Learn from dissenting views in new Malaysia

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Every new point of view, opinion, challenge or disagreement we encounter holds the potential for deeper understanding, even if we don’t embrace or accept it fully, writes Dominic Damian.

It is a positive trait to have voices that sound like opposition within the government.

This means that exhaustive debates for the greater good, which is one of the mature functions in a real democracy, can be exercised without any artificial restraints.

The Barisan Nasional guys have always had the standard choreography of “yes!”, which, as we know, is counterproductive and dangerous. This is where a sense of invincibility sets in and, in the process, views and protests, which are deemed as unnecessary, unimportant and irrelevant, are perhaps discarded.

As individuals are all unique, there will be some distinctive traits about them. There will be:

  • idealists who believe in transformative and transparent participation, where citizens’ feedback and feelings are a strategic affirmative component in moving forward, and
  • those who will be vocal and rock the boat.

Does this mean that they are construed as liabilities and of little value to the existing administration?

Some thoughts on this matter:

With impartiality, we must study the views of those with whom we disagree. If we shout and tell them to shut up, we will never really know what they are right or wrong about. Our opponents may be right for all we know or care. They may know a fact or offer an argument or opinion we’ve never thought or considered.

At the very least, even if they aren’t right, there are specks of truth that may exist among their falsehoods which can guide or enlighten our minds on different possibilities or paths.

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We must always be open to powerful, provocative thoughts that have their own illumination and can break our limitations. The circumference of our understanding may be a small circle in a deep forest of knowledge.

We are all susceptible and fallible, our views not necessarily foolproof. Every new point of view, opinion, challenge or disagreement we encounter holds the potential for deeper understanding, even if we don’t embrace or accept it fully.

The wellspring of intellectual humility is the Socratic realisation that the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know, and the more apparent it is that your own opinions are inadequate and insufficient.

Nationalism must be a celebrated virtue of embracing each individual equitably as a citizen not just of Malaysia but of the world. If our nationalism is benign, it will be silent and invisible. If it shouts like the malignancy of cancer, it will unwittingly destroy all before it. If we don’t hear a dissenting view or opinion, our democracy will never empower or inspire the world.

A statement or opinion has the potential to open the consultative process, which has been absent or hidden, or perhaps has never been defined or practised.

Leadership is not a pedestal that should be accorded a sacrosanct value, where selection is given to an exclusive elite few who by virtue of status exclude others from the decision-making process. This may be happening in the current scenario where a conscientious objection or opinion placed in openness to public scrutiny is rejected.

No person should ever be given a passport of trust or a blank cheque of endorsement with unchecked power that that will affect millions.

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The turf, perimeter, trenches and fences in the struggle will see unusual variables unfolding even if their viability is not apparent (as we have been so used to hearing only one voice).

This is the moment the hiccups and blips will manifest themselves in the incompatibility of opinions. In our families, we have the rebels – do we abandon or disown them over our differences or love them amidst the diversity of views?

Our repressive laws came about due to a lack of external and internal objections. Every step of governance must be subject to impartial audit, scrutiny or evaluation at every stage.

Challenge every situation and every assertion to seek betterment, if in doubt. Anything that is sufficiently strong will withstand the waves of dissenting views.

We must in our thoughts hold ourselves to be the living embodiment of justice, and our souls must always have compassion; humanity and healing before politics. We must never crush the spirit of an opinion.

The press and civil servants have critical roles to play in defending the rights of citizens – especially the impoverished, vulnerable and most marginalised communities – and highlighting their grievances.

All of us must be empowered to be defiant and vocal though respectful proponents of equitable justice. We must also be conscientious opponents of silence in the face of injustice and error.

Politics is not the silence of a reverential prayer.

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