Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Fighting for Freedom is Taking it For Granted?

Written by johnleemk on 12:19:18 pm Jul 15, 2007.
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Today, I spotted an interesting comment in this site's chatbox (it's in the right column, just under the poll). For the sake of convenience, here is the whole comment (edited a little):

It's easy for someone who comes from an upper middle class background to be an idealist. Some people don't even have enough to put food on their table, while others can actively pursue anti-establishment ideas and propaganda. Rather than fretting about the lack of freedom, if you really want to help the human race, go help the poor and needy, sign up with the United Nations for some humanitarian work.

You people are taking freedom for granted. You want us to follow all your friends and protest in front of the police stations? If some of us get caught and beaten, or even face death as the consequence of this, would you feed our children?

You want us to post articles, write letters, and brainwash other people. If we get sacked from our jobs, if we get discriminated because of our views, will you stand there for us? Think before you write.
Before I get to the meat of the problems brought up, I thought it might be worth pointing out a common fallacy I have seen a lot of people, usually Malaysians, fall for.

We seem very locked in an authoritarian mindset. If someone tells us to do something, the idea is that they are ordering us to do it, and that they are not giving us a choice.

This is precisely the fallacy that seems to have occurred here. When I tell and encourage people to do something, am I ordering or coercing them to do it? What control do I have over your individual autonomy?

Of course, you can point out the problems with my suggestions — you're more than welcome to. But reacting to my suggestions as if they are orders I expect you to obey is ridiculous. I hope you will stand up and fight for what is right in whatever way you can, but I can't make and don't expect you to do it.

The main problem, as the commenter sees it, is that I am hoping people will take to the streets and fight for change. This is of course completely ridiculous, since I explicitly said I myself shy away from street protests when I protested the unjust and uncivilised detention of my boss.

There are more than a few ways to work for change. My suggestions are just that — suggestions. I am not demanding you write articles or do anything which you can't do without seriously jeopardising yourself. A cookie-cutter approach is the last thing we should be looking for; I expect every individual has some unique way of contributing without harming themselves.

All I am asking is that you think about what you can do to help change Malaysia for the better in some small way. For most, there is the vote. Some are blessed with oratory skills; others write well; some have a gift for drawing. There are so many ways to bring your own talents to bear.

Of course, not everyone has the opportunity to directly participate. But that isn't an adequate excuse to avoid doing something else. Your vote is secret; why not use it? Your friends are not rats of the Special Branch; why not talk about how you can do something, or at least discuss who to vote for?

Of all tools for change, I firmly believe that the vote is the most important one. But to obtain votes, it is crucial that those who can communicate the message of change get the word out. Each of us has friends; each of us can play a small role in changing Malaysia.

I don't want people to take to the streets unless they are absolutely committed to street demonstrations. All I want is people to do something, small or big, for change.

And if you don't want to do it, then don't. Nobody is forcing you to. But it'll be your loss if you are here when the country goes down — and is it a loss worth taking when just talking to a friend and just casting your vote is something?

And as for the idea that if you fight for freedom, you are taking it for granted...I won't bother responding to it. The gaping problem with this line of thinking is hopefully obvious to all and sundry.


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