Kopi O Nite is a night for everyone to lepak , drink coffee, ber-potluck-ing, and share our thoughts on certain topics or issues. It is a monthly event organised by the Legal Aiders (comprising of young lawyers and non-lawyers who are serving the KL Legal Aid Centre). Here is what happened during the last session of Kopi O Nite as reported by one of its co-founders, Murnie Hidayah Anuar.
Kopi O Nite since it started (end of 2009), has organised quite a few sessions where we discussed issues affecting our everyday life – from the concept of 1Malaysia, relationships (which then focused on young professionals’ love relationships…sigh!!) to human rights issues (access to health care was the topic discussed at the last Kopi O Nite) – we discussed just about everything!
However, Kopi O Nite had been slow in organising its sessions ever since the New Year’s curtain had been lifted. Though cliche as it may be, I have to admit that our (the organisers) busy schedule and work commitments are to be blamed; one way or another!
Many of those who had joined the sessions before kept asking, when it would resume? We too posed the same question to ourselves! There are so many things to talk about, so many issues that needs to be highlighted. And as time passes by, many things had taken place and needed to be addressed. Therefore we decided to wait no more. As a kick start for this year’s Kopi O Nite. We said, “Let’s talk about Capitalism”. Yeah, a BIG word indeed! Whether one likes it or not, it is the system that one has to live with… at least for now.
We thought that would be impossible to cover this broad issue on capitalism in a 3 hour session. We needed to find a short-cuts that would still be comprehensible. So for an overview on the topic we decided to start the session with a movie screening of Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story (it also helps you to warm up before the discussion starts!).
The session which was held on Friday, 9 April 2010 was attended by bankers, a cartoonist cum activist, entrepreneurs, members of the general public, activists, and mostly lawyers. Although it started half an hour later than scheduled (it was already 8.30 p.m. when we started the session), luckily those who came didn’t leave before it even started!
The film as described by Moore, “really blows your mind.” It demonstrates articulately in a very unconventional way how the system works and its impact on the public at large. In a capitalist country where profit margin is the main objective, it is the ordinary person (like most of us) who suffer the most and it is big corporations and conglomerates and their cronies that will enjoy the fruits of the suffering of others.
But how is a situation in the United States comparable to ours? The truth is we are not much different from them. It was on this point that most of the discussion was centered throughout the session. We also looked into how we are affected by a capitalist system that only benefits a few, and not the community at large. We had also throughout the session looked at how different is our position compared to that in the United States and other part of the world.
It doesn’t take a genius to see how capitalism has affected our humble life in Malaysia. The study loan, the job opportunities available in our country, access to health care, absence of decent wages for plantation workers, the cost of living which is relatively higher than per capita income, governtment bailouts to companies owned by their cronies such as Perwaja Steel and De Perdana (to name a few), generous subsidies from Petronas (in the billions) to the Independent Power Providers (IPP) whose beneficiaries are companies controlled by some of the richest families and individuals in the country) [although the government denies that this amounts to a subsidy] and not to mention, the bank agreements that are drafted to protect mainly the bank’s interest whilst putting most liabilities on the borrowers are just a few examples to note.
Who gets the profit out of it? Its those big corporations, and who suffers? WE the tax payers!
To conclude, majority of those who attended the session are of the view that the disastrous impact of corporate dominance on our everyday life notoriously known as capitalism is in its very nature a radical evil that needs to be eradicated. How is that possible? That will require mass grass-roots action that pushes for reform in the economic system towards upholding social justice!
Author’s Note: Check out the Legal Aiders Facebook group for any update on the Kopi O Nite.
The next session will be held on 14 May 2010. Tajuk belum pilih lagi. Anyhow, you are cordially invited :)