Open-Mind. The First Paradigm Shifts: Part 2 of 2.

This is a continuation of Open-Mind. The First Paradigm Shifts: Part 1.

II. Challenging the Authority

In America, if something is wrong, people stand up and question it without hesitation. There is no shyness, or the fear of authority, that prevents one from voicing up his or her opinion.

At the micro scale, this is manifested in the classroom: students would provoke a professor with questions that lead to more serious discussion and idea-generation. The exchange of idea is thus very active without authoritative barrier between the students and the professor. You do not ‘respect’ the professor like your elders; he is your friend. The professor in turn humbly treats you on equal footing.

Remember the ‘Listen, Listen, Listen’ incident, when the president of Suara Wanita 1Malaysia voraciously attacked a UUM law student Bawani to stop her from further questioning the host? This is shamefully a stark opposite to freedom of challenging the authority and the rights to thoughts and speech.

At a macro scale, the freedom of speech, as laid out clearly in the First Amendment of the U.S., gives the total power to the people to protest and get their opinions heard. This is the mechanism of democracy I mentioned in the last article: demonstration is the machinery that installs the will of the people as the basis of the government.

Demonstrations and rallies are commonplace here, and they differ in size and objective. However, they are the hallmark of the First Amendment, and a reflection of the people’s audacity to challenge the authority, because democracy is people’s power.

Sadly enough in the Oriental culture, protests and demonstrations are associated with disobedience, and they are branded negatively as blasphemous. You can see it directly in the previous violent crackdown on the first few Bersih rallies. This is shown in our politicians’ response towards demonstration and their attempting to curb it. The mechanism of democracy is large disabled in our society.

III. Accepting change as the norm: Balance of power

A dynamic system is always better than a stagnant one, but do not confuse stability and stagnancy. This is commonly misinterpreted by a regime that tries to cling on to its power. Change is not chaos, disorder or instability. It is on its own entity the bona fide feature of a progressive, advanced society.

This is consistent with the Chinese proverb,

“flowing water never goes bad; our door hubs never gather termites.”

The truth is, a static, non-dynamic regime or society ceases to progress. In this fast-changing world, none can afford to stand still and get left behind. A society can only progress if it is opened to change, and if it adopts itself quickly to the ever changing reality of the dynamic world.

Therefore, if someone insists, “conservatism is better!” I will defend that liberalism thrives better than conservatism for this reason.

Competition ensures progress, because it is a testimony of natural selection–survival of the fittest.

An obvious example would be to compare the frequency of governmental change between Malaysia and the U.S., and the stark difference in their societal progress and maturity.

This then leads me to the concept of the Balance of Power, a central idea in political theory. What it says is that in any political system, be it domestic or global, there needs to be a mechanism put in place by all parties, so that they can act collectively to prevent any one from gaining power disproportionately and becoming a hegemon. Else, this absolute power would act without provision and bully the rest to its heel.

Such balance of power ensures a dynamic equilibrium and stability. It was an invention after the deadly Thirty Years War that torn Europe to pieces. The new mechanism that was effected through the Peace of Westphalia treaty brought peace and prevented major wars in Europe for decades. The balance of power then form the basis of international relations to establish order.

When a hegemon rises, the consequence is fatal: The rise of Germany has started two World Wars–the deadliest in mankind’s history.

I have mentioned the Malaysian hegemon in the past articles, and how that undermined the fate of our society as a sole power grows authoritarian and corrupt as it dominates most of the resources without another power to keep it in check.

VI. The Media

The government’s domination is so prevalent that the most important part of a democracy is undermined: the people’s mind is manipulated. We are brainwashed in school, so that we are ignorant of our rights and self-determination. We are even programmed to be conservative and reject the Western culture.

Lucky enough, through alternative media online the condition has improved, the society is freeing itself from the surreptitious grip of the regime.

The most vital part of a civil society is the press, for it helps guide the people’s mind. However, the printed press in Malaysia are heavily infused with the regime’s propaganda. They are irresponsible, trash media, and serve no significant role of true journalism.

Thus, I advice Malaysians to read critically and have to ability to discern, pick and reject ideas. I have been reading the New York Times for long, and from that I opened my mind and learned what journalism is.

The media play a sanctimonious responsibility; it shapes the fate of an entire democratic nation.

V. Open Mind

By writing this essay and urging Malaysians to open up their mind, I expect inevitably someone would criticize me as putting myself arrogantly as ‘superior’ while looking down on the ‘inferior’ Malaysians.

No. The feeling of superiority and inferiority is just a consequence from a closed-mind. I see all as equal, and I hope to influence my fellow Malaysians at home what the American values have taught me.

Yes, I do not deny that I am pro-American. But again, I do not entirely accept the Western mode of thinking without critical considerations. I am not the so-called ‘traitor’ who abandons the Oriental culture for Western values. Many people who came to the U.S. choose to be ‘Westernized’ because they experience the culture, think that it is good, and adopt it.

My fellow Malaysian readers may protest, ‘we are not entirely like this!’ Well, good, because Malaysia is liberalizing itself to the world, and you are a part of that!

If you are not the ultra-conservative, congratulations, and welcome to the globalized era of open-mindedness. ❧

Keng Wah Loon

A Malaysian currently studying in the U.S.

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