(Adam the method actor beefed up for his impression of a fat cat Malaysian local councillor.)
The most popular topic of conversation these days whenever I get together with my friends in pubs, mamak stalls, restaurants or just sitting around under a coconut tree tokking kok is the state of the nation. How we are being screwed by the politicians, the ineffective administration, the rising costs of living. All the usual things that Malaysians love to talk about so much la. And as usual all we do is pretty much just talk. Then we go back to our mundane lives and try to deal with all the problems we talked about. Until the next time things become too much to bear. Then we gather round the pubs, mamak stalls, restaurants or under the coconut trees and talk some more.
Then a few days ago I got to thinking about how maybe we Malaysians can do something about taking charge of our own lives and to effect change. Huh? Can meh? Sure can one. How?
(Just so you don’t lose track of things. I just said we can do but of course we won’t la.)
Remember back a few years ago, the people in the Philippines used something called People Power and overthrew their dictatorial administration that was headed by the husband of a shoe crazy woman? When that happened we all thought, “Wah! People Power really good man.” Happening la. Syabas people of the Philippines. People Power became the catch phrase for a long time. People can make change. People hold the power of their lives in their own hands. Those Philippines flers really did something great man.
Actually, People Power isn’t endemic to the Philippines. Never has been. We first practised People Power in the march towards gaining independence from the British. We all were passionate about Merdeka. We got together as one people we appointed a spokesman in the person of the Tunku and we won our independence. Without bloodshed.
Then we sat back and enjoyed the fruits of our first People Power success. But life became so good after that that we began to relax. A little too much.
And then we lost our sense of People Power altogether. We became dependent again. We were colonised again. This time by the people that we chose to govern us and to continue the work which we started using People Power. Life became so good that all we wanted to do was sit back, relax and enjoy.
“Okay la. You do it for me la. I pay (elect) you. You do it.”
Things came to such a state that eventually when things got bad again and we began to suffer a little bit of this and that we began to ask, “Eh! What happened? How can this be happening one?” Then, the people whom we had asked to ‘take care’ of things for us, things that we should have done ourselves, said, “Well, you gave us the mandate to do things for you what? So let us do la. You just sit under the coconut tree and enjoy lor.” We knew something was not right. We did not like it. But sadly, we realised that we had been sleeping under the coconut tree for so long that we had lost the ability to think, to do things for ourselves. So we replied, “Oh yeah hor. We elected you to do things for us hor? Okay, okay. Sorry ah.” And we went back to talking and grumbling in pubs, mamak stalls, restaurants or under coconut trees. Only this time we added to our tokkok sessions the phrase, “Hiyah! What to do?”, just before we ordered another jug of beer or glass of teh tarik. And we happily returned to our anesthetized state.
Fortunately, in recent times it has been proven that not ALL Malaysians have lost the ability to use People Power to make their lives better. I can almost hear you thinking, “Where got?” Got, I’m telling you. Think about it.
Those flers in the newly created city of Petaling Jaya flexed their People Power muscles and got things done to their satisfaction. They all felt strongly about something and got together as a single unit and affected changes that improved their lives. The fought, using People Power, illegal billboards excessive spending on city status celebrations, cutting down hills for highways.
And I really tabik those police flers. They knew the potency of People Power and used it. How? I am sure you have read all about the IPMC? Everybody say the police corrupt la. Inefficient la. Needs to be watched la. So some big fler said okay let’s set up this commission and that commission to whip the police flers into shape. So what did the police flers do? They were faced with something that would affect their lives in ways that they thought less than desirable. So they got together as one unit and used their People Power to effective say to all of us, “F**K you! We are not going to take this shit from you. So there.” And what did we (read you and me and the administration we elected) do? We were stunned. “Sorry ah, boss. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.” Then we retreated back to the pubs, mamak stalls, restaurants and under the coconut trees and grumbled and tokked some more kok. “Wah! Those police flers damn terror la.”
Of course, there are some of you reading this who will say, “Hiyah they all police what. Sure can do la. You try and see they sure hantam you one.” Really?
Remember the taxi drivers in Penang? They used People Power also. The blaardy garmen asked them to use their fare meters. The taxi flers got together, used their People Power and told the authorities and all of us, “F**K you. Georgetown to Tanjung Tokong RM20. So there!” We were stunned. “Sorry ah, boss. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.” Then we retreated back to the pubs, mamak stalls, restaurants and under the coconut trees and grumbled and tokked some more kok.
Once upon a time there was a kingdom of some sort up there in the sky. Those flers drank out of giant tea pots and sat under coconut trees a lot. But some people didn’t think much of it so they got together, exercised their People Power and burned the whole sky kingdom to the ground. We were stunned. But instead of using our People Power to right a wrong we chose to retreat to the pubs, mamak stalls, restaurants and under the coconut trees and grumbled and tok some more kok.
Coffee shops increase the price of a cuppa by 10 sen because the price of sugar increased by 10 sen a kilogram or a ton or whatever. They all got together and used People Power. We retreated back to the pubs, mamak stalls, restaurants and under the coconut trees and grumbled and tokked some more kok. And paid the 10 sen more.
Toll highway operators ask for and get to increase toll charges. They all got together and used People Power. We retreated back to the pubs, mamak stalls, restaurants and under the coconut trees and grumbled and tokked some more kok.
The government implements policies and projects that we do not like or want. They used the People Power that elected them into office to subjugate their flock of ‘sheep’. Okay la, ‘kambing’ as we’re in Malaysia. What do we do? I think you got the picture.
Just days ago I attended a public forum that was to discuss what Malaysians can do to set Pak Lah “free”. Meaning that Pak Lah is ineffective as Prime Minister because he is shackled by people or circumstances beyond his control and that we as citizens should do something to free him so that he can do the things he promised when we gave him the biggest mandate in history.
The panelists were high profile bloggers with readerships that surpass the newspapers and included the patriarch of an opposition party. (That the forum was organised by this opposition party should have told me to stay home.) The panelists/speakers did nothing to set anything free except that they freely expounded on their mostly new found fame on the Internet. One good thing did result at the end of the forum that night. During the question and answer session it was proven conclusively that most Malaysians are indeed well cushioned by the success that their forefathers won for them. It was all about… “Err…yes this is MY problem. What are YOU going to do about it? What can YOU do for ME?”
Shockingly, members of the panel proceeded to actually answer. Propagating the disease of apathy.
People Power. For good or evil. A most powerful force that most Malaysians continue to ignore. Why?
The Malays – Never mind la. Whatever happens the kerajaan, which will always be our majority what, will take care for us la. We are of the soil.
The Chinese – Never mind la. Can make money enough lor. My family in Perth la. Yours?
The Indians – You only go to see them when you are sick or need legal advice, right? Yes. THEY will do for YOU.
(The above article was first published in the November issue of Off The Edge)