April 26, 2007
Transformation of Culture
So the 1st Young Malaysians’ Roundtable Discussion on National Unity & Development in Malaysia went smashingly well. Raja Nazrin’s speech reported all over the place, and seems like we’ve kickstarted his career as he’s been invited to speak at numerous different venues, and today lo and behold he’s been invited to be an honorary fellow at ISIS Malaysia. Good for him. I hope more of his views continue to be made known, not just by him, but other members of the royal family – and consequently seeping down to the political and civil society level.
So the response to the Roundtable has been positive, many groups giving their support to views articulated during the event. Opposition parties, independent NGOs and so on. So it seems like this is something everyone can equally believe in.
So the official handing over of the 20-point Consensus Document went excellently as well, with Maximus Ongkili nodding his head in agreement and promising that he will study the document in detail, and table its contents in the next national unity panel meeting.
Bravo, everyone. Clap on our backs and cheer ourselves on to the next stage, which is the nationwide study on youth and national unity perspectives.
But hold your horses. We’re talking about a transformation of culture here. It’s going to take decades, if not eons, to break down barriers in people’s minds and hearts. We’re talking about raising a new generation that simply will NOT tolerate racist ideologies, NOT take lightly the abuse of identification with race or religion in order to support unbiased policy, NOT accept or support leaders that take full advantage of people’s insecurities for their own gains. This is going to take a long long time.
I could choose to be extremely critical. I could choose to be entirely cynical about this exercise. In fact, tonight I am feeling particularly disturbed about the fact that these views and perspectives have long been articulated in the history of Malaysia already, and the grave seriousness that they have yet to see the light of day in political reality.
But the very fact that I have the freedom to choose how to react, and how to handle my thoughts and actions – are reflective of human nature. I choose to continue maintaining my high ideals, despite acknowledging the realities and their weaknesses.
As reminded today by a wise pair (who are not yet retired, as I was playfully reminded), it is those who dream and are idealistic that change society. Since when have the pragmatists ever transformed a culture? It’s always been the writers, artistes, dreamers, thinkers, who permeate society with notions that appeal to the inner eye.
I am forced to remember personalities in the likes of William Wilburforce who dedicated his life towards the cause of slavery abolishment in the UK. He strove hard to maintain his (at the time) ridiculous ideals, and succeeded. Today, it is preposterous to imagine keeping a slave in one’s home (maids are dangerously becoming so, but that’s another story).
Transformation of culture takes time. I hope to provide the foundation upon which a new generation can begin to THINK differently. Let’s start somewhere, shall we?
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