On Pointe - For bread and freedom

EVER watched an ant scurry across a table? It almost seems as hurried as the white rabbit shouting "O dear! O dear! I shall be too late" before heading down the fictional rabbit hole at the beginning of Alice in Wonderland's tale. And if you were to block an ant's way midst scurry, the ant would move around or climb above the obstacle and be on its way.

When I think about certain social movements in Malaysia, I think of a group of ants with a purpose, moving quickly for a greater good. When I think of how some social movements are curtailed in Malaysia, this image of the ant in an ever changing labyrinth comes to mind. The ant being the social movement and its supporters, and the labyrinth being the different laws, threats and bullying tactics that hinder the cause.

For many of us in Malaysia, social movements seem to be a relatively recent phenomenon. Perhaps with the changing times and greater access to information, social movements today are more visible than before.

For some these movements are uncomfortable because it challenges the status quo while for others, it has become an outlet to speak up and stand up. But social movements are not always about positive change or about being progressive. History has shown us that ethnic nationalism or religious fundamentalism are rooted in social movements. Neo-Nazism was also categorised as a social and political movement.

That's why it is important to first define where a social movement lies. What are its aims and goals? Is it trying to attain justice? Is it challenging the distribution of wealth? Is it about sharing resources? Or is it championing segregation or propagating a lopsided incoherent agenda or is it violently bullying to get its way?

These are important questions. Now for those who are uncomfortable with social movements, the persistence of social movements can seem like a form of bullying. We will persevere until we get our way. It is a valid point. But if its about fixing injustice then couldn't we get behind that kind of movement, though?

But there might be other ways to go about it. Are there though? Would you have imagined that your grocery bills would be as high as you pay today, or that the prices of cooking oil and petrol or just local fruits would be so high? Or that your water supply keeps getting disrupted because of politics, or that you don't feel safe walking on the street or that your healthcare costs have risen so high that you hope you don't fall ill because the bills might just kill you? Where do you go to lodge such complaints without being told to just tighten your belt, live simpler lives and get fined if you don't pay your bills or taxes? This might not be reason for a social movement some might say. The thing is the politics behind it is what has caused such state of affairs.

How much of that RM144 billion in investments with China will you enjoy? Just think of how much value you got from past trade deals.

Did you get a say in all this. The true story is yes. You got a say at the ballot box. And that's what the problem is right now. Redelineation.

If changing how you vote makes your vote count less, that's when your voice is taken away from you – your fundamental rights and freedoms stolen without a fight.

You may not be able to see it but you do feel it when the price of food increases or when your toll rates rise, or when you cannot afford the simple luxuries that you could easily afford 10 years, five years or even three years ago.

We can sit back and criticise social movements and be armchair complainers, but when the opportunity to stand up for your rights comes along and instead of lending your voice, you put up obstacles, it is not only you who lose but the generations after you who will suffer.

But before you do decide on a social movement, evaluate which ones are peaceful and wanting a better, stronger Malaysia for all.

Comments: letters@thesundaily.com