September 29, 2022

Wishy-washy silence is not golden

5 min read

THEY say that if you don’t come out strongly against something, it means you’re for it. Silence means acquiescence. It’s an affliction that particularly affects politicians who, ever wary of potential controversies, stay clear of taking unequivocal stands on most subjects.

So you have, to give an international example, a Jeremy Corbyn who won’t say he’s against Brexit. Which leaves us to speculate what he really thinks about it or whether he simply doesn’t want to agitate his pro-Brexit supporters.

Nearer home, we get the same sort of wishy-washyness from some of our politicians.

We thought the new Malaysia would be a dynamic and energetic one but yet there still is so much ambivalence in so many policies.

We thought a crowd pleaser would be major reforms of our education system but so far the so-called reforms have been superficial, involving shoes, writing and irrelevant languages.

So we’re still waiting on that one.

We have had people who have disappeared. This is by no means normal for our country.

Isn’t it a horrible thing for the families who are left wondering where their loved ones could be, whether in fact they’re still alive?

Why is there so little empathy for a wife who is suddenly husbandless, with no clue where he’s gone but only some suspicion that somebody took him.

Is it so hard to sympathise with that predicament, even when you can’t give any good news?

Are our tongues so heavy that we can’t express any solidarity with people who are suffering?

Even if it’s not from illness or loss, is it not possible to try and give some comforting words to people who have less?

Just the cost of living these days can bring enough misery for families, who are often left with nothing at the end of the month.

Can’t there be reassuring words, to be followed by actions of course, about lowering the cost of food, or of transportation. Talking about transportation, I was listening to a radio programme about the Malaysian so-called reluctance to use public transport. Apparently, we like the privacy of our own cars, to gather our thoughts, listen to news and music and therefore we’re not very inclined to use public transport because we have to share space with other people.

I understand all that although I was shocked to hear that Malaysians apparently have the most number of cars per capita in the world. Headphones though are a marvellous invention for use in public places. But place those individual luxuries against the cost of running a car, enduring traffic jams and looking for parking, and I think public transport becomes a viable alternative, just as it does in more advanced countries.

Funny that we have no qualms about using the Tube or buses in London, say, but not in KL. The reasons though are plenty.

Public transport over there is clean, efficient and well-organised. If you miss one train or bus, you know another one will arrive shortly. You can even track the arrival of the next bus.

What’s more, public transport there is not a class issue. It’s used by everybody regardless of their station in life, because it works.

But here, while cars still remain a symbol of upward mobility, there’ll always be a separation of people in our transport environment.

Ride-hailing cars evens it out somewhat but they still put cars on the roads. We need a more positive campaign to promote public transport and use technology to build a more efficient system.

So some sympathy for the average working person who has to spend a lot of money on transportation to work wouldn’t go amiss.

I also read somewhere that good public transport benefits poor people mostly because they often can’t afford to buy cars and all that goes with them, especially petrol.

So if you want to be a good government working for the poorest people, you’d have to invest in the best public transport system, because that’s the best way to get people to their workplaces.

If they can’t get to work, they can’t earn much money. If they can’t earn much, they’re forced to live far from their workplaces because that’s all they can afford.

But without good public transportation, they’ll spend most of their money and time trying to get to work. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be broken.

But back to silence about issues potentially signalling agreement.

I am puzzled by the lack of will on eliminating child marriage.

Using the excuse of state reluctance to raise the age of marriage may be an excuse although a pretty poor one. But why can’t public figures make a stand about what they think of child marriage? Do they really think it’s OK?

Or it’s not OK but they cannot deal with bureaucracy? It’s really shameful to see the sheer reluctance to say outright that child marriage is wrong and harmful for our children. And I don’t even buy the excuse that it would lead to a high number of pregnancies and abandoned babies.

Marrying them young would still lead to pregnancies and not necessarily better care for those children because after all they’re being brought up by children.

There is a principle of allowing lesser harm if it averts a bigger one.

In this case, not allowing a child to get married is better than the long term harm of early marriage and early pregnancies.

But where our politicians are reluctant, the people are not.

It’s heartening to see a social media campaign begun by ordinary citizens calling on the states who have not raised the age of marriage to do so.

It should shame the states that are still recalcitrant unless they don’t want to listen to the people who voted them in. In which case they risk facing more Tanjung Piais.

Marina Mahathir sometimes wonders why people are so eager to marry children off, and yet when people do get married, still penalise them for having babies too soon after their weddings and label them illegitimate. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the official stand of Sunday Star.

We’re sorry, this article is unavailable at the moment. If you wish to read this article, kindly contact our Customer Service team at 1-300-88-7827. Thank you for your patience – we’re bringing you a new and improved experience soon!