One of fundamental responsibilities of any elected government, politicians (both ruling and opposition), or civil society groups, who are serving the public, is to promote the dignity of the nation and her citizens.
Through striving for dignity of citizens in a nation, we also create a respectable society, a respectable nation.
While we see different groups with diverse political affiliations, ideology and faith taking their own stand on various issues affecting the nation and her citizens, any judgement on such actions of politicians, government, religion, or civil society group can only be based on whether such actions creates dignity or robes the dignity of a nation or her citizens.
When we talk about nations, we are talking about the citizens of a nation and not just the government or politicians or any particular religion or race.
Any action, decision of these groups, particularly the government of the day, will have its effect on the dignity of the nation and her citizens.
Today, many nations are known for their tyrannical rulers, authorities and unjust and repressive laws.
We watch in disbelief when many elected governments and authorities unleash violence against the people who elect them and formulate policies that discriminate or restrict people based on religion and race.
Many a time, the ethnic and religious identity, colour, caste, class and gender identity is used as a fodder by authorities or politicians to continue in power.
Weapons to create animosity
Political violence, racial slurs, religious fanaticism has always been used as a weapon to create animosity against the ‘other'.
When we don't give dignity to people and citizens whom we serve, or when we are only concerned about giving dignity to citizens who agree with us or who are like us, or belong to a particular race, or religion or political party or ideology, we rob the dignity of a nation and her citizens.
As we deal with the question of dignity, we also come to realise that restoring dignity is a justice issue.
For example, how do we restore dignity of a community within a nation which is discriminated because of their racial or religious identity?
How about a student who is discriminated in school because he/she is from a minority community? How about a person who is harassed because of his/her political affiliation?
How about an individual who is marginalised because of the colour of his skin or for his/her ethnic background?
How do we clean up an electoral roll which is accused on tainted with illegal voters?
How do we handle the blatant corruption and massive siphoning of funds afflicting a nation? How do we deal with the question of respecting people's freedom and right to reject an earth refinery project?
How do we restore dignity of gender queers who are marginalised because of their gender identity? All these issues ultimately affect the dignity of the nations and her standing in the larger world context.
The task of all groups' viz. politicians, government, religion, or civil society, is to find ways to restore the lost dignity of the people who are affected.
Any of these groups cannot remain silent in the wake of actions which robs people's dignity.
When authorities take away the dignity of citizens through their own repressive actions and laws and deny their space in the society, people would then eventually look for means and support groups to restore their lost dignity.
The uprising of citizens in different parts of the world which saw the removal of many repressive laws and repressive regimes as well as reformation within religions cannot be written off as mere uprising as such but must be seen as a genuine struggle for restoring lost dignity of nations, communities and even religions.
It is a fact that different groups take different approach to restore a lost dignity.
The Bersih movement staged rallies and sit in protest to restore the dignity of a nation by demanding that the government and election commissioner clean up of the electoral roll of the nation.
The anti-Lynas groups staged rallies against Lynas earth refinery project, which according to them will rob the dignity of the environment and the people.
At the same time, the government constructed a barbed wire barricade around the Merdeka Square to protect it from citizens so that the dignity of the Merdeka Square could be preserved.
Subsequently, the nation's ex-army veterans took a different step that saw butt exercises; some other sold beef burgers....apparently all claiming to restore the dignity of the nation which according to them is lost due to the action of the ‘other'.
In another case, an elected parliamentarian even went to extent of enquiring the possibility of hanging the ‘other' for treason for he too wanted to restore the dignity of the nation and the government.
While the ruling party tells the public not to trust the opposition, the opposition advises the public not to the trust the ruling party.
Many thugs disrupt the peaceful ceramahs of political parties or civil society groups in order to protect the dignity of the party or ideology they belong to.
Some have made it practice to rob the dignity of women in public and exploit women's bodies to tarnish the name of the ‘other' through publishing and screening what they claim to be authentic sex videos, allegation of affairs with woman etc.
Religious pundits and defenders of religion persistently use religion, scripture and religious identity to speak for the dignity of the folk under their care even by demeaning the ‘other'.
The media too, based on their political affiliation and loyalty, in spite of the truth of the matter, demonise one to maintain the dignity of the ‘other'.
As a result of this, the one who is demonised files a suit against the media or the ‘demoniser' to maintain his/her dignity or the dignity of the institution that is affected through such demonising...some use parliament immunity to demonise the ‘other'.
Some write books to restore dignity of their religion or society while some ban books to restore dignity of individuals, religion or society.....the list goes on and on.
In some cases, the dignity of persons is important while in some cases dignity of the institution is important.
In some cases, dignity of a person is protected through laws while in some cases it is robbed in public; some are honoured in public while some are shamed in public; in some cases dignity is given to some persons while in some cases one has to fight for his/her dignity.
In some cases, truth is covered up to protect the dignity of a person or persons while in some other cases untruth, gossips and slander is promoted and published to tarnish the dignity of persons or persons.
Each one alleges that that the ‘other' had compromised the dignity of the nation and the citizens of our country, race or religion. As the list of paradoxes, confusions and chaos increases day by day, and when everyone is not treated equally, how do nations move on as a progressive society?
As the public is the ultimate judge, we are faced with different approaches in our society.
How do we judge the actions of all these groups - when each one alleges that it is the ‘other' who robs the dignity of the nations and her citizens.
