Imagine this: You are at Tesco. You grab a carton of milk and a loaf of bread. You queue up at the express counter. There are five people in front of you. You wait for ten minutes but the queue isn’t moving. You look at your watch and frown. And then you realise the man queuing right in front of the line has a trolley filled with dozens of items. Idiot. You roll your eyes but you say nothing. Sounds familiar?
Imagine this: You are at the cinema.You are ready to watch Russell Crowe on the screen (he is such a hotstuff). Just as you begin stuffing those bloody expensive popcorn into your pie hole, you hear a baby cry. Bodoh. Bangang. Mangkuk hayun. Who in their right minds would bring a baby into a movie theatre! You take a deep breath and sip your Coke, trying to cool yourself down. After a good fifteen minutes, the baby finally stops crying. Just as Russell leans forward to kiss the ugly actress (whatever her name is), someone’s phone starts ringing. Seriously?
Imagine this: You have a meeting with a client at 9am in Starbucks. At sharp 8.50am you arrive and get yourself an Americano and a doughnut. At 9.30am you get yourself another doughnut. Your client is still missing and all your texts unanswered. You get irritated. One hour and fifteen minutes later, your client arrives. You smile generously and shake her hand. She apologizes and blames the morning traffic. And you go – “…it’s okay,don’t worry about it.” Sounds familiar?
Imagine this – You graduate from your uni top of the class. You get a job at a leading firm. You work your butts off,do overtime and secure lots of projects for the firm. Eight months later a fresh graduate joins the firm. You find out her initial salary is higher than your current salary. You hold grudge against her. You hate your bosses for practicing double standard. But you continue working your butts off. Sounds familiar?
Imagine this – You are at your area’s voting centre. You are so certain that your chosen candidate is the best guy for your constituency. You check your voting slip twice and read Bismillah before sliding it into the ballot box. Later that night, you hear of your candidate’s defeat after series of blackouts in the poll centre. For the whole week, you meet up with your buddies at Raju’s to hentam the coalition party who won the election. New week arrives and you continue your routine like a good obedient citizen.
Imagine this – You sit during a Friday prayer, listening to the sermon. You hear words of hatred being spoken.You feel uncomfortable. You disagree with what is being preached. You look to your left and right, everyone are listening attentively. You want to leave but you feel awkward to do so. So you tell yourself you have no choice but to sit and listen to the sermon. Sounds familiar?
Imagine this – You go to a K-Pop concert. You have an amazing time. Your favourite artist then points at you among other thousands of screaming fans and invites you to the stage. You go goo-goo gaga. On stage, you sing and dance with your K-Pop heartthrob. He hugs and kisses you. You walk down the stage swearing that you will never ever wash your face or change your clothes ever again. It was the ‘bestest’ day of your life! A couple of days later, you are told that you have been molested onstage and your act brought disgrace to your religion and ‘your people’. You hide.
Imagine this. Imagine that. Don’t imagine. Think.
Why do we put up with this crap?
Why are other people’s needs, thoughts and feelings more important than ours? Is it because we want people to like us? Or perhaps for people to think we are nice? Or maybe we are afraid of hurting their feelings?
Why do we tolerate people who mistreat and abuse us? We think by putting up with the fools, we are acting wisely because we choose not to provoke people. We think sweeping the dirt under the carpet is the best solution. But guess what – it’s not.
We are under the impression that being tolerant is one of our noblest virtue. Such a tolerating society we are. We believe it is what makes us united. We think tolerance is vital in order to live in a multi-racial society. We compromise. We put up with things. We give up on things that matter. We find easy solutions to difficult issues by avoiding conflict. Why? Why do we do that? Why do we put up with all these nonsense? When are we going to stand up for ourselves?
No, we don’t have to reach for a steering lock and whack everyone who mean no good to us. And no, we don’t have to resort to a killing spree to make a point. We also don’t have to run amok around Putrajaya to show our dissatisfaction. But we definitely do not have to keep silent.
Most of us resort to keyboards to express our dissatisfaction. What is the term they use – keyboard warriors, yes. So what? We update our Facebook status and comment on a few online portals and we expect changes? We spend hours at mamaks and kopitiams with like-minded friends making big hoo-haas about this and that but what do we get after rounds of roti canai and teh tarik? Only a bigger belly.
We keep giving ourselves excuses. I can’t complain about the lousy food because the waiter might spit in my food out of anger. I can’t get mad at my client for being late because I might lose the deal. I can’t make a fuss about the crying baby in the cinema because people might think I am a freak. I can’t tell the guy with the trolley to get out of the express counter because others may see me as impolite. I can’t walk out of the mosque during the ridiculous sermon because people might think I am not Islamic enough. I can’t touch dogs because the muftis says so. I can’t touch K-Pop artists because Jakim would hunt me down. I can’t write what an asshole we have as a leader because I look bad in stripes.
We keep consoling ourselves – What else can I do? I can’t change anything. I am just an ordinary Malaysian. I am a nobody.I can’t fight them. Even if I do, not only me but my entire family might get into trouble. Well at least I comment on Free Malaysia Today. Yada yada yada.
Many of us rather stick with the familiar even if it is destructive than face the unknown. We fear to defend ourselves.This is how our abuser keeps us in line. This is how they continue to dominate us.
But it isn’t entirely our fault. You see, striving to please others has been engraved in us since childhood. Our upbringing shapes us into the individuals we are today. From the slap on the backside for wrong-doing, to being corrected on our speech, our minds and attitude moulds us into the individuals we are today. Yes, we are a product of our past.
Remember the time when you told your mom you disliked her experimental curry dish and she tells you “…stop complaining and just eat your food” ?
Remember the time when you told your dad a boy from class stole your eraser and he tells you “…it’s okay, buy a new one” ?
Remember the time when you asked your teacher for a higher mark because your karangan was longer and better than your friends’ and she tells you “…jangan banyak komplen nanti cikgu tolak markah!….” ?
Remember the time when you got so mad at a prick at school and decided to push him off the chair and your headmaster tells you “Only bad boys fight. Good boys would walk away”?
Remember the time when you were bullied at school, you come home crying and your grandpa tells you “Only girls cry. Just ignore that boy and everything will be okay” ?
Well guess what? Everything WILL NOT be okay. If we allow others to continuously control, manipulate, exploit and degrade us – nothing will be okay.
We must understand one thing – our fear is transferred from one generation to another. It is not something to wake up one morning and put an end to. Our children must be educated. They need a strong dose of determination to fight for what they believe in. And it starts at home.
Let us teach our kids to stand up for their rights. Let us encourage our kids to form their own opinions. Show them that their voice matters. We should support our kids by being a good role model.
So let us stop spending our lives trying to please people. If we do not value ourselves, look out for ourselves and stick up for ourselves, we are sabotaging ourselves. We might not have control over what others say and do, but we definitely have control over whether or not we will allow them to say and do those things to us. It is time we hold our head up high and reclaim our dignity – it may be attacked and mocked but it can never be taken away unless we willingly surrender it.
Remember. If we don’t stand up for ourselves, no one else will.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.