What will you contribute to Malaysia’s new chapter? In the aftermath of Malaysia’s 14th General Election on May 9, there was a palpable sense of joy, renewed hope, and a feeling that change is upon us, and there’s a bright future is in store for the country.
Over the three years that I’ve lived in Malaysia, the one asset that has constantly stood out (besides the incredible food!) is the people who make the country what it is. Granted, it has taken time to get used to the traffic jams and bouts of torrential rain, but there are few places in the world with warmer people.
In many ways, people in Malaysia remind me of the folks back home in Scotland. Despite the problems, the conflicts or the complaints we might have, whenever someone needs a helping hand, the majority of people are quick to lend one to whoever needs it. It’s a value that no doubt fills Malaysians with pride, and rightly so.
Even after the election results came out, when emotions were understandably high among many, it was wonderful to see people calling for the past to be left behind and for the country to concentrate on how it can move forward as it heads into this exciting new chapter.
In the teachings of the Buddha, there’s an emphasis placed on how we use our minds: wherever it goes, our reality follows. If we choose to focus on revenge, retribution, anger and conflict, these qualities will surely enslave us. As the saying goes, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind”, wise words usually attributed to that great agent for change, Mohandas Gandhi.
This sentiment was frequently echoed in the words of Martin Luther King Jr during the struggles of the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s in the United States. Dr King was a keen observer of human nature and an advocate for the notion that real, lasting change could only come through peaceful means and understanding ourselves, as well as our enemies.
As he put it, “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
During my time in politics, I came to see the futility of arguments that went beyond debating the best ways to move forward. Point-scoring, finger pointing, and attempts to shout the loudest only make people on opposing sides dig their heels further into the ground. When that happens, compromise and progress become impossible.
This is what the likes of Gandhi and Dr King realised in their respective struggles. When we are bogged down by the past, by hatred, or by the need for revenge, we waste our energies on trying to make the past better than it was instead of building the best future than can be. None of us can change the past; what’s been has gone. The only time we have to effect positive change is now, in the present moment. The question is how will we choose to use it?
The ushering in of a new era in politics is always an exciting time. There’s such a buzz of energy, possibility and camaraderie as people come together to celebrate the change in direction. But like any honeymoon period, that buzz will wear off eventually, and then there will be a choice to be made. Do we leave it to the leaders of the country to get on with making Malaysia greater, or do we roll up our sleeves and offer our contributions?
Certainly, strong national governance is needed to build a country up, but it’s the people in the communities, through the strength of their efforts and their bonds, that truly make a country thrive. In the years gone by, I’ve been impressed by the political and business leaders I’ve had the fortune of meeting. Having said that, I’ve been most impressed by the community groups and volunteers who work tirelessly to bring people together and offer valuable help and support to the people who need it.
As any election shows, the power truly lies with the people, and that power extends far beyond the ballot box. Every day, each of us has more potential to create change than we realise – even by helping one person, there’s no telling where our influence will end.
It has been inspiring to watch Malaysians young and old come together to create a new change and give birth to a new freedom within the country. Just as millions of Malaysians joined to create this new chapter, each person now has the opportunity to write a line or verse that will help to shape what’s to come. As a good friend of mine is fond of saying, “Lord, let the pages unfold”.