For bread and free­dom

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

EVER watched an ant scurry across a ta­ble? It al­most seems as hur­ried as the white rab­bit shout­ing “O dear! O dear! I shall be too late” be­fore head­ing down the fic­tional rab­bit hole at the be­gin­ning of Alice in Won­der­land’s tale. And if you were to block an ant’s way midst scurry, the ant would move around or climb above the ob­sta­cle and be on its way.

When I think about cer­tain so­cial move­ments in Malaysia, I think of a group of ants with a pur­pose, mov­ing quickly for a greater good. When I think of how some so­cial move­ments are cur­tailed in Malaysia, this im­age of the ant in an ever chang­ing labyrinth comes to mind. The ant be­ing the so­cial move­ment and its sup­port­ers, and the labyrinth be­ing the dif­fer­ent laws, threats and bul­ly­ing tac­tics that hin­der the cause.

For many of us in Malaysia, so­cial move­ments seem to be a rel­a­tively re­cent phe­nom­e­non. Per­haps with the chang­ing times and greater ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion, so­cial move­ments to­day are more vis­i­ble than be­fore.

For some these move­ments are un­com­fort­able be­cause it chal­lenges the sta­tus quo while for oth­ers, it has be­come an out­let to speak up and stand up. But so­cial move­ments are not al­ways about pos­i­tive change or about be­ing pro­gres­sive. His­tory has shown us that eth­nic na­tion­al­ism or re­li­gious fun­da­men­tal­ism are rooted in so­cial move­ments. NeoNazism was also cat­e­gorised as a so­cial and po­lit­i­cal move­ment.

That’s why it is im­por­tant to first de­fine where a so­cial move­ment lies. What are its aims and goals? Is it try­ing to at­tain jus­tice? Is it chal­leng­ing the dis­tri­bu­tion of wealth? Is it about shar­ing re­sources? Or is it cham­pi­oning seg­re­ga­tion or prop­a­gat­ing a lop­sided in­co­her­ent agenda or is it vi­o­lently bul­ly­ing to get its way?

These are im­por­tant ques­tions. Now for those who are un­com­fort­able with so­cial move­ments, the per­sis­tence of so­cial move­ments can seem like a form of bul­ly­ing. We will per­se­vere un­til we get our way. It is a valid point. But if its about fix­ing in­jus­tice then couldn’t we get be­hind that kind of move­ment, though?

But there might be other ways to go about it. Are there though? Would you have imag­ined that your gro­cery bills would be as high as you pay to­day, or that the prices of cook­ing oil and petrol or just lo­cal fruits would be so high? Or that your wa­ter sup­ply keeps get­ting dis­rupted be­cause of pol­i­tics, or that you don’t feel safe walk­ing on the street or that your health­care costs have risen so high that you hope you don’t fall ill be­cause the bills might just kill you? Where do you go to lodge such com­plaints with­out be­ing told to just tighten your belt, live sim­pler lives and get fined if you don’t pay your bills or taxes? This might not be rea­son for a so­cial move­ment some might say. The thing is the pol­i­tics be­hind it is what has caused such state of af­fairs.

How much of that RM144 bil­lion in in­vest­ments with China will you en­joy? Just think of how much value you got from past trade deals.

Did you get a say in all this. The true story is yes. You got a say at the bal­lot box. And that’s what the prob­lem is right now. Rede­lin­eation.

If chang­ing how you vote makes your vote count less, that’s when your voice is taken away from you – your fun­da­men­tal rights and free­doms stolen with­out a fight.

You may not be able to see it but you do feel it when the price of food in­creases or when your toll rates rise, or when you can­not af­ford the sim­ple lux­u­ries that you could eas­ily af­ford 10 years, five years or even three years ago.

We can sit back and crit­i­cise so­cial move­ments and be arm­chair com­plain­ers, but when the op­por­tu­nity to stand up for your rights comes along and in­stead of lend­ing your voice, you put up ob­sta­cles, it is not only you who lose but the gen­er­a­tions af­ter you who will suf­fer.

But be­fore you do de­cide on a so­cial move­ment, eval­u­ate which ones are peace­ful and want­ing a bet­ter, stronger Malaysia for all.

Com­ments: let­ters@the­sundaily.com

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