Saturday, May 8, 2021

Behind calls for solidarity and movements for change

Some successful campaigns may carry the weight of an image without any actual solidarity with the people.

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Looking at a social media post that seemed to take a jab at PAS’ Chinese New Year wishes, which went against its previous stand, I wondered about the direction of advocacy for solidarity.

There are many causes that end their statements with “we stand in solidarity with such and such” and appear as a beacon of hope in times of struggle while remaining problematic in everything they are trying to achieve, inadvertently or not.

The call for solidarity is a mirror image of government-issued statements that end with “Yang menjalankan amanah”. We see the phrase way too many times, yet we still question if they are doing their work. The same goes for the call for solidarity – it carries the weight of an image without any actual solidarity with the people.

I have not been involved in activism for long, and I am not one to call myself an activist. I have joined marches here and there, made a few statements, joined programmes and learnt about various issues. But as I become more involved in these causes, I begin to recognise a lot of issues that have risen and yet are not handled in a satisfactory manner or even given any thought at all.

There have been numerous campaigns with tremendous and widespread reach which deserve praise. But what is not observable by those who were not in those movements may not live up to the standard that was preached.

A lot of these movements for change are rampant with sexism and sexual harassment as well as discrimination, to the point where most of the time I have to question whether I should still support these causes by great individuals who may not actually be that great. With youth activism now on the rise, it seems that ageism is another issue to be considered as well, as the youth do exactly the same thing that the older generation did to them.

Not to mention the blatant bullying that some causes have shown just to achieve some image of greatness that will soon be replaced by other causes which will do the same thing. I am reminded of a movement that planned an event with an invited guest only to have that guest become the scapegoat for a past mistake of their own. They would rather throw someone under the bus than have their cause smeared or owning up to their problems.

I understand that mobilising change requires collectiveness, meaning that a lot of these like-minded individuals will flock together. They may start out good but as the causes grow, issues will rise, and they will eventually be prone to problems. But should these problems be excused just because the initial intention of the cause was pure? Is it justified for these causes to end up being a reflection of the movements and stands that they were against in the first place?

A lot of the time these issues are a matter of letting someone have a fulfilled life by coming to terms with the trauma inflicted by harassment and discrimination. But at the end of the day, many still choose to dedicate themselves to the cause instead of bringing closure. Many will stand aside and let these things happen, all for the sake of some movements that will in time die out.

What are we actually supporting? It seems that a lot of the time we are holding up a vessel with change written on it but which is empty of any humanity. What good is it if it leaves a bad taste for many who are actually in these causes? For all we know, we might have been looking up to another vile individual just dressed more humbly. Maybe in a white robe in keeping with the image of purity, or in flip-flops to look modest. Jesus said that the meek shall inherit the earth, but for many, meekness can also be another strategic move for influence without consideration for the vileness of the steps to uphold an image.

Perhaps he realised this since he also warned against false prophets and idolatry. But maybe we, too, are misdirected in painting an image of falsehood on others and idolising too many who should not be idolised.

I have seen many great minds and talented individuals chased away over trivial differences in ideology or because they could not stand the environment that eventually became too toxic for them to handle. But sure, we have great campaigns and awesome social media posts, never mind the lack of fulfilment for many in achieving those campaigns.

It is exhausting to be excited and willing to do acts that seem to bring change only to end up being disappointed by those causes and yet still have to support them because of the realisation that no one else is doing what these individuals are.

It all seems superfluous and futile in actualising any change. Sure, we can say that at least someone is making an effort to spread awareness and that advocating for change is always good – but beyond that, what has actually been achieved and at what cost?

But then, perhaps I am not allowing myself to see the whole landscape of advocacy and movements of solidarity, and I am open to being corrected. It’s just that all these matters end up looking like PAS’ Chinese New Year wishes: ironic, and a call to solidarity for all the wrong reasons.

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