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Friday, June 16, 2017

Made in Malaysia killers



“Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”
- Yehuda Bauer
A couple of months ago, I wrote this about another murdered youth - “I believe that Malaysians regardless of race or religion empathise with the parents of this boy but the hard, uncomfortable truth is that personal responsibility, theirs and ours, means we have to take a hard look at where it went all wrong and not simply blame the system or believe it is god's will.”
Whom was I writing about? I was writing about Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi, murdered in his religious school. I may as well have been writing about Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain who was murdered in his military school or T Nhaveen, bullied in school and unfortunately never managed to escape the hate he was subjected to in school.
Zan Azlee is right to blame the society that spawned these murderers, just as V Shuman is right to point to the apathy that guarantees that we will witness more cases like these. Just the other day, I got a video on WhatsApp which showed a bunch of schoolkids violently assaulting another kid and they were preening for the camera. There was no shame, just joy in physically hurting another. I think this may have happened on school grounds, which says a lot.
In that particular video, supposing the young student died? What happens then? Another case of outrage that is passed around virally? Another opportunity to attempt to find an easy scapegoat? Another opportunity to mourn collectively before going on in our violent speech against people we disagree with, all the while thinking we are righteous?
Watching that video, I was reminded of what my friend P Uthayakumar said about his stay in prison when I interviewed him - “There was the day-to-day cruel, inhumane, degrading and humiliating treatment of prisoners. At the smallest instance, prisoners are shouted at and beaten with rotan, slapped and kicked.”
We get religious people talking about the dangers of sex, about the immorality of same-sex unions or attempting to dictate how people should use their bodies, but when it comes to violence, it is a different story. Sure, they say that religion teaches us to be compassionate, turn the other cheek and all that “good” stuff. What is conveniently forgotten is the real goal, which is control and subservience. I am not only talking about Islam here.
Then, of course, there is this issue of gender. Whenever there is “public violence”, people tend to blame everything from politics to religion to whatever else they can think of, but more often than not, they miss the fact that the male gender is the commonality in all these public acts of violence.
Look I’m not saying that women are incapable of bullying (or committing violence) - which professionals tell me can be subtle, insidious and have more long-term psychological damage - but really, this idea that violence and maleness should be ignored while we attempt to find a way to lay the blame on more convenient targets is getting ridiculous.
No safe places
People who commit these acts of violence learn it from somewhere. If it is not in their homes, then it is where they choose to make a home or who they believe are their real family - friends. Furthermore, in all three of these cases, what is evident is that the institutions that were supposed to be safe places, were in reality conducive to the violence that they were taught is acceptable in the society they live in.
When you have the state security apparatus doling out violence to suspects. When you have prison authorities doling out violence to prisoners. When you have religious school authorities doling out violence to students. When you have state and religious authorities claim that it is acceptable to “punish” women. When you have parents who think that their children, especially male children are angels who would never do such a thing. When you have people who most often say that these are “isolated” cases.
When you have all of these, it teaches young people (males especially) that violence is an acceptable expression of whatever they are going through and that some targets are acceptable recipients of violence because society condones such acts, or worse, does not care until the next moment of outrage.
In our society, violence against young people is acceptable. Let us revisit the most serious issue of violence against young people, that is child sexual abuse. I referenced the fact that the authorities which are supposed to protect young people are hesitant to share the data about such acts because the data would be misinterpreted and used for political purposes.
This was my response - “What exactly is this fear of misinterpretation? That political parties, civil rights groups and child advocacy groups will use the information to embarrass the government of the day? Only a moron would attempt to make political capital of this issue because ultimately, we are all to blame. The government for its indifference and inadequate laws, the opposition for not making this a major issue, and the general public for its apathy.”
The authorities do not want to deal with it. Parents do not want to face up to the reality that there is something wrong with their kids when they display such causal acts of violence, but most importantly we think that we care but we really do not want to put in the effort that authentic caring entails.
Nhaveen's aunt G Premalatha said “We demand justice because we do not want the same thing to happen to others," but the problem with this is that getting justice is not going to stop this from happening to other kids.
Those suspects who killed Nhaveen most probably are going to be exposed to the violence that other suspects have faced and most people would probably applaud that. In prison, they will visit violence against other prisoners, perhaps even those who have no inclination towards violence.
Justice is not going to prevent something like this from happening again. Certainly not justice from the state. The only people that can stop this from happening are the citizens of Malaysia but that would take an effort which is beyond just blaming the government for everything and will be about redefining how we view each other and what we teach our children.
Until then, there is always the latest on Jho Low.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.- Mkini

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