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Malaysia’s tragic descent into violence

 | August 19, 2017

Fatal bullying, gang-related crime and clashes at sporting events show how Malaysians have come to accept violent behaviour as an everyday occurrence.

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malaysia-violenViolence has become a norm rather than a rarity these days.

Earlier this year, we read with alarm how Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain – a naval cadet, was tortured to death by his university mates at the National Defence University. He was bound, beaten with a belt, rubber hose and clothes hanger, and burnt with an iron over a span of two days because of a dispute about a laptop. He was only 21.

Two weeks later, the nation gasped in horror once again when T Nhaveen, an 18-year-old, succumbed to his injuries after being brutally sodomised, beaten and tortured by a group of boys.

Psychologist and social workers pinned the cause of both these cases to a number of factors – the age and immaturity of the perpetrators as well as society’s prejudice against those who are different, polite and accommodating.

Four years earlier, we were swamped with reports of number-coded underworld gangs such as “04”, “08” and “Double 7” being linked to a series of armed robberies, drug and prostitution rings, loan-sharking, gambling, extortion rackets and contract killings.

Although these criminal organisations gave protection to and offered work opportunities for many who lived in poverty, they preyed on those who were vulnerable with the lure of fast money and bonds of brotherhood.

Violence even found its way into our sports arena.

Football fans would recall the incident back in 2014 when home fans and Vietnamese supporters clashed during the Asean Football Federation – Suzuki Cup semi-final in Selangor. When Vietnam defeated the host 2-1, a group of Malaysian fans turned unruly and assaulted the Vietnamese supporters there. What had started from a section of the Malaysian crowd throwing bottles eventually escalated into a full-fledged violent fist fight.

Then the following year, a similar incident happened during a match with Saudi Arabia. Only this time about a dozen flares trailing orange smoke, and fireworks were launched by home fans in the 88th minute. Two Saudi supporters were attacked while 11 others were arrested for rioting.

It is no better in politics either as the nation only just witnessed a violent ruckus at the ‘Nothing to Hide 2’ forum on Aug 13 where flares, shoes and chairs were thrown at former prime minister and chairman of PPBM, Mahathir Mohamad.

So where does that leave us, the everyday folk, who rather turn the cheek but end up retaliating viciously when violence flares up around us?

Perhaps we should go back to the basics – like trading the number of hours we spend on our smartphones and other electronic devices, for quality, face-to-face time with the family.

While it is only human to get angry, upset or stressed from time to time, it is important that we teach our children from young the appropriate ways to handle the frustrations we face.

Both parents and educators need to spend time inculcating positive characteristics in our young in addition to traits such as leadership, respect, compassion and hard work.

Demeaning, degrading and sexist language have become the norm in our society. The songs we sing along to on the radio and the harsh language we listen to in movies we watch make us numb to these, so much so, it becomes our everyday lingo. It even becomes part of our identity – something we use to portray to the world that we are “cool” and modern and accepted.

Wouldn’t it be better if we stopped to think of the true meaning or purpose of the words or phrases we are about to utter rather than resort to using degrading language to communicate a view point or make an argument?

While coarse words may not be the cause of violence per se, it does pave the way for violent thoughts and normalises violent behaviour.

We must stop being bystanders. We must start taking action to end violence by making small changes and teaching our young these small changes too. This is how we can become the voice of the victim. Rather than blame the victim, we should step back and think how to challenge wrong behaviour.


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