Jason highlights the bits of the newly published Toolkit that promise to get change-oriented Malaysians moving to the beat of activism.
I’m fortunate to be one of the lucky few who managed to pick up one of the first 100 copies of ‘Activating Malaysians: The D-I-Y Toolkit’ (#DIYToolkit) published by LoyarBaca (LoyarBurok’s publication arm) during the launch. And I’m happy to report that it proves to be a tool of empowerment that makes you want to move and ACT right away after the last page has been read.
This 98-page Toolkit is broken down into 6 parts. Each section gives an overview of what activism really is, and how to move within the community one is in via UndiMsia! and the movement’s flagship #IdolaDemokrasi GameShop.
As to the incessant questions of the majority of “Why Activism?”, Chapter 4 provides a thorough explanation why we need to stop complaining but start acting instead. It also tackles the importance of activism by giving a straightforward answer. You’ll find this gem of a definition at page 19:
The words ‘activists’ and ‘activism’ are two extremely powerful words. They connote movement and they define action as opposed to passivity and ennui.
When people hear the word ‘activism’, they often have this misconception that activists are ‘troublemakers’ and ‘busybodies’. The Toolkit addresses this misunderstanding by saying that those in power endow activists with such labels because they’re afraid that their abuses of power, tactics of oppression and other shameful deeds, might come to light.
Meanwhile, the 3 foundations of an activist and the types of activists are introduced in the book. The foundations are ‘The Ideological’, ‘The Emotional’ and ‘The Functional’. These foundations must work hand-in-hand or else the mover will soon feel burnt out, disillusioned or powerless. The importance of the emotional aspect of activism is found at page 22:
Idealogy without emotion misses the reason for activism. The emotion of care for others grounds the activists. Why be an activist? Why do activism? Do unto others what you would like to be done unto you. Shorn of rights language, it is because there are complainants, victims and survivors who are suffering, needing to help and seeking justice. They say that their rights have been violated and you see it too. And you are able to help and want to do something about it.
Once the emotional core is dealt with, the activist will then have the conviction to be functional about the cause he/she is working for. However, the book cautions that in the functional, it’s the responsibility of the activist – based on the ideology of rights – to decide if a certain course of action should be taken or not. This is because we must take into the account the harm it may inflict on society versus the benefit it may reap. After all, ‘a person’s rights cannot be seen in isolation from the rest of society’.
As some people may lack the understanding when carrying out these actions, they may go overboard or become extremists. That’s when a peaceful rally, for example, turns ugly. Yes, it only takes one person to start a pandemonium in a peaceful rally! (And I find that the Toolkit discussing these issues well.)
Chapter 3 talks about the activist in all of us and discusses the different types following Bill Moyer’s Movement Action Plan (MAP). Based on years of research and experience, Moyer’s MAP suggests that activists must understand that four different roles need to be played out at eight different stages for successful movements to happen. (The Toolkit provides useful links for readers who want a more detailed look at the 8 stages of MAP as well as the 4 roles of activists via www.turning-the-tide.org and www.thechangeagency.org.)
The chapter explains that an activist could one day play one role, and on another day, play a different one. It stresses that these roles complement each other, that they allow us to experience activism more throughly in order to be better activists. The roles are: ‘The Citizen’, ‘The Reformer’, ‘The Social Change Agent’, and lastly, ‘The Rebel’. Simple questions such as “If you get into trouble in school, what would it be for?” are used to probe and facilitate the realisation that there’s no such thing as ‘a single-role activist’. Each role is also briefly explained to give readers a clearer idea of the same.
Interestingly, the Toolkit addresses the perception that activists only play the Rebel role and dismisses it outright. I had once thought – not anymore today – that activism was only about protests, placards and sending aggressive messages to the public but I know now I was wrong. The example given is of the activist life of Mahatma Gandhi. He played the role of a Rebel when fighting for the rights of the Indians and participating in protests, but later assumed the role of Reformer when forging an independence agreement with the British. These illustrations make the Toolkit engaging and easy to understand.
Chapter 2 of the Toolkit introduces UndiMsia! The Movement. (A short historical background on how it came to be, as a narrative of the movement, can be found in chapter 1). UndiMsia! is a fiercely non-partisan movement. And chapter 2 basically introduces the movement as a model template for activists and communities seeking to create and build campaigns based on human rights or social justice causes.
It’s noteworthy that the template in question consists of 4 pillars – ‘Information’, ‘Process’, ‘Action’ and ‘Platform’ – and the reason for each pillar is explained thoroughly. The goals of each as well as a roadmap or guide on how each may be successfully executed are included. This chapter brings down the entry level of activism for anyone seeking to be an activist. Everyone can be an activist. From the smallest of things, such as getting a water cooler in your college to issues such as racism and corruption, there involves a certain process of questioning which lead to various forms of action, e.g. who should we target to have the water cooler placed or to eradicate racism and corruption, what are the procedures involved, what action(s) can one take? The Toolkit mainstreams a certain ‘science’ to activism.
UndiMsia!’s flagship #IdolaDemokrasi GameShop is introduced specifically to facilitate the 3rd pillar (Action). In fact, a detailed explanation on how these fun work-(game)shops are run can be found at pages 42-52. Youth Action Groups (YAGs) that take up the causes discussed at the GameShops are also given a mention here with key targets in their #LaporanPenggerak. Apart from stressing the importance of taking action, this pillar touches on the 198 forms of ‘Non-Violent Direct Action’ (NVDA) that can be adopted if the powerholders (ADUNs and MPs for example) are unresponsive. A list of #198Actions (or NVDAs) can be found at pages 95-98.
The Appendices are very much graphic-laden with charts and images that illustrate the #Problem Tree, #Action Pyramid and the #BigPicture breakdown of Malaysia according to income class, ethnicity and religion. Many of these pictorial guides are drafted to give readers an idea of the institutions (and their functions) as well as why they’re accountable to us all.
Complaining and whining is not a mark of a hallmark citizen. Ask instead: “What can I do?” And do it!
Of all the statements I’ve read, this #UndiMsiaTip particularly hit me most. Over the years, I’ve been complaining via social media and amongst friends about this and that. But I haven’t really contributed as a ‘mover’ and tried to change things. This Toolkit tells me that now is the time. The notion of people power or the power of the rakyat is constantly underscored and promoted as a label for ‘new politics’ or a ‘new democracy’. The sort that’s supported and run by a movement of change by the people, for the people. That’s what makes UndiMsia! different from so many other movements. And that’s what makes the D-I-Y Toolkit its quintessential heart.
In a nutshell, this Toolkit is a must-have for all Malaysians. As further editing is being done, re-printing is in the process and with LoyarBurok’s online store #LoyarButik up soon, I urge all of you to get a copy of the Toolkit once it’s available. Why? Because many of the ‘truths’ you thought you knew are actually superficial and unfounded perceptions.
Kudos to the community movers who spent time and effort in the past 1 year to document the nuggets of wisdom and practical advice that constitutes the empowering and action-oriented Toolkit. Their dedication in providing these accurate facts has fascinated me. Once you pick up the Toolkit and done reading it, you’ll feel the urge to move it, move it!