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Straight Talk - 2 July 2020

WISE UP MALAYSIANS, WE ARE GROWING APART ON SOCIAL MEDIA

 

I just give up! Reading the comments in Facebook on just about everything Malaysian makes me want to retch. Most of us can’t seem to argue with a balanced sense of justice. We turn most arguments into racial and religious bigotry. And we use uncouth, angry and at times vulgar language with no attempts to make a point intelligently. The word respect appears to have been removed from the social media dictionary.

I am going to call a spade a spade here instead of using euphemism. The proverbial elephant is in the room and we have to stop pretending not to notice it. Our spirit as Malaysians and human values are on a tailspin as far as social media is concerned. Let’s think Malaysian, act as one and treat each other with some respect.

Let’s stop brushing it off saying “Oh, it’s just the social media” because its influence cannot be underestimated or ignored. The sad part is most Malaysians do not seem to care at all knowing pretty well that this will lead us down to destruction if we do not get out of this murky morass.

Most of the time arguments and counter-thoughts on social media seem to take away the essence of a healthy exchange that is so sorely needed in the midst of the political storm that we are enduring currently. And when some of us cannot engage ourselves in a civil manner, we hit below the belt and resort to name calling. This I believe has now become a typical Malaysian response when one gets desperate on the social media.

If you are an Indian, you can expect to be called “botol kicap”, which is the Malay word for black soy sauce bottle. And of course you are also referred to as a “pariah” or a “keling” who migrated from South India, never mind that you are a third or fourth generation Malaysian who enjoys citizenship by jus soli or birth right citizenship. The moment you make sense in your exhortations which touches on your Constitutional rights, you are told to go back to India if you are not happy living here.

Of course you are not spared of insults to your religion like you being an idolater which makes you a kafir (non-believer) who is supposed to be a subservient second class citizen. You can sense the pure vile and hatred in these comments, and it is only getting worse by the day.

There was an exception though, a pleasant one indeed. I am referring to the case of the Youtube sensation Pavithra Sugu who was featured prominently in Facebook after a glamourous photoshoot. Everyone was singing praises when Pepatung magazine featured her as model.

Incidentally, her stylist was Zul Herizal and her make-up was done by celebrity make-up artist Razzi Musa. Both were Malays and this indeed was heart-warming for our Malaysian soul. Every comment, whether made by a Malay, Indian or Chinese, never had one racist tone on her dark complexion or religion.

Is it because of her display of a humble background and modest lifestyle despite her overnight fame? I am not sure but I know there would have been so much hatred spewed if Pavithra happened to be a politician. Whatever the reason, it offered a glimmer of hope that there are exceptional factors that could unite Malaysians though it seems to be a rare commodity these days.

As for Chinese Malaysians, they are branded as communists from the DAP. The haters refer to them as DAPigs, to make it worse.  Even if a non-DAP member happens to raise some pertinent and relevant questions involving religion, they get demonised as party members who are anti-Islam despite the party having some Malay-Muslim elected representatives.

A foreigner who does not understand the politics of Malaysia may conclude from Facebook posts and comments that the Chinese Malaysians are out to destroy their own country! This is indeed a fallacy that has been used by politicians repeatedly to make it look plausible. Indeed, such propaganda does work on some minds if bombarded constantly on people who can’t reason sensibly.

The Malays on the other hand are branded by racists as a community which can only survive with the special privileges dished out by the government and will be handicapped if the playing field is level. Some extremist comments refer to them as a bunch of religious bigots who are bent on not accepting others from practising their respective religions.

All these, my friends, are the furthest from the truth of what is actually happening on the ground. These old stereotypes are not only obsolete but also absolute rubbish. We have bigots, zealots, racists from all races and walks of life. We have Malaysians from all races who are successful and have made world-class innovations.

As for unity and respect, just walk into any malls, markets, government departments or banks and you will realise all that is being said in the social media are a complete misrepresentation of the Malaysian spirit that is actually thriving on the ground.

I am not sure of what is inside the minds of all the Malaysians that I encounter or of those I observe interacting in public, but I definitely see so much civility in their actions most of the time. Many go out of the way to thank me or apologise when we are in each other’s way, with some even striking a conversation with some small talk while in a queue.

I have had the pleasure of being treated with much respect and understanding when I walked into government departments or government-linked companies for business and it quite amazed me the way I was attended to. Mind you, most of the frontline staff in these departments or agencies are Malays. This is when you realise that what’s happening in the virtual world, where you are subject to ridicule and insults based on ethnicity and religion, is just the opposite.

I could relate my real life experience to our Malaysian upbringing where most of us were taught the five principles of Rukunegara in our schools one of which emphasises on “Kesopanan dan Kesusilaan” (Courtesy and Morality). Perhaps we have been brought up badly in our social media sphere.

Mere laws are not good enough, there has to be proper education to show respect to one another and refrain from spewing hatred on social media. What I detest most is when some accounts use the face of their family members including their children as their profile pictures but still unleash so much filth and hatred in their comments. To these people, I would ask them to brave enough to use their pictures and face the wrath. Maybe by doing so, they will probably think twice before ranting out expletives or racism on social media.

Who are we to blame for this sad situation? Politicians? Maybe but should we not also take a look at ourselves and be responsible for our own behaviour? Why do some of us with exemplary behaviour in real life turn into animals on the social media? Has our education system failed or we as parents have not done enough to let our children and grandchildren know the importance of co-existing and unity? Or is it both? This I feel is a serious problem that we need to address.

Behind the Malaysian façade we project, many of us are living in a state of distrust, made worse intentionally or otherwise, by selfish politicians from all races and ethnicity. All that matters to them is to maintain and strengthen their power base and vote banks at any cost. It’s a time bomb that Malaysia could ill-afford. Let’s cleanse our souls of this pettiness and move on together as Malaysians.

God Bless Malaysia

 

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