Come voting day, take care of one another

COMMENT | “How are you?” is a tough question for me to answer. “How are you?” compels me to answer “I’m fine, thank you,” when I know I’m not fine. It compels me to answer “Hey I’m good, thanks for asking,” when the very opposite is true.

So I usually just divert that question with another question instead.

With the election date out, at least I can breathe a sigh of relief. The anticipation of GE14 has made Malaysians passionately edgy and politically charged, with everyone having strong opinions on both sides, not willing to be generous to those who are not on their side of politics.

Like any typical Malaysian, I talk about politics with friends at the 24-hour mamak stall. Friends know my stance on the elections, and my stance on #UndiRosak.

“Why can’t the opposition just be honest? Just say, ‘If you don’t vote for Pakatan Harapan, you’re a traitor’. No need to say, ‘If you don’t vote, you’re a traitor’. Just say it outright that you’re not happy with those who are not voting, or spoiling their votes, because they’re not voting for your party,” a friend of mine commented.

“That’s where the real disgust is, the dishonesty, the double-speak, the lying and the emotional blackmail,” I thought. But as much as we are disgusted by the rhetoric of politicians, we know BN never ceased to be the immediate enemy to our democracy.

At the same time, there should not be ambiguity when you’re campaigning. Stop sending mixed signals with #UndiBaikBaik; just be clear, undi who? That’s how you defeat voter apathy, give them reasons to vote, not compel them to vote just for the sake of voting.

Asking the right questions

Much has happened since the attacks on #UndiRosak supporters – the redelineation, the bulldozing of the Anti-Fake News Act, and now, the mid-week voting day and the ridiculous amount of days for campaigning. They all point to a current government that is scared of losing the upcoming elections. But why are we surprised?

Of course, BN would manipulate the elections so that the odds are in their favour. Of course, they would cheat. There is nothing new about their electoral fraud.

My question is, why are we still giving legitimacy to this fraud? Have we not been kids before, and when we played a game but found the rules unacceptable, didn’t we question this heavily or threaten not to play altogether? This was how kids learned how to negotiate, and how to fight for their rights, even before they learned the words to express them in human rights language.

There is no hegemon in the world, heck, in history, that would give up its power willingly. Civil rights always had to be taken, they have never been given.

It’s good that we are angry. We should be angry.

What’s more important, though, is asking the right questions, and we have not been doing that in a very long time.

Why are we still playing by the rules of a cheater? Why are we not delegitimising them altogether? This is a legitimate democratic crisis. We need to discuss how to go about this in a way that would not result in political anarchy, because the last thing we need is state justification for a declaration of emergency.

Preserving our humanity

In the next few weeks, power-hungry politicians are willing to do unthinkable things to get your vote. They will persuade and they will campaign, but they will also bribe and will resort to violence, either online or offline.

We will see two elite groups at war, one in the form of Najib, the other in the form of Mahathir, our two candidates for prime minister. As the Malay saying goes, “Gajah sama gajah bergaduh, pelanduk mati di tengah-tengah” (When elephants fight, the mouse-deer between them dies).

That’s what I’m most worried about – I am most worried that we lose our humanity in the quest for Putrajaya. The ‘pelanduks’ are us, the rakyat, watching two giants go against each other, dragging and killing us along with them.

However, as bleak as the future seems right now, I always have hope. I am, after all, an idealist. I hope to see Malaysians taking care of one another in this high-stress period. I hope to see us be kind to one another, and be Malaysians first, regardless of political parties.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be interested in the well-being of fellow Malaysians. I’ll be asking, “How are you, Malaysia?” Only you don’t have to answer right away. I trust that you will be fine. You will find a way to be.


MARYAM LEE is a writer with a chronic tendency to get into trouble. What she lacks in spelling when writing in English is made up for with her many writings in Bahasa Malaysia. She believes in conversations as the most valuable yet underrated cause of social change. She wants people to recognise silences and give them a voice, as she tries to bring people together through words.

Artikel disiar pada April 12, 2018 - 3:27 pm oleh Susan Loo

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