by Ruby Chingu
I am going to ramble a lot in this post. I am going to ramble proudly. Because this is a rare moment where I’d question the meaning of life and have many crazy thoughts about my life, individuality and the society around me in general. It has been a common occurrence lately, especially after attending Prof’s class on Public Law. How it is rarely the people themselves who shape the mindset but the government or the authorities above them. Is it the way it is – when one is born and is groomed to be a man/woman, it is easier to a subscribe to an existing standard of thinking rather than exploring various other alternatives and finally coming out with one’s own principles? Am I able to stop someone politely on the street in Malaysia and ask them – “can you please explain to me your guiding set of principles? What dictates your decision-making processes?”
I believe people do believe in something, someone or a great many things. But I also believe that some certain factions choose to believe and analyse issues based on their own collective lens. What are collective lens? Well, it is always presumed that a human being was born with a desperate sense to belong to a group to feel protected, secure and safe. Thus, when one is surrounded by like-minded people, it is easy to think that such like-minded people is the dominating society. Thus, sensitization towards the needs of other community may be made difficult. How can you, a person from Community A, understand a person from Community B, if you have never mingle with them before? How can you possibly understand any sorts of discrimination they face if you have been indulged in the benefits by the virtue of being a part of Community A? How can you even learn to understand the plights of your neighbours when you were never educated to see things from their perspective?
Still, we blame other people for dividing Malaysians into factions. It’s not the fault of the Constitution. Notwithstanding its status as the supreme law of the land, it is just a book. A book can, at best, influence how people think. What divides Malaysia is the mindset of the people. People are given a box to live in – a very comfortable box – and refuse to leave the box. They are afraid of what exists outside the box. They are afraid to think outside the box. It is a social and intellectual confinement. Being in a box – the same box you have been in since you were born – will lead you to see things from the hole in your box ONLY. However, if we step outside the box and imagine ourselves being in the shoes of people from other communities, we will be able to understand them. To look at things from their perspective. How does it feel to be raised up, knowing that you can never be admitted to a certain institution because of your ethnicity? How does it feel to be persecuted because you choose to love who you love? How does it feel to be disowned because you dare to be who you want to be without harming other people? The truth is bitter yet it is necessary. It is reality. However, to keep things easy, we are forced to maintain the status quo.
What if there are certain people who don’t subscribe to status quo? That people should not be shaped to comply with a certain standard of society? When can people accept and embrace the fact that a human mind is a powerful tool. If one has a stand or an opinion about an issue, no law or disapproval in the world can stop that. If one chooses to be who he/she wants to be, no slaps or beatings from the society can stop that. Conscience is the strongest tool I have ever encountered. Conscience neither yields nor surrenders just because someone say so. I believe conscience is a part of the human soul, the rational kind voice from within, always convincing the body, heart and mind to be kind and fair to others, notwithstanding who they are.
Thus, when clashes occur between the opinions of society and the conscience, which one prevails? Would you rather pretend to not care about your conscience and follow what the society wants you to follow to avoid troubles and fit it? Would you not choose to be a part of a group? To be protected? To survive? To be able to live without running the risk of isolation?
Or would your conscience prevail? Would you allow it to flourish in the name of being true to who you are? To be able to look back in the past and have no regrets in your life about fighting for what you believe in? Is it not risky – disappointing your loved ones with your thoughts and being who they do not want you to be. Most of the time, people’s consciences are invisible. At times, it can be completely different from their appearances.
In defending our lonely fight against the collective, one somehow has to prepare to feel a bit lonely. To always be cautious about voicing out one’s disagreement over the majorly-accepted policies. Just because it benefits you does not mean it benefits the society. Just because it gives you more opportunity does not mean it is acting fairly to all people like you. Why, then, stay in the box? What meaning and adventure can life offer if one is living it confined to its four walls? The world is round for a reason. The world is surrounded by an endless universe for a reason. It is no longer a feasible thing to judge the situations and the laws based on the needs of one community. Even the idea of community is fading away. Globalization is happening. Whether you like it or not, individuals are formed with minimal collective mindset. Internet allows for border-less information. Travel allows the whole world to be our home. A passport and Visa does not determine where you want to go and who you want to be – they are just documents. Home is where your heart is and it can be anywhere. What can other people say if you choose to belong to a different place or choose to never belong to anywhere at all? Fact is, you are in control of your own mind, your own body, your own soul.
We are our own persons. Administrators of our thoughts and actions.
Thus, when we disallow the society to play that roles for us, how do we deal with the consequences? Face the music and risk being disapproved? Risk being unloved? Risk being unfairly judged? What do we do? I hope for an acceptance towards people who think differently. People who wish to unsubscribe themselves to the collective mindset. Just because our minds work in a different way does not mean we are going to hell and you are going to heaven. Who decides that? God. And yes, as much as you like to think that you are, you can never guess or predict God’s action. Who can say for sure that that man or woman is destined for hell? Is that not indescribably vain?
The truth is, being who you want to be and think what you want to think are two of the most difficult things to do in a society I live in. Instead of learning to be ourselves, we are, more often than not, educated to be a person of ‘ideal qualities’ – clever, pretty, religious and obedient. Freedom of individuality is not something we have been exposed to much and even if we did, the notion freedom has always bring in negative connotation. More conservative people will say freedom is not absolute. Yes, of course it is not but the basic principle is that freedom exists. Freedom to be who you want to be – to be able to uphold your identity and to be a human being – is that not the basic right everyone should have?