MARCH 28 — Do we know each other enough?

Do we need to know each other enough?

Is knowing each other enough, possible?


While you the Malaysian ponder, a short esoteric segue into the essence of our playing field.

The majority of countries are civilisational constructs. The modern state is new, it builds from existing constructs and quirks of colonialism have birthed abstract nations like Malaysia.

Before, geography, culture, religion, history and the absence of functioning democracies kept people away from each other. It impeded economic and technological growth but it gave all space.


Today, technology, multiculturalism, trade and universal suffrage creates the greatest era of wealth ever, but with a price. Everyone crowds everyone in a stuffy room. Especially those who look different, smell different and sound untypical — since typical is to sound like yourself.

Angry and angrier voices

All of these are an elongated way to slide into the main situation of concern, we Malaysians have not been happy campers lately. Not happy with each other.

Angry with each other is overselling it.

But, certainly ill at ease.

And that spills messily into social media, where sides are readily divided.

Since the government and our leaders have not facilitated open and frank public discourses — about each of our emotional, philosophical and patriotic stations in this home of ours — the discontent and frustrations bleed into the inconsequential world of the internet.

Malaysians generally feel what is said online does not apply in the real world, and vice versa.

Therefore, they shoot their mouths off in public forums.

The tone of any debate is familiar. One dominant side, primarily Malaysians other than Malays, feel not all Malaysians get a fair shake in the country. The other dominant side, primarily Malays, feel belittled or attacked for being who they are. The battling middle, tries to dilute the vitriol and drives for objective resolutions. They also get whistled at by both sides.

In most instances, the core issue of “race or nationality first” is not argued directly, it is combated through a variety of proxy discussions from whether Chinese schools upset national unity to archaeological digs with Hindu-Buddhist influences.

Reason is secondary, participants already have their positions. They pursue sides not evaluate rationale. Regardless of the veracity of information presented, they are often accompanied by jibes.

The socks furore right at the start of the fasting month has eaten into the collective attention of the country.

Actions by one company overwhelmingly owned by a Malaysian Chinese family has morphed into rehashes about the status of communities in Malaysia.

None of this is news, too many are aware how tangled this web is. There is an air of despondency, as both sides realise the situation leads only to frustrating stalemates.

This column does not even reach the parking lot of the stadium with answers for this intractable problem.

Probably looking at the problem incessantly with no method available to surmount it invites exasperation. Like trying to cure cancer in 1924 using the treatments available then.

Malaysians generally feel what is said online does not apply in the real world, and vice versa. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Malaysians generally feel what is said online does not apply in the real world, and vice versa. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

A nation distracted

Looking away from the problem is not to ignore the problem.

Getting to know each other through shared experiences or aspirations is a positive direction, and what else tops sports in this regard?

Better still, qualifying for the World Cup.

Fifa doubled Asia’s automatic qualifiers to eight — an additional spot possible in a playoff with another confederation. From conspiring to nix either Australia, Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia from the top, other middling Asian nations can reasonably aim for the seventh or eighth spot.

Can we imagine the euphoria if we are in that eight, in football mad Malaysia?

Malaysia plays Spain in its first World Cup Finals appearance? The tears in living rooms across the country, from Arau to Tawau would have infused more Malaysia into those homes than any government policy or handout.

However, that is now a huge mountain to climb after back-to-back 2-0 defeats to Oman. The second loss was in Bukit Jalil on Tuesday. Was.

Twenty-six thousand fans showed up. Ed Sheeran had 80,000 people last month at the same venue.

A pity considering Malaysians of all colours and races speak affectionately of the glory days of the 70s and 80s.

We had every chance to make Bukit Jalil a fortress decked with fans. Oman is stronger, but not by an insurmountable amount. The crowd could have been the twelfth player. Today, Malaysia could have been equal top in its group and a touch away from the next round, where 18 vie for eight places. Such dizzying heights.

But Malaysia in this fasting month was and still is distracted. Our leaders are distracted permanently. Social media was choked up with dead arguments and pontifications to spare any likes or shares for our football team.

Imagine massive break-fast events in and around the stadium last Tuesday, since the crowd arrives early with offices close even earlier. FAM could have promised adequate food supplies, dining and family spaces. The youth minister was quite muted about the affair.

No one with power and influence truly rallied Malaysians to the match.

What could have been a unifying action, if so many of us stepped away from our divisions and joined together in our passion for the country, turned into an opportunity missed.

Simplify the complex

Perhaps there are forces in this country happier that its people are divided rather than united.

Divided by our inherited stories rather than united by new stories which we knit together.

Do we know each other enough?

No, that is the tragedy of Malaysia 60 years later.

Do we need to know each other enough?

Yes, but the process is treated with contempt, just like those online debates.

Is knowing each other enough, possible?

I don’t know. It’s presumptuous to tell. But if we did fill up that stadium last Tuesday, we could have known each other’s passions, aspirations and dreams. If the team won, we’d all be floating too. To dream is what fans do. Malaysia needs more fans. For its football team, and its federation.

A country could simply be attainable by walking into a stadium.

“If you really wanna know yourself, it will come at the price of knowing no one else” — from Cosmic Hero by Car Seat Headrest

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.