A Different Spin 24th June 2011
The Star Metro

Be open-minded, trust and understand one another — and we will be all right.

A REPORTER once asked me what I thought about the 1Malaysia concept. I was slightly uncomfortable and a bit confused answering her, especially when the rest of the interviewees were singing songs of praise for the campaign.

Don’t get me wrong. I condone anything that embraces harmony and peace — I just did not understand the need for a campaign. Having spent my growing up years in Sabah, I didn’t see any racial segregation or problems of unity. I just saw my neighbours, friends and classmates as another person. The only time I sensed we were ‘different’ and had to be separated was during Moral/Agama classes — even then, we were quickly “back together” after class was over.
Yes, but as kids, things were all so simple. We put wealth, race, culture and religion aside. Kids are naïve about the real world; there is no baggage or hidden agenda.

The innocence and simplicity of being a child: Cousins playing with Odu’s pups.

I am wondering how can this mindset be translated to the minds of us adults and to those who govern the country — if the battle is for Malaysia to be one.

This is what the country needs now, and we can learn from the innocence of our children. When kids play together, even if they can’t speak each other’s language, they just figure out ways to communicate. Some people say that children of different races don’t interact with each other, but I beg to differ.

I have seen my three year old communicate delightfully with our neighbours from all walks of life. She has her daily babbles with the Nepalese guards and the Indian shopowner downstairs. Her best friend is Jie_jie whose parents are from a small town in China — whom I have hand gestures conversations with from time to time.

When my father read law in England, mum worked part-time doing odd jobs and she often left us kids alone to fend for ourselves. She trusted our neighbours — and would get the “Lees” to keep an eye on us. The three of us would keep ourselves entertained with mini adventures. We were very much into our Enid Blyton/Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys fantasy land; and this woman who lived alone with her 12 cats would set us out on adventure trails to find odd bits around our neighbourhood.

In one of our trails, my siblings and I came across a group of entertainers and I was enthralled that they lived in caravans. We befriended them and they taught me to dance. One day, I came home with a crown of daisies that the aunty made for me to show mum and I saw Mrs Lee talking loudly to my mother. My mother was reassuringly patting Mrs Lee’s back as she walked her out the house.

From that day on, mum asked ‘aunty *tingau’ to keep an eye on us kids.

I am glad my parents are open-minded and they embrace the purity of love, trust and mutual understanding among one another. Especially mum. It must be her upbringing.
Odu (mum’s) neighbours are our cousins. Mum’s family is Catholic and our cousins are Muslims. Odu’s stilted house has chickens, dogs, cats and pigs roaming around the compound and quite often, her animals would stray to the other side but that didn’t bother our cousins at all. During festivals, my cousins ate the food we served. There is a mutual trust and understanding that the food served is halal. To be honest, I only understood the word halal when I came to study and live in Peninsular Malaysia.

I grew up having my teachers tell me good things about the country — where we mixed with children of different race and religion and not having a care in the world. The only dilemma we faced as a pubescent was not getting straight A’s or not getting into the debate team. Well at least that was my biggest concern.

It was during my varsity days when I started realising how we’re treated unequally. And then to be all dramatic about it, the torrent of dirt descends me as I become exposed to the realities of Malaysia. I realised that there are things that are not quite right with the country and the world. And it is that moment of awakening which was the saddest part of my life — everything beautiful that was taught during my formative years has been challenged. My Enid Blyton world seemed bleak. I was no longer Nancy Drew who could never be killed or hurt in my quest to ‘save the world’.
My desired future for my children and theirs is this: that one day, we are able to agree on what is our common future in the first place. This future CANNOT be led by skewered political or racial ideologies.

We need a set of leaders with progressive ideas; people who are convinced the country’s future must be in the hands of all citizens. The policies that have failed us should be abandoned. Even though our nation is almost 54 years old, it is still a baby when it comes to having an open, matured and constructive dialogue.

I had suggested earlier on translating the innocence of our mindset as children, but this does not mean we should debate like them. Maturity and polite discussions tend to have more impact than name calling and mud-slinging. Don’t you agree?

The Prime Minister has said we should have open dialogues and talk about our problems and our issues. So as to not perpetuate hypocrisy, I think that’s what the media should be working on and be allowed to do so. The government supports free media and discussion and the media bodies need to step up to the plate. News shouldn’t just be a propaganda mill. Am I being all Nancy Drew again?

This is democracy and people forget this. We choose the people to lead us. This isn’t a regime or a dictatorship. We have the power, but we Malaysians forget they have the ability or voice to do what they need to do to help themselves.

So we need to ask ourselves this: do you love your country enough to set our differences aside? True reform and revolutions must start from within.
I’m going to be idealistic here and hope for the best.

*Daphne believes that most Malaysians are a bunch of pragmatists – they do have the ability to compromise and to avoid self destruction. Our 13 May incident is a one day blast in Baghdad. Daphne feels blessed to be a Malaysian, but feels we just need to tie our loose ends – FAST.
*Tingau = cat.