NOVEMBER 22 — It can be hard to not feel affected by the state of the world today.
Last year, I woke up on my birthday to hear that Russia was invading Ukraine and for the past month every day my job involved looking at even more pictures of war, from premature babies struggling to survive outside their incubators or journalists dying alongside their families for the sole crime of doing their jobs.
How blood chilling is it to be a media practitioner and hear a country announce its plans to kill journalists for being so-called corroborators?
Social media is now just a 24-hour free news cable channel but with announcers breaking down on air, hearing their families had just died in an air strike.
Unlike in the US, Germany and the UK, Malaysians do not have to worry about being fired from their jobs just for calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Yet in countries where support for Palestine liberation means losing your job or being labelled an anti-Semite, people are still bravely speaking up.
Malaysians, however, are not doing better things with their (comparative) freedom of speech on the war but are instead verbally abusing or harassing people for not boycotting certain brands.
One person I know proudly declared they booed people for sitting at Starbucks.
That kind of action might give you a warm, self-righteous feeling but is it resurrecting dead Palestinians or putting pressure on Israel to stop killing citizens with impunity? I bet you a latte it doesn’t.
On the other hand, brands are making it far too easy to turn our collective backs on them when they have representatives threatening to use the Sedition Act, when that law was not made to stop people from boycotting burgers.
Even with the state of the world today, I still find things that make me feel hopeful.
It really wasn’t that long ago when it seemed as though most of the world was in the dark about the state of Palestine.
Yet now TikTok and X (formerly known as Twitter) are full of stories, of young people reading about the history of the region, to the families of Holocaust survivors saying that the violence happening now should not be done in their name.
I wish, though, that awareness and hunger for learning was more present here. Instead we are being reminded every day that living in silos by faith or race is polarising.
Just recently a man was fired because someone was upset he was wearing a cross necklace in a Muslim-friendly restaurant.
Social media sites are full of Malaysians making derogatory insults and bigoted assumptions but how much longer are we going to pit the worst against the worst, without realising the enemy is our lack of acceptance of our differences?
Maybe someday Malaysians will be brave enough to question the status quo, instead of either Polyannishly declaring racial tension is just a myth or declaring the country hopeless and that anyone who can should just leave or, well, suck it up.
It’s simplistic to say this, but Malaysians need to stop making an enemy of each other, and realise the real war we need to fight at home are against common enemies — ignorance, poverty, disenfranchisement and inequality among many, many others.
Don’t listen to that former prime minister who insists maybe the only way to achieve integration is to force non-Malays to give up their racial identities but to redefine, clearly, what it means to be Malaysian.
We cannot have a prosperous country unless that prosperity is shared. It is said, often, by activists that “none of us are free until all of us are” and I say that applies to us too.
We can be one people, without needing to be one race and the thinking that rejects that is our biggest enemy and not your fellow Malaysian who doesn’t know better, but change is possible — even the softening of the hardest hearts.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.