Thursday, April 17, 2008

malaysia's dilemma...

What Am I Going to Tell My Grandchildren?
Dr Hsu Dar Ren's letter to Malaysiakini

Even though my childhood memories are very blurred now, I can still remember that from the time I was conscious of my surroundings, I had been taught one simple fact of life - that all men are equal in this world. My parents, being both intellectuals in the teaching profession, had always stressed to me that every son and daughter of theirs were equal in their eyes.

When I was older, women teachers were fighting for equal treatment as their male counterparts; equality of the sexes were again ingrained in my mind. I remember I was very glad when one day, my mother came back from school and told us that she would be getting the same pay as her male counterparts. It was really not the pay, because as small kids, the value of money was not so important to us, but rather we were happy because the equal status made our mother very proud and happy.

In schools, we were taught the same thing - that all men are equal. We learned from history how India had started to do away with the caste system, how in European countries, all citizens were treated equal. I learned about Martin Luther King and his ‘I have a dream’ speech. I read about how in the US, the civil rights movement had succeeded in getting equal rights for all races. I read the book All men are brothers by Dr Albert Schweitzer when I was older, and the notion of equality of all people was again ingrained in me. By the way, the book influenced me into taking up medicine.

All great religions teach about equality of mankind. Even the UN passed the Universal Declaration of Human rights, under which all humankind are supposed to have same rights and deserve the same treatment. As the world progresses towards being one single big family, inequality has become less and less, and I believe that there would come one day (call me an idealist) when all men will be truly equal.

Now, suddenly, someone important is telling me that all my notion of equality is not valid in this country. My dream of equality can only be dreamt of. How do I feel? How do you feel? One royalty member is telling us that a certain portion of Malaysians, which include me and my family, cannot be equal and should not seek equal treatment; that there are, in fact, different classes of races in the country; that even those born in this country long after independence will still have to carry the burden left behind by our forefathers. How do you feel? I feel disgusted and cheated.

Are we really still so medieval that we still need to have different classes of citizens? Can’t all citizens be treated equal - the tenet of the most basic of human rights? I don’t know how to answer that.

All my life , I have taught my children about fairness and equality. Now what am I going to tell my grandchildren?

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