Any act that negate justice, promote racism and religious hatred discourses, mud-washing, false pretensions, corruption, discriminations, unequal distribution of resources, fake investigations and trails, gossips, slander, false witnessing, torture of its citizens etc. takes away the dignity of a nation and the dignity of her citizens.
Such actions may come from anyone in a society including an elected government or politicians, religion or other communally oriented groups.
On the other hand, encouraging an open and responsive approach to people's problems rather than a repressive approach; enabling and organizing people to voice their concerns freely through concerted efforts, encouraging people to expose and raise concerns about poor practice, corruption, or abuse without fear of reprisals; helping people to understand the dynamics of oppression, unfairness, discrimination within an established practice, religion or structure - are voice(s) of justice that gives dignity to nations, to communities, and to individuals.
Such actions whether it comes from government, opposition, politicians, and civil society groups deserve the support of all citizens who long to restore their nations' or citizens dignity.
When talking about dignity, we cannot claim that we are better than the ‘other'. We cannot say we are less oppressive than the other.
Nations, politicians, authorities, communities, governments cannot justify their actions of injustice and discrimination by comparing it with another oppressive regime or an unjust practice existing in another structure or society.
An injustice is an injustice; unfairness is unfairness, discrimination is discrimination. There is no ‘less false' or ‘more false'.
There is no ‘less democracy' or ‘more democracy'. There is no ‘less discrimination' or ‘more discrimination'. The wolf cannot compare itself with the tiger and say it is not as worse as tiger when it comes killing animals.
We cannot be like the Pharisee who thanked God for not being like the tax collector. Men cannot thank God for not creating him as a woman.
Men or woman cannot thank God for not creating them a transgender.
If we are false, the best way to regain our dignity is to admit that we are false.
Antagonistic actions, speeches and measures will not restore the dignity of a nation or community or religion.
A democracy is not democracy as long as it is not moving towards perfection of its relationship with people of all political divides, religious affiliation, ideologies or ethnic identities.
Similarly, a religion is not a religion when it is not moving beyond the narrow boundaries and narrow teachings of its religion which demonises the ‘other' or teaches the ‘other' as an enemy. We cannot cover our ‘less democracy' or unfairness or injustice with the veil of religion and spirituality or authority.
Restoring dignity should not be tied with racial, religious or political identity. Dignity should not be tied to the identity tag which can cause one to be communal.
It should not be tied with titles and honours that one receives. Also, we should be cautious not to associate dignity only with a particular race or religion.
The government or the politicians or religion should be careful not to jeopardise and space and dignity of the ‘other' in order to maintain the dignity of one's own race or religion or political group.
Instead all should join force to restore dignity of the nation and her citizens by jointly taking steps to eradicate corruption, malice and slander, religious and racial divides and discriminations based on race, gender, religion, or political affiliation.
Ethnic identities are God given at the time of birth and not a privilege given by the government or politicians of the day.
This means that dignity is not the prerogative of those who wield power in the society or religion.
The dignity of the ‘other' should not be at the mercy of the ‘other'. At the same time, it is not a privilege to be abused for political gain as how it happened during the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Aung San Suu Kyi of former Burma, who fought for freedom, democracy and human rights, Martin Luther who demanded equal status for Black Americans in United States, Nelson Mandela who fought against the apartheid regimes in South Africa are all persecuted voices of reason and justice.
It was the presence of these citizens and their determination to fight for dignity of their nations and citizens, which brought dignity to the country, which was lost due to the acts of the government.
In her contribution titled 'Human development and human dignity', she writes, "Respect for human dignity implies commitment to creating conditions under which individuals can develop a sense of self-worth and security.
True dignity comes with an assurance of one's ability to rise to the challenges of the human situation.
Such assurance is unlikely to be fostered in people who have to live with the threat of violence and injustice, with bad governance and instability or with poverty and disease.
Eradicating these threats must be the aim of those who recognize the sanctity of human dignity and of those who strive to promote human development.
Development as growth, advancement and the realization of potential depends on available resources-and no resource is more potent than people empowered by confidence in their value as human beings."
Dignity is not measured in terms of quantity i.e. there is no ‘more' or ‘less' dignity. High rise buildings, foreign investments or instant cash-outs or empty promises do not create a dignified society.
It is the quality of life and teachings as well as sincerity of actions and motives that determines whether a society, community, politician, religion, a nation or an elected government is worthy of dignity or whether they moving towards a dignified society.
The persecuted voices of the Aung San Suu Kyis, Martin Luthers and Nelson Mandelas are still around in any society.
It is such oppressed and fatigued but firm voices for justice, equality, and fairness and principled stand against corruption, racism and religious fanaticism that would bring continue to bring dignity to our nation too.
Hence, let us support all efforts to achieve dignity through the creation of social justice and good governance, with equal citizenship and equal and true sharing of resources, the true respect of human rights irrespective of race, religion, gender, class or colour.
Let us support those can bring dignity to the nation and her citizens irrespective of political affiliation, religious or ethnic background.
Let us support those who can think and act beyond the confines of his/her own political affiliation, religion or race to see the common good of all Malaysians.
At the same time, let us be cautious about those who always talk about unity of a single one race or a single religion with the aim of pitching one against the ‘other'.
The task of all of us including the government, politicians, religion and civil society groups is to restore dignity of the nation and her citizens.
There is still time - but only if we put everything else aside and act now for the dignity of our country and her citizens and for the sake of our future generation.