Below is an excerpt of an article written by Eric Loo, who used to be the external moderator for UTAR's Journalism programme. He is no longer in that position now because Janet Steele has taken over.
Even though he lives in Australia, he still writes for Malaysiakini from time to time, which is where the excerpt below is taken. I also had the opportunity to meet him more than a year ago when he visited UTAR and I found him friendly, intelligent and his teaching philosophy closely mirrors my own.
What we fear but know not why
“Shhh, don’t talk to strangers, they could be Special Branch.” Many say that’s wise. You never know who you’re talking to. Or, is it irrational fear that tells us, “Don’t get involved"? We did live in muted fear of ‘getting involved’ after May 1969.
Until today, my 78-year-old mother is fearful of ‘the government’, ‘the Malays’ and ‘the police’. She's also a product of WW2 when she saw Japanese soldiers hauled off my grandpa for questioning. He didn’t return for weeks. Like most of her generation, her internalized fear is understandable.
Anecdotes I hear and observations of Malaysian civic life tells me the fear of ‘getting involved’ is as real today among baby boomers as it was with my mother’s generation. There’s hope though. Ever since we strolled the multimedia corridor, an empowered younger generation of socially-conscious netizens are learning more about our race-tainted history. And, they’re not happy. Lately, vigilant bloggers have been trawling the contents of Malaysiakini and other alternative media sites.
Early this week, I received a compilation of political thuggery, social injustices and racist statements spewed in public with impunity by our politicians. Common knowledge they are. But, when compiled as a package, the imageries are quite unsettling. My mother would shudder at those imageries, her deep-seated fears replayed. To the younger generation sheltered from the history of 1969, I suspect, the imageries and rhetoric would evoke mixed reactions of ridicule and rage against the political degenerates. ...........
Stoking fear is the strongest terror tactic used by governments to silent the voice of conscience and dissent. Nothing new in that. (See Amnesty International 2007 Report). What’s worrying is when we become part of fear itself, not knowing exactly what and why we fear. Anxious moments of uncertainties. Which often leads to irrational reactions – followed by resigned acceptance of the status quo - each time we’re confronted with an over-the-top rhetoric of re-constructed realities. Politicians have long used this tactic to manipulate their constituents, garner support, and discredit their opponents. ...........
What now? To combat fear in a plural society, one must first recognise the basic principles of freedom, equity and transparent governance. “No one wins unless everyone wins.” Indeed, an appropriate Springsteen creed. Our homegrown civil society groups have advocated these principles at length since the 1998 reformasi days.
What we need now is less pointless fiery diatribe but more robust reasoned dialogue in the public space. Pockets of apathy among Malaysians, I’d like to think, do not reflect our internal weaknesses nor lack of intellectual resources or character flaws - but rather it mirrors a waning faith in the viability of speaking up for what’s right.
The mainstream media, the editors, in publishing their sycophantic editorials and generating politically correct contents, are, in this sense, accomplices in the perpetuation of a political system that thrives on fomenting fear. Editors continue to fail in their leadership in representing the people’s interests.
The excerpt is rather long so, I may remove much of it later--don't want to be accused of copyright violation! But enjoy it while you can :-)