“Makan dan minumlah, dan janganlah berlebih-lebihan. Sesungguhnya Allah tidak menyukai mereka yang berlebih-lebihan.”(Al A’raf: 31)
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
CAT Stevens(now Yusof Islam) - the father - in the song “father and son”, said:
”It's not time to make a change, Just relax, take it easy. You're still young, that's your fault, There's so much you have to know. Find a girl, settle down, If you want you can marry. Look at me, I am old, but I'm happy.”
Those were the words that came to mind when I saw the images of young people battling the police during the weekend’s Bersih 2.0 demonstration in Kuala Lumpur.
I was once like them. Back when I was a poor youth “battling” the ruling class and the capitalists of my kampung, I wrote a poem damning my father for his fanaticism towards Umno and his calm acceptance of the “takdir”, which in those days meant abject poverty and marginalisation.
Then, at 26 I became a father and lived on a salary of under RM800 a month. I had little choice but to conform to the demands of fatherhood. Idealism gave way to reality, but it remained in my subconscious. Thanks to the New Economic Policy, hard work and luck, I am better off now and far away from the poverty and deprivation of my youth.
My father had been gone two years now. My mother, Alhamdulillah, is doing well. In his final months my father said no to newspapers, preferring the Quran instead.
So now, like Cat Stevens, I can tell my children and their peers that:
“I was once like you are now, and I know that it's not easy, To be calm when you've found something going on. But take your time, think a lot, Why, think of everything you've got. For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.”
For good or evil, right or wrong, I believe, I have done my part for my family, my society and country. It’s now for my children and the children of people of my generation to take over. All that I can do is to tell the stories of my past as a guide for them to plot their future.
As such, I don’t blame young people for pursuing their political and ideological ideals, more so at the time when, the general consensus says, idealism is dead. I wish to disagree and I hope fervently that the youthful idealism is alive and well.
And the older people must not take youthful idealism and rebelliousness for granted. Let them speak out. Let them express themselves beyond “Akademi Fantasia”, “Raja Lawak” and devotion to Manchester United.
Yes, there’s a price to pay and, for that, I consider myself lucky. I received spirit-lifting poems and I also received damning letters and emails from my children. Until today, when I am past 60 and my eldest child is nearly 40, we still laugh and, occasionally, cry together.
Listen to what the “son” in Cat Stevens’ song has to say:
“How can I try to explain, when I do he turns away again. It's always been the same, same old story. From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen. Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away. I know I have to go.”
The biggest mistake a parent could do is not to listen. If you want your children to listen to you, you must listen to them. Feeding, clothing, sheltering and educating them are your responsibility. They are not the things that bind them to you to eternity, but love and affection do.
The same applies to the government. Providing platforms and the right environment for the people to feed, cloth, shelter and educate themselves are the responsibilities of the government. The government is elected and funded by the people. In return, government is supposed to do good for the people.
So, when the government does a good deed, the people don’t have to say thank you or be grateful. That’s what the government is for – to do good things. Of course, out of courtesy and decency, it’s good to say thank you. We should instead be grateful to God for His guidance and blessings.
But if the government does wrong, it must be condemned. We do not elect the government to do bad or wrong things. If the government makes no restitution or we are unhappy with its apology, our ultimate respond is not to vote for it in the general election.
And neither the father nor the government can keep telling the younger generation “it’s not the time to make a change.” The government cannot, on the one hand tell the people to change their lifestyles to cope with rising cost of living, while on the other continuing with its extravagance in personal spending.
The father:“It's not time to make a change, Just sit down, take it slowly. You're still young, that's your fault, There's so much you have to go through. Find a girl, settle down, if you want you can marry. Look at me, I am old, but I'm happy.”
The son:“All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside, It's hard, but it's harder to ignore it. If they were right, I'd agree, but it's them you know not me. Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away. I know I have to go.”
There’s a limit to what we, as parents, and by extension government, can do to tell what the young should do. After all, it’s their future that’s at stake. And not all of them wish to migrate or can do so even if they want. Malaysia is still their future – good or bad.
An Bob Dylan said: "Come gather 'round people Wherever you roam And admit that the waters Around you have grown And accept it that soon You'll be drenched to the bone. If your time to you Is worth savin' Then you better start swimmin' Or you'll sink like a stone For the times they are a-changin'."
Footnote: In a 2009 report,Sin Chew DailySaid: The Election Commission deputy chairman Datuk Hj Wan Ahmad bin Wan Omar said, Malaysians had become more positive in voter registration after the general elections last year, especially Chinese voters, while the Indians were the least enthusiastic. He also toldSin Chew Daily, registration assistants appointed by DAP were the most active, followed by PAS, UMNO and PKR, while the assistants appointed by Gerakan and MIC were the least enthusiastic in registering new voters.