Firdaus Tarmizi

Bersih 2.0 – The Chicken and the Duck Syndrome

In Politic, Ranting on July 17, 2011 at 6:31 pm
Chicken and Duck - from

Malaysia: A Nation of Chickens and Ducks

The few weeks leading to , and one week after, the momentous (or devious, depending on which side you are on) Bersih 2.0 march (or riot) , I learned one very important information regarding Malaysians: we are a nation with severe inability to engage in mutually respectful discussion.

Intellectual discourse is dull and boring.  Malaysians generally crave spectacles and fireworks, hence liking speakers who can give the best performances, instead of having the best points.  Who cares about the best agenda and manifestos if they can virtually pulverize an opponent with their sermon?

Recently, an acquaintance brought up her desire to find “sensible threads where people speak with reason, not blind loyalty to the left or the right, nor blind hatred”.  To which I say: Trying to find that in Malaysia? Good luck with that, my friend.  The only sensible voice of reason in Malaysia is the pakcik making the Raya announcement.  And he also has retired.

Raya - taken from

Seriously, who can argue with this?


Jokes and cynicism aside, here are what I am looking for.  Alongside with what my friend are hoping for, I also hope for more people to  “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood“.  For people to be able to be on opposite sides without putting negative labels on each other.  For people to agree to disagree.  For people to debate based on the issue at hand, not along party lines.

These may all sound cliché, but they simply are not happening!  Ask yourself, to what end do you argue?  Is it to bend other people to agree with you?  To make other people submit to your definition of reality?

Or, are you trying to emphatically understand other’s point of view, their motivation and evidences for taking a stand, their anger and fear regarding an issue, WITHOUT trying first to think on how you would reply to their accusations and defend your points?  And, after understanding where people are coming from (even if not the same as you), to agree that they are still human and worthy of basic respect?

If the latter part is true, why are we seeing the tendency to demonize others who dissent?  Why the accusations that all BN supporters are sheep brainwashed by the mainstream media?  That all PR supporters actually worship Anwar and are agents of Jew and the US?

Why the habit of shutting off your ears from their words as soon as you know the person you are talking to supports another party?

More sinister are those people who actually understand EXACTLY what the other side is  saying and, far from trying to foster constructive discussion, try to poison and manipulate to support the own points.  Sadly, this is what the majority of politicians are doing.  That’s why I am telling you not to decide along party lines, but based on the issue at hand!

How many of us, without reading any opinion pieces, blogs or FB status updates, try to gather pieces of information and form our own opinion?  For a lot of us, because we form opinions based on our peers and not from our own convictions and values, we don’t like to face anything that challenge our assumptions.

That’s why, in the end, the chickens will continue to cluck cluck cluck, and the ducks keep on quack quack quacking, and will never find a common ground because they don’t bother to learn the other’s language.


My challenge to Malaysians:  Open a blog/website which support another party, and try to read their points without any preconceived notion.   Go through the article without labeling the author in a negative light.  See if you can, after reading, list down and summarize their points to another person in an objective manner and without balking in disgust.  And after that, see if you can counter the argument point by point without resorting to ad hominem or any other fallacies in argument.

If we can, perhaps, there’s some hope for us as a nation after all.

  1. […]   This debate was a pleasant development for me because I did mention here that I was looking for an intellectual debate on the issue.  I was hoping the opportunity will […]

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