Isaac Azimov, the well-known science fiction writer, reminds us that “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent”.
For me, Azimov is too gracious; violence is the last refuge of rogues and scoundrels. Anger was my response when I heard of the thug-like behaviour of a group of youths as they tried twice to disrupt Muda party gatherings.
Anger is not good for anyone, old or young. So, at 74-plus, I should be calmer, but such dastardly behaviour riles me to the core. The mastermind behind it must be incredibly violent and unbelievably stupid.
Today, the citizenry are wiser and many are tech-savvy. So, old or young, they can read reliable posts and even view authentic videos of the violence that some youths used to try to stop Muda (Malaysian United Democratic Alliance) events.
These bullies can mask their faces, but they cannot hide their monstrous actions. Masked and in black-hooded tees, these thugs shouted at organisers to leave the venue of a Muda dinner. They threw water bottles, used firecrackers, kicked cars and shoved Muda volunteers.
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One Muda member fell because of a firecracker and Lim Wei Jiet, a Muda co- founder, had his car dented. In this way, a peaceful, multi-racial, lawful event in the run-up to the general elections was viciously disrupted.
The police did nab a few of the thugs. More needs to be done. There should be a formal inquiry. If bail is set for those arrested, wonder who would pay the bail?
Perhaps some detective like the meticulous Columbo, that popular TV detective, may help to find the real person paying bail.
I am no detective, as I have been known to miss clues right under my nose, but the fact that they all wore black- hooded tees and masks must give us all pause. Ah, was the whole horrendous event preplanned? “Aduh,” as Mak Cik Kiah would say.
In her revealing and insightful book Electoral Violence, Corruption and Political Order, Sarah Birch, a political scientist, gives us this wonderful quote: “Countries with high levels of corruption and weak democratic institutions are especially vulnerable to disruptions of electoral peace.”
Desperation will drive many political actors to violence in order to support other forms of electoral manipulations, such as vote-buying and ballot box stuffing.
Yet I am much encouraged by a quote from Hazlitt, the English essayist, who says, “Violence ever defeats its own ends.”
When a troubled young man came to the Prophet and asked how he may find peace, the Prophet answered him clearly and pithily, “Do not become angry” (Al- Bukhari). Indeed, Islam counsels silence and prayer when one is tempted to act in angry violence.
The Malay proverb: “Tanam lalang tak akan tumbuh padi” comes to mind. If bullies plant lalang (wild grass), that is, commit violent acts, then they cannot expect a “harvest” of plenty (paddy). Terror boomerangs back on those who commit terrible acts. The wildfire they ignite will consume any harvest they hope to reap.
I am non-partisan in critically assessing any party. What I pray for is genuine democratic practices, strong and independent democratic institutions as I echo Nelson Mandela who, after years of arduous struggle and imprisonment, retains hope as he tells his countrymen that “it is in your hands to make a better world for all who live in it”. Even in a wheelchair, if I have to, I will vote for change.
As a senior citizen who has had long years of teaching experience, who continues to enjoy informal chats with young people, I feel a deep responsibility to advise young people to grow a deepening sense of respectful, compassionate and sincere multi-racialism and not pay mere lip service to it.
To teach others this, I must reflect on and re-examine my own long ingrained prejudices. Do I retain a residual racism?
Stereotypes are easy to use even as they readily fuel anger resulting in thug-like behaviour. Most brain washers target those who are vulnerable because they are already intensely disaffected, discontented, disgruntled, so much so that their only sense of self-worth comes from acting out their anger in violence. This may be their only way of feeling manly achievement. Yet I must not be sexist since violence is never only limited to one gender.
A truly caring, ethical and concerned politician, older person or mentor would investigate why people are willing to be masked, hooded and violent. Is it only because they are paid? I leave it to professionals like trained counsellors and psychiatrists to intervene. But it is an important matter to look into.
We can each do our bit by open-mindedly, fairly and calmly discussing multiculturalism, by encouraging people to see each other as human beings who deserve compassion and respect. Language is important as we alert younger folk to be cautious and wary when someone keeps repeating that they are “victims” or constantly reiterate to them that others have “robbed” them.
Everyone wants to win so political rallies can witness the most virulent language. But today our citizens are not bodoh bendul or stupid. We know who are gentlemen and ladies. We know who has solid stuff to offer and who talks rubbish (“full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”).
We also know that our understanding of the many fascinating races that live in our beloved Malaysia should grow daily. It should not be a mere electoral act, performed publicly as when we make a thosai or fry some kway teow or try our hand at some East Malaysian raw fish dish, delectable as all these dishes are. We look for much more in a genuinely sincere politician.
“Remember that hope is a powerful weapon,” says Nelson Mandela, whom I love to refer to. In this senior season of my life, I continue to retain hope for our beloved land.