On media and sharing of information
So the media may have misrepresented facts. So rumours may have been passed around.
Nevertheless, fear is but a nightmare that one imagines; the same way hope is but a dream that one conjures. Reality is what one believes in.
So what if they really underreported the turnout? You know you were there if you were there; or perhaps your family/friends were there. Or your colleagues. Or your cousin’s friend’s father’s niece’s boyfriend’s aunt’s love rival. Those at the rally overcame a labyrinth of obstacles to be there; those at home held their breaths and gave invaluable support.
We believe in the undying flame. And that’ll become real. That flame is in our hearts. But we keep our minds cool. The flame spreads among the hearts of the people; it doesn’t spread to the mind or elsewhere, or we’ll burn out. And we may hurt ourselves and others.
Certain information was meant to heighten tension, provoke, incite or divert focus. Stay cool. Having internet access in the midst of a rally is good, if you have your calm mentality intact. Yelling and flag-waving is good for morale, so long as the voice in your brain reminds you about your senses.
On the atmosphere
Not my first rally, but my first tear gas experience. We helped one another to overcome the pain and irritation, and then we moved on. Nothing’s stopping us.
Police presence was everywhere… Helicopters hovered overhead… It drizzled romantically… (regardless of which side you belong to, if you belong to this nation, show some love to one another, alright?) Rained torrentially…
I was walking alone (before I found my friends), getting past police scrutiny in LRT stations and then heading towards the destination. But I wasn’t actually alone. I watched the people around me — of various races, backgrounds. We were all there on that fateful day. And then I smiled.
On the environment
At one point, my friends and I walked around with garbage bags in our hands, collecting garbage along the demonstration path and asking others to help too. Being a concerned citizen who took time and risk to demonstrate does not justify littering. Bersihkan Malaysia, literally!
By the way, tear gas can indeed contribute to greenhouse effect… global warming isn’t cool.
On being young and ‘being cool’
A while ago, I came across an article about a debate between the author and his friend on why some very young people want to join the rally. Several points were brought up. Not surprisingly, the discussion includes how young people are perhaps sincerely concerned about our future, but they may be encouraged by the notion of “being cool” too.
Being young proffers a prerogative to say “I have every reason to want to ensure our voices are heard because decisions today affect the younger generation.” Remember, however, that being young is also a responsibility. You are responsible for your generation, your future generation, as well as your parents, family and yourself. Going ra-ra-ra yet being easily influenced (by any side) is NOT cool. Having an independent mind is. Not all in the government are malevolent; not all in the opposition are heroes. The government can be (very) wrong; supporting the opposition doesn’t amount to rebellion and riot. Youth and energy are your assets; if you are being used then you are useful, but if you are being exploited then you are an ingenuous imbecile.
When I stepped out of my house today, I made a promise to my parents that I will take care of myself. A serious one. They did not make me promise, I did it because I felt it was my responsibility. I took every precaution, gathered important contacts, and analysed the situation from reliable sources. I didn’t think I was a heroine, nor did I try to be one. I stayed away from provocative groups. I didn’t bring or do anything that might hinder me from entering the city to help the crowd (and also provide a “reason” to be arrested).
What can I do for my country, if I can’t even protect my family from fear and anxiety? What can I do for my country, if I can’t even protect myself? “Don’t give your life to the cause; give the rest of your life to it.” Those were the words of Kumi Naidoo.
I am sure, during their period of imprisonment, Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng (and many others) had hoped fervently that they were able to serve the people instead of serving their jail term. Burma needed Aung San Suu Kyi to exude courage and face harsh circumstances, to ignite the flame of hope among the people. However, now, Malaysia needs young people (well, in general, all responsible and concerned citizens) not to go behind bars, but go up front and contribute (in various ways)!
By acting and reacting wisely and prudently during rallies and demonstrations, and lowering the risk of getting arrested or injured —
- One is already helping by not increasing the workload of the lawyers who had very kindly volunteered to help those who are arrested.
- One is also helping to lower the percentage of arrests, to assuage the fear among general multitude to support future rallies.
- One maintains a peaceful rally.
- One keeps loved ones from anxiety, trouble, and earns the right to say ‘I want to join the rally’ during future demonstrations (if any).
If you have taken all measures to help maintain a peaceful rally and protect yourself, and yet you are still arrested and/or beaten up —
- You can look into the eyes of your loved ones, and say “I honoured my promise to take care of myself, but the police did not fulfill the oath to take care of the people.”
- You provide the authorities no reason or excuse for their draconian actions. Now they simply appear un-cool.
- And then we can now ask, “We protested peacefully, but did they handle the protest peacefully?”
On being there
I am not rebelling against the government. I am not entirely pro-opposition. It’s not supposed to be a war among government, opposition, police, people, and other groups. (As I walked past, I even smiled at a police officer or two, wishing they were not among those who defied their oath, wishing they won’t be unreasonably hostile to fellow rakyat). It’s simply about Malaysia, and Malaysians.
And yes, dear reader, you must have guessed that I’m doing this for Malaysia. That’s true. But essentially, I’m doing this for myself too. I want to ensure that, during the first election I encounter after I turn 21, I know I am making a meaningful decision when I cast my vote.
I’ve been there, done that, and survived. And I fervently hope others are safe and recharged by now, too (deepest condolences to the family of the deceased Baharuddin Ahmad). For though the rally can mean so much, it can only do so much; we need to continue our journey.
Jin is musing about life, living life, and exploring life. Having turned 18 this year, she’s no longer ‘that underaged girl’.