Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Do you have darah muda in you?

Darah muda or young blood means more than wanting things to go quickly.

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“You drive like you don’t know that you can lift your foot off the gear. It must be the darah muda – the young blood – in you,” an acquaintance jokingly said to me as I drove her through the busy streets of Chow Kit – recklessly, the way I drive all the time.

Maybe it’s true. Darah muda, the blood that runs through me, just thirsts for things to go quickly and for my destination to be within my grasp at the most present moment.

I think it’s this same darah muda in my generation that wants change to come as soon as possible, as they demand better governance through the black flag movement. Their destination is within sight, they can almost taste it – but alas, there is always a bump in the road.

I have seen the perception of some from my generation change over time. The same friends who used to question the activism of their generation are now joining the band wagon, freed from the oblivion of apathy.

I was once among them, questioning the relevance of movements.

I remember back in 2016, I was on my way home from college. With me on the train which was filled with people wearing yellow Bersih shirts was an elderly Indian man having a lively chat with another man, both in Bersih T-shirts. In my silliness, I decided to be annoyed with the situation and asked the elderly man, “What’s the point of all this?”

He was patient with me: “For the future generation,” he answered. For the future that was sitting next to him.

I was so out of touch with reality, thinking that everything I was privileged enough to experience was simply handed to me on a silver platter. I was not ready to grasp the fact that behind every privilege I had, was a rich history of struggle and obstacles, of a destination reached by the people before me, for me.

That was then. I have since learnt how to drive and how to be angry with everything around me.

I have darah muda flowing through me, or so my passenger said.

It would appear that the elderly man and the other yellow-shirted passengers on the train with me that day showed more darah muda than the college me did. I think so, too – darah muda does not recognise age. If, one day, a quadriplegic old woman decides to join a march on the street with generations far younger than she for a cause that is vital to the future, then she too would have darah muda in her.

As I have seen my friends change over time and develop their own version of darah muda, I have seen how it mobilises and steers different ideological groups in directions I never thought I would witness. Imagine seeing socialists and liberals as well as conservatives and those from other, unimaginable beliefs being on the same plane of thought about their current circumstances.

It’s like seeing a group of different-minded people willingly seated in the same vehicle on a flaming road of failed systems, past and present, heading for a destination of utopia.

Of course, they fight among themselves as well, about how to coordinate or steer a movement, whether they should protest or demonstrate – there is no limit to what they fight about.

Nevertheless, they are bound together through the awareness that their condition could be better through the movements they are manoeuvring together.

Do you have darah muda in you? When you see that things could be better for everyone, do you feel the desire to join the rest in trying to make it happen?

When the people in power over you anger you with their actions and remarks, do you feel their behaviour is worthy of criticism? When you witness injustice in the system that endlessly suppresses some, do you feel the need to stand up to these wrongs and band together with others, no matter the ideological differences?

If you do, I’m afraid you’ve got some darah muda in you.

But fret not, it’s not so bad. Sure, it allows you to be angry all the time and everlastingly disappointed in everything around you. You might experience the symptoms of activist burnout when you see that the change you want is not actualised – but it’s worth it, to have some darah muda in you.

Let the words of that elderly Indian man in the Bersih shirt resonate: for the future. And try to keep yourself afloat with the dream that the future will be better for everyone, and that more is about to come – whether a kingdom or simply an alternative to the life we are currently living.

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