Let the people be

Being a Malaysian nowadays is almost akin to discovering that you were never allowed to grow up into functional adults purely because some people do not trust you to behave as such.

There always seems to be someone happy to shout at the nearest person in order to tell them how to behave or what they should be outraged about even before the second blue WhatsApp tick can appear.

At the end of November, the Malaysian International Tattoo Expo 2019 was held, and immediately came under fire from the tourism minister for supposedly being “obscene” and at odds with the country’s culture, despite the fact that the expo had already been given approval and was being hyped as the event to attend.

Other issues that have raised the hackles in the past few news cycles and decades include the “need” to ban vaping; how the LGBT community is destroying the very fabric of society by literally being the cause of tsunamis; how certain books are not suitable for public consumption; how beer festivals (or even non-alcoholic beer) is harming the general public; and how parents must be given the undisputed right to not vaccinate their children, especially since they can use the time to prepare their precious progeny for an immediate marriage!

Even something as simple as music has been problematic for the general public since before Dr Mahathir Mohamad pre-empted KRU’s Dilema with his own version; where censorship means American Pie sounds weird when it comes to the chorus; and where there have been outcries against K-pop stars, numerous metal acts, dangdut queens, and — of all things — Michael Learns To Rock.

Religious thinker Karen Armstrong said it best in 2007 when she was in Kuala Lumpur and asked about her banned book The History of God: “I think Malaysians are mature enough to make up their own minds about things.”

This was a comment that received roars of approval from the audience. It was not lost on the prime minister of the time, who was also in attendance at the same talk.

Let’s face it, the Sabahans and Sarawakians scoffed at the “not our culture” complaint, especially since the expo included local tattoo legend Ernesto Kalum, who is apparently the only Malaysian to be listed in the French Mondial du Tatouage as well as being featured in the National Geographic TV show Taboo as an expert on the tattoo culture.

Calling for vaping to be banned but saying nothing about cigarettes and cigars is just silly and hypocritical, especially since many world experts actually seem to agree that — while not harmless — vaping does help smokers quit the habit.

And girl, if he’s more interested in your brother rather than you, you need to calm down. It’s not even about something as shallow as appearance: you can buy all the make-up that MAC can make, but if he’s not into you, that’s OK. If you believe in God, then we’re all God’s creatures, and all have a right to live.

Awful behaviour will not make you even a tenth as beautiful as Nisha Ayub — who, as anyone who knows her can attest, is an exquisitely beguiling personality underneath that gorgeous and glamorous exterior.

We are already more than six decades old as a nation and the era of “the government knows best” has come and gone.

This is especially true since those Malaysians in positions of authority have proven countless times just how much they can’t be trusted to have our best interests at heart (politicians who keep jumping parties and who will say anything to win an argument, we’re looking at you).

Children need to learn to grow up and become adults — that is the true nature of things. It can’t happen if they have everything done for them — especially when that dependence is disguised as being for their own good.

The government should stop trying to be a nanny state, and focus on more important things, like keeping promises, and giving all Malaysians quality education, equal opportunities and being fair to all.

You can’t do that if you’re too busy being a busybody about what everyone is wearing.

Ahmad Azrai is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.