JAN 15 — We may have only just begun the new year, but some things remain the same. Take the report on last week's Friday khutbah regarding street rallies.
Now, whilst I appreciate the fact that demonstrations and rallies invariably cause disruption to our everyday lives, I don't for one moment think that such activities are inherently bad. In fact, I would argue that demonstrations and rallies are fundamental to a healthy democracy: citizens should have the right to peaceful assembly without interference from the authorities. I would go so far as to state that the authorities are duty-bound to facilitate the staging of such events by ensuring people's safety and good traffic management.
What I found most interesting about the khutbah, however, was equating patriotism to loyalty towards one's country and its rulers. Loyalty to the country, yes. Loyalty to a country's rulers? Err, no.
What some of our fellow citizens don't seem to understand is that the government (that is, our rulers, since the role of our Sultans and the Agung is largely ceremonial) is there to serve us, the rakyat. The government rules in our name. The current government was given the mandate to to rule during the last general election. Though BN has won this mandate since Independence, it does not necessarily follow that BN will always be granted this right.
If therefore the rakyat thinks that the government is not doing a good job and a better alternative exists, then it is perfectly within our rights to vote in the party or parties that we feel would do a better job. Actually, I think it's our duty to vote for the people who we think will do the best job of governing our country. After all, governing a country and representing its people is a big job. Why should your vote go to someone just because their father was a leader, or because they are the same race as you?
That being the case, why should the rakyat feel any loyalty to a country's rulers? If anything, it should be the other way around — surely a patriotic leader is one who always strives to do what is best for the people, not what is best for himself, his family or his party.
Besides, if a leader has blatantly abused his or her power, then should we, the rakyat, blindly continue to support them to prove our patriotism?
Then there is the case of the overseas six. What, I ask, is more patriotic than demanding the right to vote even if one is no longer residing in Malaysia? As a citizen residing overseas, I would do my civic duty, but once again I and others like me are defeated by process and procedure. I ask you: who is more patriotic in this instance, the overseas six and people who want to vote but can't, or bodies like the High Court which dismissed the application and the Election Commission which continually cites logistics as one of the reasons why certain overseas Malaysians are disenfranchised?
Personally, I think there are many ways to show that you are a patriot. Simply leading a productive life, for instance. Supporting unfashionable causes because you think they are good for the country. Supporting the people who you think will be the best at governing the country, whether they are BN or PKR or PAS or DAP.
The fact of the matter is, what is best for the country is subjective. If you are a Perkasa-type, then it's probably likely that you see everything that the DAP does as being dangerous to the country.
What's depressing however, is the way that the authorities — be they Jakim, the police, or the government — automatically assume that their thinking is right. It's 2012 already. It's quite likely that we're in an election year. I know there are still plenty of conservative Malaysians, but surely the authorities know by now that there are also a number of Malaysians who just don't buy the same old arguments any more.
As I've said before, many Malaysians no longer unquestioningly accept everything that we're told. We are no longer deferential towards our leaders. We no longer hold fast to the old certainties.
Like the government, organisations like the Election Commission, the police, religious bodies and others are there to serve us. To some extent they represent our society; isn't it time such organisations acknowledged that Malaysians now hold a variety of outlooks, and started reaching out to all Malaysians instead of peddling the usual lines?
Wouldn't that be the patriotic thing to do, instead of lecturing the rakyat about what we need to do in order to be patriots?