Sunday January 6, 2013
On the Beat
By Wong Chun Wai
Comments posted on the various news portals would show the level of shouting, not debate, that is taking place.
IT’S incredible how gullible some Malaysians can be. They like bad news, especially if there are elements to put down the government. And they also like to instantly share it with their like-minded friends on Facebook or Twitter.
The more agitated they become, the angrier they turn against the government and everyone else around them. Their entire day is spoiled and, presumably, they would also blame the government for that.
Anyone who disagrees with their views are called names, cursed and rubbished. And they do this even as they extol the virtues of the freedom of expression and respect for individual views in the same breath.
Exiled blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin was hero-worshipped and everything he wrote was deemed the gospel truth until he started questioning some opposition leaders. Overnight, he lost his legions of fans who not only turned against him but also called him all kinds of names.
Last week, someone posted on Twitter that Jakim had declared the coffee at Starbucks to be haram. No one took the trouble to check the authenticity of the claim that some coffee beans from South America could be religiously unclean. Instead, there was a barrage of criticisms against the religious authority which soon turned into an anti-government session.
And the problem with such diatribes on the social media is that even if an inaccuracy is corrected on one site, many would have shared this piece of false news elsewhere. Many of us are not surprised when old controversies resurface after a long time simply because along the sharing loop, there will be someone who will happily pass on anything critical even if it is no longer hot.
Some of the pro-government supporters writing on the social media platform are no better. They seem incapable of arguing their case in a rational manner and, often, the arguments take on a racial angle.
Many seem oblivious to the fact that dissent is part of democracy and differences in opinion are to be respected.
Some of these supporters narrowly champion the interest of one component party, forgetting that the other component member parties are equally important. That’s how divided the country has become.
The inability to articulate one’s views objectively and in a mature manner is troubling. A glance at the comments posted on the various news portals would show the level of shouting, not debate, that is taking place. They seem to have become the gathering point of like-minded people with the same political bias, prejudices and viciousness too.
Many hide behind their anonymity but are quick to condemn writers who dare to put their names to their works as cowards if they do not share their views. How ironic indeed.
These are the people who read the same blogs and news portals every day, nodding in agreement as they do so and believing that the whole country not only shares their political views but also actually support their stand.
Their idea of objectivity is one that reflects their world view while the opposing views are to be dismissed. Everything seems to be either white or black. There’s no middle ground or readiness for reasoning.
In places of worship, prayers by some religious leaders have become skewed and their measure of “ethical and righteous” leaders are actually based on their personal political beliefs.
They are not ashamed to post their rantings daily on Facebook, forgetting that as religious leaders they have a certain degree of responsibility to their followers who come from both sides of the political fence.
Such obsession with politics seems to have overtaken their spiritual priorities as they become cyber troopers, unknowingly serving the interest of the politicians first instead of their flock who need spiritual guidance.
They evoke the Scriptures to justify their political campaign and unashamedly use God’s name, as if God is telling the congregation, via these religious leaders, who and how to vote.
There are two things one tries to avoid at social gatherings – religion and politics. But with the general election just weeks ahead, it has become more difficult to avoid these topics.
My dentist talks about politics to me as I hold tightly to the dental chair with the buzz of the drill ringing in my ears. My stylist not only cuts my hair but feels he also has the right to share his political views with me.
Even the Myanmar man who runs the prawn mee stall talks politics. But, thankfully, it’s only about Aung San Suu Kyi and the generals.