This was published on The Malaysian Insider’s Side Views. A bit of a late re-post, but here it is.
In life, there are instances where love and hate are experienced and expressed. There is a time to love, and a time to hate. There are certainly many instances in life in which hate is a justified response.
For example, there is nothing wrong with hating crime – and sometimes it is difficult to separate the crime and criminal. There is also nothing wrong with hating a movie, or a type of music, just like how some men hate Justin Bieber’s music because it does not appeal to their audio palette. Hate is a pretty strong word, but there’s room for it.
The problem arises, however, when a person declares he hates Justin Bieber’s music without hearing a single song of his. Soon the dislike for Bieber might expand to an unsubstantiated dislike of any form of teen pop (boy bands being a prime example) to the point where every teen pop singer is hated by default, even if they make good music (sometimes they do, really).
Take, for example, the recent ruckus that arose surrounding a chapter (out of many) in an upcoming book comprising a collection of essays reflecting Tun Abdullah Badawi’s tenure as Malaysia’s prime minister. The book has yet to be actually released, and excerpts of Pak Lah’s interview in the book have already made kettles boil. The negative response generated by Perkasa and Utusan Malaysia, among others, was solely because the comments painted an unfavourable picture of Tun Dr. Mahathir.
Mind you, detractors have not even read the entire interview, or the rest of the book. They did not even ask Pak Lah to elaborate and explain so that the country may learn (if indeed he is right. I wouldn’t know. I have not read the book.)
They judged a book by a media misrepresentation of a collected volume of perspectives. But yes, go ahead and hate the book because it contains some phrases that makes the boss look bad.
The book launch in Malaysia has now been delayed. The hateful response has denied the rest of Malaysians a chance to read a book that contains unique perspectives of 30 or so authors. The politics of hate has triumphed once again in denying the people’s right to “know”.
The quality of the book is now a prolonged mystery. Maybe the book is a work of genius and has something for us to learn and reflect upon. Maybe it is rubbish.
I wouldn’t know. I have not read the book.
Unfortunately, the politics of hate is so passionately encouraged and practised sometimes we do not realise that we are being conditioned to believe that “hating” is the right response.
I confess I have stated that I hate Lin Dan every time Lee Chong Wei loses to him, but I recognise that is loser-talk that does not make things better. Just like how when the ruling coalition performed quite poorly in the recent general election, their first response was to blame the Chinese, and allow their media loudspeakers to convey messages of intense hate.
Even the freshly-minted home minister responded at the time that detractors should go live in another country. Instead of making renewed effort to love the detractors and win them back, Barisan Nasional responded with hate.
If this keeps up, it is quite safe to say these votes will not be won five years later.
And then there is all this endless provoking of both Muslim and non-Muslim faiths. On the outset, it may appear that it is the ploy of some people in power to make the Muslim majority hate non-Muslims, so that the politician who can appear as the most credible defender of Islam can win favour.
That is only partially true as these endless provocations also make non-Muslims hate Muslims as a first response. And it is working.
The sad truth is that there are those who thrive in the division of others, and I hate that.
But we can choose to love others. I do not endorse racial politics, but amidst all the complaints that there is little to no Chinese representation in the cabinet, wouldn’t it be great if an Umno leader spoke out passionately for the needs of the Chinese people?
That would be a sight to see. I would love that.
But it is not just in politics where we need to love others. On the grassroots level, we’ve become so busy hating people we do not know and do not bother trying to understand that maybe we actually deserve to be governed by hate-inducing political parties.
Would we change food caterers because the workers are of a particular race and religion and without considering their actual competence of carrying out the job? Would we request our child be put in another class upon discovering that the teacher is not of the preferred race even though he or she is equally qualified to impart knowledge? Would we remove racial and religious profiling from most employment application forms as if it should matter? Would we talk to “the other side” about the “Allah” issue and at least pay attention while the other person speaks? The list goes on, and it is not only limited to race and religion.
As long as we continuously hate people “just because”, no strong bridges will ever be built.
If we choose to love others and defend that right to love others regardless of disagreements and differences, the politics of hate and those who feed off its might will perish.
We can also choose to be informed, to at least endure the dissemination of new information and hear the perspectives of others. God willing, we might even find the strength to say “sorry” and change when we find out that we are wrong. That way, maybe something will change, from the bottom up. I too, fall short, and have much to learn.
Idealistic, I know. Maybe it’s impossible. Maybe the country is doomed to an endless concession to the convenience of hatred. Maybe making an effort to love others who are not like us is a repulsive idea. Maybe some of us secretly enjoy being self-righteous bigots and will continue to justify it for the next hundred years.
I wouldn’t know. I have not seen the future. – August 16, 2013.