Thank you for proving me wrong, Malaysia

May 9, 2018 was a historic date for Malaysia, my home country. The place where I grew up in, a place I used to love. It was a date when hope is restored for many Malaysians. The invincible Barisan Nasional (BN), in power for more than six decades, somehow managed to lose the election so utterly and convincingly that there was nothing they could have done to reverse the mandate, short of inciting a full emergency state similar to May 13. This is despite everything that they have done to sabotage the system prior to the election.

For many Malaysians, this was a joyous occasion. Rightfully so. It was a historic first in the country's history, and it proved that despite how some of us may think otherwise, democracy is still alive in Malaysia. The incumbent was outed, replaced by people who have grown so synonymous with the word 'opposition'.

I am one of the cynic few for this election. I will admit that prior to this election, I thought that nothing will change. That my vote will be too insignificant in the grand scheme of things. That ultimately, BN will still claw its way back into power. I have been disappointed once in Pakatan Rakyat, so what difference will Pakatan Harapan make, despite having the juggernaut Mahathir at its helm?

I stayed in Singapore, while many of my friends were energized and making plans to travel back and vote. I indulged in my skepticism, thinking to myself that all these efforts will be wasted eventually. I did not for once thought that BN would lose. Things will just return to status quo the day after the election. I felt that the optimism this time around was misplaced. We will end up being disappointed again.

So I did nothing. I stayed. I kept quiet. You won't be disappointed if you don't allow yourself to hope in the first place, right? Besides, taking leave is troublesome and expensive. Why bother.

How wrong I was. How completely and utterly wrong. By not doing anything, I have excluded myself from a defining historical moment. I cannot tell my kids next time that this is one of the proudest moment in their dad's life, that I have believed in something and stood for it.

If the younger me were to see what I have become today, I am pretty sure he would be sorely disappointed. I used to be so optimistic, so full of hope. The younger me would have gone back to Malaysia and voted without a question. He would have done so much more rather than to give in to hopeless cynism. He would have stayed awake the whole night waiting for the results, and cried out in joy when the results were announced.

What changed?

I guess along the way, I stopped believing. I wanted to say that I grew up, but then I look at people like Lim Kit Siang, Wan Azizah, Anwar and even Mahathir, who are all supposed to be more 'grown up' than me, but yet at the same time they chose and kept on fighting for what they believed in.

Prior to the victory, it would have been logical to question their actions and motivations. To ask them to "grow up". Nothing's going to change, so why bother fighting, I would imagine people asking them time and time again. Why not just quit and do something simpler? Life would be so much easier.

It is something I told myself too when I decided to quit blogging. When I told myself to stay in Singapore. When I took up my safe and comfortable job. When I decided to walk the 'safer' route in life.

I thought I grew up. But in actual sense, I have just stopped believing that dreams are worth fighting for. I became everything that my younger self swore not to become: a cynic.

I suppose a lot of people who fight do not achieve their goals in the end. Many end up losing their everything, even their lives in the process. If BN won on May 9, it would have affirmed the cynic's argument.

"Why bother, you see, fight so hard still lost."

I guess at the end of the day, what matters more is not giving up. Cliche as it sounds, it's the journey that matters. Being able to achieve your goal is only a sweet added advantage. What matters is that you have tried.

Many revolutions and changes were not achieved overnight, with the effort of a single person. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, the apostle Paul, Karpal Singh and many others died before they could see their ambitions realized. For many of us, me included, we would have seen their efforts as wasted if we lived during their time.

Without their first step, however, nothing would have changed. These people did not care whether their goals can be achieved in their lifetime. They believed in something, and they persevered on it. Even giving their lives for the cause.

Is it worth it? I don't know.

I saw Hannah Yeoh's post on Facebook today. Of how she said she chose to stay and fight. I have many friends who shared her thoughts too. I used to scoff at thoughts like these. If there is greener pasture elsewhere, why not take it. If I can enjoy better life elsewhere, why not go for it?

After May 9, I am not sure what to think anymore.

The younger me would have said "I told you so" and he has a good point. I have become a cynic old man in many aspects of my life, losing so much of the drive and passion I used to have. I have devolved into someone who just goes along with the flow, preferring a predictable and comfortable route, instead of someone who used to believe that we are the masters of our own destiny. I simply stopped believing.

May 9 was a good wake up call for me. To show me how much I have changed, how disillusioned I have become. But if someone like Lim Kit Siang, despite facing failures again and again, can keep fighting on, what is my excuse compared to his?

May 9 showed me the power of believing and not giving up, and it was a good lesson.

Thank you for proving me wrong, Malaysia.


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