Freedom, Imagined

A glimpse of ideals.

Why can't we be friends? | Source: flickr.com/aalim

Imagine this.

Tens of thousands of us came from all over to exercise our fundamental rights. In our midst were foreign elements; their presence threatening and encouraging at the same time.

The organisers of the event gave us clear instructions: Wear shirts of a certain colour. Be at the designated staging sites at the appointed time.

Alternative routes were suggested in case the authorities decided to block access to the sites. Many arrived hours ahead and camped inside their vehicles, counting down the hours to the event we’d all anticipated for so long.

And when the time came, friends, families, strangers — Malaysians and, yes, even foreign instigators — all moved in unison, in a sea of one colour. We were determined to get past all the obstacles and challenges that were put in our way.

It was a huge event. Traffic came to a standstill. Commuters were affected and businesses no doubt suffered too.

At major intersections and roundabouts, we’d come face to face with hostile forces. Car drivers gave us disapproving looks. I personally saw men on motorcycles cussing at us, trying to instigate an incident that would spark a flashpoint.

Some of us lost our nerve and fell out of formation.

But through it all, from our staging sites to the end of our route, were the men of the Royal Malaysia Police. On their bikes, putting themselves between us and impatient motorists; standing in the middle of intersections, holding back heavy traffic with nothing but their bare hands; walking along with us side by side, making sure we kept within the safe lanes.

They encouraged us, smiled and gave us friendly nods as we moved past them. A few asked us to keep up the pace and gently moved us in the right direction.

We came together in this movement because of our belief in the cause of freedom. The freedom to express ourselves, to join with others who shared this passion, and to exercise it knowing no one could deprive us of this deep-rooted desire to be free.

In so many ways, it was us having a say in where we were headed. We all had different motivations for participating but shared a common destination.

And so we moved, all of us wearing our green jerseys as participants of the Standard Chartered KL Marathon. Different events and categories, and for different reasons — a cure for diseases, in memory of loved ones, advocating civil liberties, or just simply to beat last year’s personal finishing time.

A myriad of causes but the same finishing line. All 22,500 of us — men, women and children.

Early last Sunday morning was the first time in a long time that many of us actually felt the police were our guardians, keeping us safe and facilitating that fundamental expression of our humanity.

For a while, at least, we didn’t have to imagine it. It really did happen.

This article was previously published in The Malaysian Insider.

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Adrian Chew is a lawyer, writer and TMI columnist. A member of the LoyarBurok masthead, he also leads the crack editorial team behind the "Monkeysuit Protocol" column for August Man Magazine. He is an advocate for reading and the written word. His articles and book reviews can be read at ReadingMonk.com and Culturazzi.org. He tweets as @ReadingMonk on Twitter.

Posted on 1 July 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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2 Responses to Freedom, Imagined

  1. There had been many freedom fighters in the history and they have always been succeeded for getting their rights. So this is the prove that fighting for the rights is the right thing to do.

  2. siew eng

    Was stuck in the usual bloody kl traffic jam today thinking – what do the taxi drivers have to say about this daily inconvenience? And the mainstream media that's so screwed all over it cannot tell right from wrong anymore.