“Nope, I don’t know who Sarah is nor the masses because that’s how it has always been… protesting in the car? That must have been pretty comfy… nice, did she have her aircon on, too?”
Words hadn’t stung me in a long time, but this time around the words uttered by an acquaintance hurt much more than anything that could have been said to me. Perhaps it was the blissful privilege of not knowing the struggle that a girl had gone through just for protesting safely in a convoy, or the casual disregard of an experience shared by a collective that rebelled with a cause, or maybe it was the way it was all just a joke to the person.
A lockup is not a “comfy” place to be. A bed of bricks and wooden planks, walls and grills, and the CCTV that was constant company were all things she experienced. And I know for a fact that the acquaintance that made the joke had never experienced any of this. He was also twice Sarah’s age, which baffled me – wisdom certainly doesn’t come with age.
What is observable in this situation is the trend of a casual disregard of a fight. There is a significant showing across social media and in discourse that polarises the black flag movement. From the media picking up a nine-second clip of a rowdy crowd showing their middle fingers to the camera, to the celebrities that are jumping on the bandwagon of interpreting the protest as a demise to Malaysia, it seems that out of a one-day protest held to materialise a message of an angry mass of people, some people simply do not want to acknowledge the significance of collectivity to the structure of authority.
There is no way I could analyse these circumstances without finding myself in a stump. What could possibly be the reason behind people going against what I would deem to be in their best interest?
To some, the answer is very simple: privilege. Privilege has allowed a number of people to be unaware of the surrounding misfortune. Even as their neighbours raise white flags and beg for alms and stipends, it is still easier for them to see the back of their privileged heads than a substantive explanation of a dire situation due to a systemic oppression.
Subsequently, they find themselves relieved of any need to think about the current situation, and only perceive the world through a lens so skewed that any form of struggle is seen as a minor inconvenience.
But privilege is not a poison that sits still. It branches out to create an environment that leads people into a state of blissful ignorance and makes them forget that the world was built on the backs of people who struggled. To them, the world is conjured up out of vacuum and came into existence without any historical excess for them to refer to.
The world was built as it is. Never mind Reformasi 1998, or Abolish ISA 2009, or the Bersih movement, things had never changed, they simply are.
Simply put, they forget that all that is for them to step onto in the world had the road carved out by people before them.
It could be that my former acquaintance was too privileged and too forgetful of past impacts to know better than to make a joke out of Sarah Irdina’s experience. And there could be many other reasons for the opposition to the concept of protest, but for me, they are all secondary to privilege and forgetfulness as the main cause of the growing sentiment of hating confrontation.
So, moving forward, what should be done? To realise your privilege is still a foreign concept for many and to go back into history is a tedious task as well. But the polarisation of a struggle is still a downfall for this nation as long as we remain static in the obliviousness to the oppressive system that has subjugated many to a state of submissiveness.
Are we to remain in this condition? I have a better hope for Malaysia, and I wish that the rest of the country will carry the same hope as well.