Syed Saddiq and Foodpanda

READING the news these days is depressing. All you see is news about Covid-19, political posturing, the crashing stock market, an uncertain economy and other bad tidings. What is worse, though, is social media. There seems to be so much venom out there and so much of it is based on race and religion. I personally find this disgusting and nauseating. Sadly, what shows up on social media only reflects real life and there seems to be so much hatred out there. 

I understand that all of us have our own personal views, be it political or otherwise. I fully agree with the right to air your views, whether it be on social media or in public. By all means, air your opinions and call someone out if you think that what they have said or reported is unsubstantiated or in error. Where I do draw the line at is the use or racial and religious name calling and derogatory terms to justify your point of view or purely to cast aspersions on someone’s character whenever your own views may be contradicted or disagreed with.

There are even cases of people being threatened on social media.

The latest case seems to be of a journalist from a local news portal who was harassed on social media for an article she wrote. The posts and comments are actually sickening with a large number being racist in nature and some calling for the journalist to be physically harmed and even spat at! The worst thing is, this is not something new but something that has been going on for quite a while. One has to wonder when and how we became such a hateful society.

Come on Malaysia, surely you are better than this.

You know, when you call someone a disparaging name just because you don’t agree with their views, it only reflects poorly on yourself. It’s even worse when the terms used are racially or religiously demeaning. What you are doing is nothing short of fanning racial and religious sentiment. That is not only unhealthy, it is also dangerous. Not only does it reflect a high level of immaturity it also goes against all social etiquette and even religious teachings. Yes, thats right. All religious teachings. I don’t believe any religion condones insulting others or referring to them contemptuously. Most if not all religions advocate love, peace and acceptance. When you attack someone, especially based on their race or beliefs, you are actually going against the very tenets that you are supposed to subscribe to. You are doing a disservice to your own race and religion. There is an old saying that when you point your finger at someone, other three fingers are pointing back at you. Think about that.

Many of us post updates and make comments without thinking of the implications or the possible repercussions of our actions. We are quick to form an opinion and write disparaging comments by just looking at a headline and not even reading the full article. We reproduce news items from years gone by without verifying the date and make it seem like current news. We happily propagate fake news without verifying the source. The list goes on. To compound these actions, we go so far as to add our own disparaging headers or comments – our own form of clickbait, so to speak – because we all know how important it is to get many ‘likes’ on our social media posts.  Invariably, this just leads to a state of fear and discontent, and you wonder why our society is in the mess it is in today.

Indeed, social media has become a powerful tool. However, like a gun put into the wrong hands, it can become extremely dangerous. 

Our politicians are partly to blame for the state we are in as well. For far too long they have been playing up these very sentiments of race and religion. However, when you think about it, we are the ones who are really to blame for letting them get away with it. You can argue that if our leaders are racist, then you cant expect the rakyat to behave any differently. Fair point, but on the flip side, if the rakyat doesn’t accept and allow this spewing of racial and religious vitriol, then the politicians would have no leg to stand on. But we let it carry on don’t we and so the politicians get emboldeded and we think it is perfectly acceptable to do the same. 

Let’s be honest. There is so much distrust among so many of us today and sadly, a lot of this distrust stems from our ethnicity and religious beliefs. Or perhaps this is what we have been led to believe all these years through racial stereotyping and fear-mongering. We seem to take joy in finding fault with one another and even more, in humiliating them with racial taunts. A form of schadenfreude perhaps. In short, we have become a nation of bigots. There. I’ve said it.

It’s time we stopped. Stop the racial attacks. Stop the religious attacks. Stop the threats against individuals simply because you do not like what they say. Stop the name-calling. Stop the fear-mongering and rhetoric of rights being abused or diminished. Every one of us – leaders included. Just stop it. Now.  

We need to stand up and be counted and by doing so, make the difference. Allowing so much hostility and rancour to fester will only tear this country apart. We need to make a stand before it’s too late.

* Dharm Navaratnam reads The Malaysian Insight.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.

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