up at the shore of our shared destinies – in the event of a tsunami, or we continue to sail – fast and strong – free! along with the winds of change. The choice, as always, is ours.
Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!