The yellow wave and its durian effect

Azly Rahman (Mkini)
Nov 12, 07

“Bersih, Cekap, Amanah” – old political slogan
“Cemerlang, Gemilang, Terbilang” – new political slogan
“B.e.r.s.i.h” – slogan to get from the new slogan to the old.

I quote the first few paragraphs of the 1776 American Declaration of Independence:
“… When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. …
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.-That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Those are the words penned primarily by Thomas Jefferson, philosopher and statesman; words that became the document of American democracy that is still evolving.
Evolve we must
Evolve we must as a nation of multicultural poor yearning to break free from the shackles of poverty, alienation, massive corruption, and the tiredness of seeing power being abused and absolute power being abused absolutely.
Evolve we must by way of the slogans that have been fed to us religiously. By “we” we mean both the ruler and the ruled, the governor and the governed, the rakyat and the kerajaan (government). Essentially the process of “cleaning up” our act is both the desire of the ruling party and those who are protesting against it. We are a nation in need of therapy. We are one, essentially – our subjectivity and objectivity is being deconstructed and destroyed.
If we are to live with the truth and the power of the slogans we create, we must surrender to the will of the people who put us into power and wishes to see justice being served and a clean, transparent, and trustworthy government being put in place.
We have arrived at a juncture in our own brand of Civil Rights movement. We now need our own Magna Carta to teach our citizens the inalienable rights we have vis-a-vis the aristocrats; those that transformed themselves from the commoners to power-elites – through the huge machinery of money, media, and mental maneuverings and meanderings of the messages we created as the medium. We are made to live in a world of “managed perception”.
Don’t Pakistanize ourselves
Let us pray that we shall not have to Pakistanize ourselves in our struggle to exercise free speech and freedom of assembly. Unless we are like a nation at war with itself with us plunged as characters in the epic movie Lord of The Rings in which Humanity battles Humanoids in the war for natural justice set in antiquity.
The events that led to the declaration of emergency in Islamabad may as well foreshadow the nature and shape of things to come by the time campaigning and Election Day arrives.
Will the yellow fever, like the River HuangHe does, bring sorrow to the current regime? Is the nation seeing the seeds of destruction germinating? Will the Krakatau of the Malaysian rumbling and grumbling finally erupt?
I don’t know. You and I can only make informed guesses. Man proposes, God disposes.
We can only predict and plan for the translation of theory into practice. That’s what praxis is – the marriage of idealism and action to produce “cultural action for freedom”, as Latin liberation theologians such as Gustavo Gutierrez, Denis Goulet, and Paulo Freire would say. Or like what the brave heart Che Guevara would embody.
Being a student of social revolutions in which I have closely looked at the anatomy of peaceful and violent revolutions such as those of The American, The French, Cuban, Iranian, Nicaraguan, Indonesian and also the Computer and the Internet, I believe there are interesting elements one can extract from the Nov 10 march.
Unlike the French Revolution, the march did not begin in a tennis court but from many angles but denied the final congregation in front of Freedom/Independence/Merdeka Square. Nor it deposed a grandson of the Sun King, but rather seeks refuge in the Malay Supreme Ruler. Unlike the Cuban Revolution in which a law doctoral graduate Fidel Castro had to use extra-legal means to gain power and return it to the people, the November march began with a legal application that was denied and was preceded by the Lawyer’s Walk that sent memorandum to stop a judiciary rot. Unlike the Iranian Revolution in which a million people waited for Imam Khomeini, the Nov 10 march was a freedom march whose leadership is collaborative in nature. Unlike the Nicaraguan Revolution in which Daniel Ortega had to go underground to fight a guerilla war, Nov 10 saw not a single shot being fired nor Mat Rempits being hired. Unlike the American Revolution in which the French was General Washington’s ally, Nov 10 was purely a people’s protest devoid of outside influence. Unlike the most Indonesian Revolution in which Jakarta was burning, Nov 10 saw instead alleged chemical laced- water being sprayed on a rainy day.
Parallels and non-parallels there are.
But like the Computer Revolution that spread like wildfire and transformed millions into informed citizens Nov 10 was preceded by a good sense of informational war, with Malaysia-Today and a few other blogs hacked – the power of the Internet reigns supreme in spreading the yellow fever.
There is a durian dimension to the Nov 10 march of grievance.
The durian effect
The durian is a yellow fruit – an exquisite and truly “world-class” Malaysian fruit. It has a Marxist contradiction built in. It is pungent, banned in hotels and airplanes, tastes like vomit to some, feels like eating ice-cream in a Malaysian toilet to many, yet is has one of the most heavenly taste that even the most glorious of Malaysian statesmen and Supreme Rulers would not resist it over a pot of thick Malaccan coffee. In the yellowness of it lies heaven and hell. In it lies the joys and sorrow of tasting. It is a bitter fruit of freedom. Like the fruit in the song “Strange Fruit” rendered beautifully by the grand diva of jazz, Nina Simone; a fruit that tells America the story of lynching down South.
The yellowness of the durian is a metaphor of the yellow wave of change.
It’s only the beginning of a peaceful revolt against the might of the machine. Indeed the next wave will be met with even more machines from the regime. Like in the movie Lord of the Rings. Like in the movie the Matrix in which things will multiply as Humanity battles with Humanoids conditioned by totalitarianism.
The photos of the rally tell us a lot about the nature of our peaceful marches – thanks to the leaders and the marshals. Thanks to the wisdom of the leaders who are in tune and in syn with the gentleness of the people. But the faces of the protesters read like Chairil Anwar’s poems and WS Rendra’s plays.
We have evolved into brave souls with brave hearts. But with finesse and patience must we revolt. If we can have the masses to continue to wear yellow (like the Irish with their St. Patrick greens) as a memory of Nov 10, we will continue with the message right till Election Day. Revolutions need martyrs, reformations need signs and symbols and significations – etched in the memory of even the little child near Pasar Seni pepper-sprayed by the Mighty Machine trying with paranoia to crush those voices no longer in the wilderness.
This is why we have the yellow fever. Clean, Efficient, Trustworthy – a good old slogan to arrive at. But clean up we must. With lots of shower. Not with ones with chemically-laced water though.
We must evolve – collectively.