Monday, 20 May 2013

Compassion for our hurting country

There isn't much I can say about our 13th General Elections that has not already been succintly and fairly reported in The Economist and the Council for a Community of Democracies.

(Reproduced from the New York Times without permission but in accordance with the principles of fair use)

Just 8 days after our Elections, our country observed the 44th anniversary of the May 13, 1969 racial riots.

As expected, several disgruntled politicians and the government-controlled media did not pass up the opportunity to raise the spectre of the May 13 incident in the hopes of inciting racial hatred, dividing a largely peaceful and united electoriate and instilling fear and compliance in people.

But we are a generation of young Malaysians typified by courage, resilience, racial assimilation, intelligence and political insight. The ruling coalition's ploy to instil fear and hatred backfired, and almost immediately, dozens of ad hoc social media groups were created to promote racial and religious harmony and to organise and hold community events on May 13.

The magnanimity of our fellow Malaysians was, frankly, astounding. From being a feared and dark blight on Malaysian history, May 13 was reclaimed and rebranded as a national day of healing and reconciliation.

A Facebook Group, Kita Kawan Mah (We Are Friends) was set up to highlight interracial friendships and instances of community spirit. It received over 10,000 "likes' within 48 hours.
(Photo reproduced from Kita Kawan Mah without permission but in accordance with the principles of fair use)

A group of volunteers handing out flowers to passersby in Brickfields on May 13.
(Photo reproduced from The Star without permission but in accordance with the principles of fair use)

In response to a politician's incendiary remarks about "what more do the Chinese (voters) want?", a community group organised an interracial picnic party, "Saya Mahu Picnic" (I Want To Picnic) at the Lake Gardens.
(Photo reproduced from The Star without permission but in accordance with the principles of fair use)

I agreed to be a part of "Compassion for Malaysia" a movement started by a friend of a friend on Facebook, in which participants pledge to fast and pray on May 13 for our country's peace, stability, progress and healing. Over 300 people pledged to fast at the same time, as a way of purifying ourselves and our thoughts.

I further suggested the following Random Acts of Kindness to be carried out on the said day in addition to fasting. Random Acts of Kindness remind us to live our lives mindfully, graciously, courteously and gratefully. RAOKs will put the power back in your hands as agents of positive change. Examples of RAOKs I suggested include:
1. - Finding out the name of the office cleaner/ gardener / security guard and then greeting them by name each day. Finding out more about their lives. Having a treat or two on hand for them to thank them for a job well done.
2. - Leaving kind and encouraging comments on blogs, FB and other social media sites.
3. - Finding out the address of our former schoolteachers and sending them thank you notes.
4. - Locating our old school friends on Facebook, adding them and then inviting them over for a meal.
5. - Volunteering for a worthy cause.
6. - Donating blood
7. - Signing up to be an organ donor with the National Transplant Resource Centre.
8. - Signing up with the Malaysian Stem Cell Registry and donating a blood sample for their database.
9. - Tutoring needy students who cannot afford private tuition.
10. - Getting to know your neighbours and offering assistance in keeping an eye on their house, plants or pets when they are away.
11. - Participating in local community events, e.g. neighbourhood jumble sales, sports days, cleanup campaigns and recycling drives.
12. - Attending a fundraising event at your local school even if you do not have any family members studying there.
13. - Organising a cleanup campaign to help remove and tidy up post-election banners and buntings.
14. - Planting a tree in your local park.
15. - Volunteering with the Fire and Rescue Services Dept as neighbourhood fire hydrant supervisors.

My ideas were received with enthusiasm. As this is the first year we are organising such an event, we didn't have the opportunity to plan anything elaborate. I have been invited to help organise the Random Acts of Kindness part of the event on the same day next year, and of course I accepted the challenge.

Facebook and blogs were full of multilingual posts about the kindness of strangers, interracial friendships and the rejection of race-based politics. My heart swelled with pride reading each and every post, and I have never been prouder to be Malaysian. Politicians can try to manipulate us, but we have proven ourselves to be bigger and better than they are, and much more and much better than the narrow categories they try to restrict us to. Democracy is alive and well. Next year we will return even bigger and better. The force of good will always, always triumph over the force of evil. Things are going to get worse before they get better right now, but I have no doubt that they will get better. The days of racist, corrupt and crony-based politics are over. Each and every political party will have to reform and reinvent itself if it wants to try to win the support of an increasingly urban and educated electorate. Things can only get better from here. We shall overcome. We shall overcome.


Emily said...

I came, I read and then I stole....

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Thank you for coming over, Emily.

Ellen Whyte said...

You won on points. So I guess this is food for our next meeting :-)

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Thanks, Ellen! Won on points? But this isn't a contest. Nation-building is a collaborative effort. Yes, would love to meet up again. Moglet's new family lives in your neighbourhood.

Bookface said...

I love both the sign (with Malaysian ticked off instead of race) and your list of random acts of community compassion. Excellent suggestions all!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Thank you for your support, Bookface! I know you fasted on May 13 as well and I'm very grateful so many did. People are essentially good.