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Slacktivism in Malaysia

Why take the easy way out when there are real things we can do to make a difference?

Written by johnleemk on 1:35:28 pm Jul 29, 2007.

One annoying thing about the kneejerk response of Malaysians, especially those on the internet, to a situation they do not like, is to take the easy way out.

Malaysians may answer the call to arms for change, but how do they answer it? They often opt for the easy way out of "slacktivism".

I draw a line between armchair activism and slacktivism. You can campaign for change from your armchair these days because the internet allows you to do so many things from the comfort of your home — such as publishing articles critical of the status quo.

Slacktivists do little but take ineffective symbolic actions that do virtually nothing. What good is an online petition, or posting obscenities on an internet forum? There is so much misdirected effort.

Of course, slacktivism is not confined to cyberspace. In the past, I have heard of people who, tired of the racial divisions in Malaysian society, decided to fill out their race as "Malaysian" on all forms.

How does that help achieve a Bangsa Malaysia? In the first place, how helpful is it to deny your ethnic heritage? It is not a net loss to national unity to acknowledge your ethnic background while recognising that you are a Malaysian first.

Slacktivists feel proud of themselves for ostensibly making a difference and helping move Malaysia towards a better future. But how does ticking a different box on a form, or signing a petition that nobody cares about, make a difference?

If we want to make a difference, there are many things we can do as a part of our local communities. We can campaign for better education at PIBG meetings (yes, school leadership does make a difference). We can fight racial division by sending our children to non-segregated schools. Simply discussing issues of concern with our friends and family in a sensible manner (as opposed to inane ranting) is still something.

Any one of these things does much more for the country and for ourselves than the syok sendiri act of signing a petition that preaches to the choir. Let's not be lazy bums when there are better things for us out there than slacktivism.