MULTICULTURALISM AT ITS BEST
THE buzz word these days is “reconciliation”. Without going too much into semantics as I’m often tempted to do, I’m offering a couple of analogies to better understand the concept.
Last Friday, my Facebook status registered quite a few hits when I declared “(HMS) thinks there are important lessons to be learned from estranged couples who love each other enough to get back together and work out a more equitable relationship; and estranged parents/children who love each other enough to accommodate one another’s needs. Love sustains”.
A “reconciliation” presumes there has been an estrangement – a falling out so to speak – between two or more parties who once liked or loved one another. When the word is used to describe a dire socio-political need in Malaysia, the presumption is that the inter-party (political) relationships have fallen into great disarray. Worse still, at the community level, the inter-group links have disintegrated. All too true judging from the writings on the media wall.
Having once been likened to King Lear’s ungrateful daughter Cordelia and having had to eat humble pie to appease an irate father, I believe that for reconciliation to take place there must be, first of all, self-realisation by the feuding parties.
For human relationships to break down there must have been mutual disappointment and hurt. To start the process of healing, there must therefore be honest acknowledgement of the part played by each in creating the emotional/psychological chasm underlying the racio-ethnic one.
Too much has been said and too much venom has been spread by those intent on making a mockery of Malaysia’s multiculturalism. Once and for all, we must accept the fact that we are not a homogenous society.
There are differences in history, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, philosophy and ideology which we have the right to uphold with the greatest honour and dignity.
We have a right to be racial, ie proud and protective of our own ethnic group and its rich heritage, but we have absolutely no right to be racist, ie decrying and discriminating against other groups.
True multiculturalism is not a song and dance act but gathering strength from one another’s differences.
The process of national reconciliation must start by getting Malaysians at all levels to sit down and face one another – not on Facebook but Face2Face.
There must be honesty in declaring one’s grievances and unhappiness but equally, there must be openness in confessing to one’s own shortcomings. Pointing out the faults of other people while hiding behind one’s sense of superiority will only cause the other side to retaliate.
Once and for all, Malaysians of all ethnic compositions must search their souls and admit we have all contributed to this sorry state we are now in.
BN and PR and their component parties must stop dealing the racist card and work out their political differences in a responsible way. Stop the name-calling, the slander and the slur and grow up.
Be the mature democracy you say you are aspiring to. Stop inciting hatred in the name of the electorate. Urge them instead to demonstrate the best of their cultural values.
Instead of circulating the hate mails and atrociously racist articles, those who are active on the email and social media circuit should undergo a process of atonement and keinsafan, bury their arrogance and keangkuhan and cleanse their black and kaudu hearts.
If they are sincere about building up a respectable Malaysian society and an enlightened Malaysian civilisation, they must instil the right values in the Malaysians that they lead.
May I surmise with this beautiful example of community living among the porcupines contributed by my email colleague Sallih Amran:
It was the coldest winter ever. Many animals died because of the cold.
The porcupines, realising the situation, decided to group together.
This way they covered and protected themselves; but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions even though they gave off heat to each other.
After awhile, they decided to distance themselves one from the other but they began to die, alone and frozen.
So they had to make a choice: either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from the Earth. Wisely, they decided to go back to being together. This way they learned to live with the little wounds that were caused by the close relationship with their companion, but the most important part of it, was the heat that came from the others. This way they were able to survive.
The moral of the story!
The best relationship is not the one that brings together perfect people, but the best is when each individual learns to live with the imperfections of others and can admire the other person’s good qualities.