By Abhilaash Subramaniam
'Listen, listen, listen' a blessing in disguise
The video went viral, the ‘sharing’ was extensive, words of pity and concern were pasted on walls, framed like a beautiful picture anxiously waiting to be commented on. For once it seemed like the people were aware, we were ready to fight for what was right and willing to stand up against the derision that was made of a fellow student who dared to say “I disagree”.
It all seemed rather fine and dandy on the surface, but closer scrutiny begs one to ask….Why now? Where was our audacity to express our disappointment with the system when the participants of Occupy Dataran were arrested? Where did we bury our tenacity when students abroad were warned not to join the Bersih Rally?
It’s obvious to anyone who cares to take more than a cursory glance, that those situations weren’t gleamed with the same amount of limelight as tyrannous educationalist, Sharifah Zohra Jabeen Syed Shah Miskin. So once again... why now?
There could be any number of answers to such a query, the two most apparent being a lack of true purpose and fear. Fear: the biting anguish that makes our hearts thump faster whilst pushing the blade further into its sheath.
What were we scared of? That our opinions would be shot down by the extremists that monitor the hallways of Facebook? That our seemingly ‘apolitical’ schools and teachers would take action against us if we spoke up? That scholarships were in jeopardy?
In fact, it would appear that most individuals who dared speak up on such matters were the ones who had broken free from the clutches of a ‘non-private education’. KS Bawani was an exception, and she was told disdainfully to leave the university if she had a problem with it. For so long students have been at the mercy of “Napoleons” like Sharifah that they tend to lose sight of who should really be scared.
Did everyone not see how Sharifah dared not speak ill of A Samad Said (whose poems made up part of the English education in our schools), but had no problems bad mouthing Ambiga Sreenevasan? Or why UUM only attempted to sever ties with Sharifah AFTER the video went viral? They began to fear the ramifications that would ensue not because of the principle of the act being wrong itself, but the way society would react to it.
Fear kept us bound in the past, now that we have seen the tables turn, it’s about time we take a stand and stop fearing the institution.
A lack of true purpose sees the spread of the “I should follow what has been asked” mentality rather than looking at the reasoning behind it. For long, we have been institutionalised by conformity. The ignorance of the youth on politics and current affairs has aided this orthodoxy, as we seem disinterested in being aware enough to ask the right questions.
The hypocrisy is blatant! The students idly raise their hands and recite the ‘Ikrar’(a sacred promise) without fully realising that it calls demonstrations a ‘budaya songsang’. The freedom of assembly and demonstration is the hallmark of any progressive democracy and we call it ‘songsang’?
Perhaps we should be taking a cue from the happier, peaceful countries that disallow such demonstrations... like North Korea. Students were given the opportunity to clap when Ambiga was labelled as the cause of anarchy. Where was the opportunity to cheer when she was the only Malaysian to be awarded the International Women of Courage Award from Hillary Clinton?
Do these aimless students even see the absurdity in labelling a call for clean elections as anarchy? Or believing respect should be granted based on age and not rationale or astuteness?
Such acts are testament to the fact that the main culprits aren’t the Sharifahs out there but the ‘future generation’. The people in that hall who blindly approved when Bavani was asked to leave the country if she was unhappy with the system, rather than standing beside her to fight for change (probably due to fear of being called a ‘pencetus anarki’).
We have allowed archaic principles, fear and serenity in ignorance to govern our mindsets for too long. This isn’t a question of politics or animals or anarchy. It’s about the mistakes we have made in the past that have made us so submissive.
We condone the open bullying as we think Sharifah (by virtue of being older or a teacher) must be right in her views. We believe we should share those same views, as these are the views that will keep us safe from censure, like a child hiding under his bed to so he won’t have to face the ‘monsters’ outside.
Perhaps this whole incident was the blessing in disguise that we needed to open our eyes. Sharifah was right about one thing though... we aren’t so different from the animals, for if we allow the conformity to continue, they aren’t the only ones that are going to be in cages.