From 15th May 2020 till 15th June 2020, EMPOWER Malaysia organised an essay competition for aspiring writers aged 13 to 23 with the theme “The Freedom to Express Myself without Fear”. This is one of the top entries, a captivating essay on society in the lens of Star Wars, written by Julian Bechler, aged 18.
I have seen it, I have experienced it and I even lived with it. The sensitive topic of being the “discriminated-minority” of a majority. Well, what do I mean by it exactly? There are areas in our society I would like to describe as the dark side. And it is not quite like in “Star Wars” with all the evil things and the red lightsabers. I would describe it similarly though, as the individual components that make up the great “Death-Star”.
I don’t know if you are a Star Wars fan, in fact, it actually doesn’t even matter. I will describe myself as the character Rey. As you may know, she belongs to the “light side” of the series. Rey and I have quite a lot in common. Like her, I have the choice to choose between two sides. I have the choice to choose between the two societies. The choice between two different cultures and if not, between two worlds. And yeah you get it. Growing up as a “mixed-race” or “Eurasian” isn’t as easy as you think.
You grow up learning about two different things and eventually having to make a difficult choice out of them. Just like Rey, I struggled with what was the right choice for me. From the simplest and smallest things like choosing the right things to wear to the biggest and life-changing choices like choosing what to believe. It is a bit sensitive to metaphorically describe societies like a movie series, but abbreviating differences using specific terms would make, what I’m trying to say, much more comprehensible. So please bear with me. If you have followed the series, you might realize that no matter how much you follow one side, the other side always finds ways to drag you over to theirs.
The majority of my life was enslaved in a more liberal-democratic society. Enslaved, I talk about one’s dedication of moral belief towards a constitution or ideology. Basically, taking granted of how the mechanism of society rules. As patriotism or nationality is more of a thing of history, my experience says that its crumbs are still present. Western society as I have lived with it has created different fundamental layers of supremacy. But however, supremacy didn’t really mean power. Power did not justify the fundamental groundwork of social classes, instead, it was more like the idea of “competence”. Well for most modern western societies at least. People shaped decisions on the benefit of the action itself. Decisions were often revolved around the idea of the best “offering”. Someone who offered the best service was then navigated by this driven force of power. The competition was the result of this force, but ultimately the end result created these layers of classes within society, or as you may refer it, the different social classes. And this constant driven force is the groundwork of most western societies we know to this date.
In my so far experience in Malaysia, I saw this core value as being quite different. Societies in the eastern world revolved around different foundations of moral philosophy. Easterners ́ emphasize a lot on collectives. Whatever choices they make, there is always this collective component to it. It’s like whatever decision I take, it somehow, in some way, ends up being revolving about a collective group, association, family, friends, or community. It’s like either we’re in this together or we’re not in this at all. And I’m not saying that that is something bad. But I would add, that this could be a crucial factor as to why we have disputes within the social realms of Malaysia.
Do you remember that interview when J.J Abrahams (cast of Kylo Ren) talked about Kylo’s role in the series? He surfaced this interesting topic about Kylo’s insecurities.
“Kylo is a supreme leader. But even as a supreme leader, Kylo is always wanting. Just like anyone who thinks that, when he arrives where he is going, he will feel fulfilled. For Kylo the whole only gets bigger”
It basically signifies how Malaysia’s society is engulfed by the never-ending social dilemma despite the events of corrections carried out by the authorities
Malaysia belongs to one of the most diverse countries in Southeast Asia. However, ironically belongs to one of the top rankings under the racism perception index. There are many factors that add up to this conclusion. But I believe that most of these factors are traced back to the fundamental core-value rooted in the system. Of course, eastern society has a different perception of things and sayings, just like the two sides in Star Wars. Eastern society revolves around the moral principle often impacted by a supreme external force, like how I mentioned earlier. Yeah, Asians basically, are more spiritual. They like to blame things on externally driven forces which they often regard as predetermined or “uncontrollable”. And I don’t blame them, even though on a political spectrum, this can be seen as very right- conservative. But even then, I still don’t see why a dedication towards an external means, that as an individual you carry “less” responsibility for your actions. History may play a role in how our society is brought up today. But history also teaches us lessons that strive us to compute more optimal and responsible decisions in the present. In Star Wars, Rae has often made irrational decisions that didn’t generate her desired output. But however, she held herself accountable for them. We as an individual might not always have executed the best or most effective choices. But however, we do still carry the responsibility for our mix actions and are destined to correct any necessities or room for improvement situations.
The problem in Malaysia’s society is that its core value is often impinged by the maxim of legitimate power. Yes, power. Whoever has power, has the saying. As an individual that belonged to this categorized majority of society, I belonged to the minority. In Malaysia, I have realized that the term “power” was often misused or misguided. People used power to receive their own recognition of collective supremacy. It is in fact the usage of abusive power and the idea of the “collective” that created these distinguished barriers within our society. We as people associated reasons not for individual doings. Instead, we associated reason with the ground principle of collective identification. And in fact, this is how our fundamental society is driven. This driven force has generated asymmetries within our society. People started feeling realms of empowerment. People felt restricted in their capabilities. People felt discriminated on their individual identity. People felt rights being stripped away by a superior constitution. People felt a limitation of power. People felt a lack of justice within political structures. People felt this internal egoism of “I deserve better or I deserve more rights”. And most of these feelings are caused by these unstructured usages of abusive powers. These impingements have been so deeply rooted in our foundation, to a point where the idea of change has even evolved to be often disregarded or seen as a fraud against the system. It is for that reason, why I believe that key figures such as Rey or even Kylo Ren, are the motor to direct necessary changes to the “past”. Both characters have experienced the two perceptions of each side, and both figures have the capability of creating the necessary adjustments. Authorities in Malaysian governments have experienced both ends and so do they have the power as well to create changes. But here’s the twist, they don’t. So now it is important for us as an individual to change that.
Seeing a fundamental ground root of society as bipolar is in fact very bias, but if you accumulate the extremes of each side and create a slight comparison of the two then you can see that structures of society are not that complex. We as an individual citizen of Malaysia should have the courage and the urge to go against a system that deliberately manifests regulations and policies that limit us down until the individual freedom to act out. Tracing back the history of our foundation and then saying that that system is not appropriate to the modern age may sound delusional at first, but bear in mind that we humans have a natural tendency to adapt to the changes of time and go against anything that might not fit the criteria of our modern development. We need to understand the core value our society revolves around, to understand the problems it faces. Education and teachings will help us widen that understanding. But more importantly, working together in harmony will eventually give us the courage to exercise our understanding. If we as a society, begin by demanding the rights we humans naturally are prone to, we will break this ancient social barrier that limits our individual freedom. Creating this equilibrium of power between us as an individual and the society, may finally create peace between within our society and more important within our galaxy.
The views, opinions and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of EMPOWER Malaysia.
Photo by Honza Kurka from Pexels.