Be sure about what you are protesting

It’s encouraging to see that our citizens these days are more willing to be vocal about what they support and what they don’t. Just think about the two Bersih rallies we’ve had, the anti-ISA protests and vigils, the gatherings to show discontent with the Peaceful Assembly Bill, and most recently the nationwide assemblies held to send one message to the government: “Stop Lynas, Save Malaysia”.

Just take a look at Facebook and the number of people who have turned their profile pictures green. Look again to see how many people have been sharing information about the Stop Lynas assemblies, and how many people have statuses that say they are against Lynas.

This would all be good, if all of them really knew what they were expressing their opposition against.

I’m not saying half the people don’t know what they were doing when sharing those statuses and posts – I have not done a survey, I wouldn’t have the exact numbers. But it’s a safe bet to say that many of them, especially those from the younger generation, only supported the Stop Lynas movement because it was (1) the cool thing to do, and (2) because it has the undertones “if you oppose the BN government, you should oppose this too”.

I should know, I was there at the Stop Lynas gathering at Maju Junction, KL, that weekend. And while I found it refreshing to see people finding new, creative ways to show protest (dance and song), and the good ol’ “honk if you support us”, I was at the same time disappointed to find that there was someone with a placard that said (in Mandarin), “MCA, where are you?”

This is by no means a big brush, but it did get me thinking: of the 1,000 (rough estimate) attendees, how many of them went there without a real understanding of what they were really against? And how many went there with the pure intention of showing their opposition against the BN government?

Like a recent Namewee song “Good Day to Die” (an anti-Lynas song), he admits in his own lyrics that he doesn’t know what rare earth is, nor does he know anything about Lynas. But he still opposes Lynas anyway. Now why is that? Frankly, I’ve never been a fan of Namewee’s, but this is a good example to show just how much of this is just “protest for the sake of protest”. And really, how many people are equally as ignorant about the facts, but still protested anyway?

My cousins and I had a short conversation on this just yesterday. They asked if I enjoyed the protest, and instead of answering, I asked if they knew what it was really all about. These are people who have changed their profile pictures green, and have posted anti-Lynas statuses on Facebook. No suprise, they didn’t actually know.

The good thing is, I got to tell them what I knew about the issue. I told them about the processes that rare-earth has to go through before becoming useful, sans the scientific stuff. I also told them about the article in New York Times regarding the shoddy practices behind construction, and the safety issues that would ensue. I then told them the story of Bukit Merah, and the fact that the cleaning-up process is still ongoing.

So really, it’s a good thing that we’ve got an active citizenry who’s willing to stand up and be counted. It’s encouraging to know that the people know that they have power, and that their voices do matter. But at the same time, people should learn to not get too excited and carried away by all the hype. Get to know what the issues really are, then decide if you really want to throw your weight behind it.

One Comment on “Be sure about what you are protesting”

  1. Aitze says:

    Here’s another spin.

    If your cousins had not painted their Facebooks green nor shown an interest in protesting (albeit for the wrong reasons) they might not have prompted someone like you to educate them. In other words, they would still have been ignorant of Lynas and rare earth.

    Sometimes, it’s ok just to want to be cool – without needing to know too much about politics.

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