There are times we need to look back and remember why we started our journey. Ong Kar Jin does exactly that in this time-bending post.
Author’s note: I wrote this letter a while ago to remind myself what is important. With all the frustration spilling over from the recent crackdowns and GE13 results, many people have either given up or become disillusioned. This letter has been a source of strength for me all this while. I hope it helps someone out there too.
Dear Future Self,
If you are reading this letter, then you must be upset, dejected or disillusioned with the cause. Perhaps there has been an incident where you have realised your ideals are, well, less than ideal. Or perhaps reality has just given you a giant slap on the face and somehow you do not know what is right or wrong anymore. Or maybe it’s one of those moments where you look back, reflect, and think, ‘How can there be any hope? What can man do against such reckless hate?’
You will no doubt go through a period of deep thought, reflection and meditation as you ponder upon the meaning of it all. You will tear yourself apart thinking of a barrage of questions that will assault your conscience. You will cease to know what is right and what is wrong, what is black and what is white, what is dark and what is bright.
You may even contemplate retreating into your shell to recover. You may even think of just resigning and let others do the fighting. You may feel tired, burnt out, and wonder out loud if all your efforts were for nothing. People don’t seem to listen, situations don’t change fast enough, or your dreams are shattered.
If all this strikes true in your heart, then it is now my duty to remind you why you began caring in the first place. It is my duty to make you remember.
Remember who it is you are fighting for. Remember who it is you started this journey for. You began it with the jeering insults of your schoolbus mates, racism thrown at an innocent child. You began with witnessing the injustice of a disabled girl being made fun of for being different. You began with the heartwrenching sight of that old woman, rummaging through 7-11 garbage bins to fend for a living, abandoned by her children.
You started your awakening with the bedroom conversations of your parents as you pretended you were asleep, where they spoke of the state of our nation, migration and resignation. How you pained to transform the sighs and cries into glimmers of hope.
You began your journey in the streets and trains, where you silently watched Malaysians from all walks of life passing through with busy lives. On the rubbish-strewn reclaimed beaches, gazing upon long forgotten mansions, wondering what it was like in a golden age long past. In the canteen where you used to sit with that policeman’s son, where you always lied and pretended he would ever pay you back for treating him to breakfast, because he could not afford it.
Remember the tears from BERSIH where it was not the tear gas but the realisation of a lost freedom that drove you to despair. Remember the sorrow in that Orang Asli man’s quivering voice as he confessed to you that sometimes, in between being ignored and being taken for being stupid, he felt life was not worth living. Remember.
The politicians will continue to bicker. The ideologues will continue to spout. Life will go on. But you cannot just “move on”. You must move forward.
Can you make a difference? Yes. And no. I don’t know. Can you tell what is right and wrong? Again I have no answers.
You are asking all the wrong questions. Instead of asking all this, why do you not also wonder: Am I going to do nothing? Are you going to give up, seriously?
The Gandhis, Mandelas, Martin Luther King Jrs of the world have suffered far more than you. No meaningful change was ever brought about without rejection, dejection, frustration. The night is always darkest before dawn. Remember, remember, never surrender.
Now get off your ass and get to work.
Always with you,
Your naive, idealistic and eternally-stubborn younger self.
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