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The Concept of Perjuangan
By Raja Petra Kamarudin (Harakah English Section)

People are peculiar. They like to follow rituals and trends without understanding the concept behind them. Take the pilgrimage or Hajj to Mekkah as an example. How many of those who perform the Hajj (‘Haji’ in Bahasa Malaysia) actually understands what he or she is doing? Malaysians are fortunate though. They are forced to sit through a ‘kursus haji’ (Hajj course) before they embark on the pilgrimage. In that sense, Malaysian Muslims are more learned than their brethren from some of the other countries. But then, Malaysians are also forced to enrol in a driving school and submit to a driving test before they are let loose on the roads. But do Malaysians really know how to drive? Malaysians are probably amongst the worst drivers in the world.

Anyway, back to the Hajj. Let me relate a kisah benar (true incidence) that occurred way back in 1982 when I performed my first Hajj. There was this group of Indonesians who were performing their Hajj. The Sheikh (sort of tour leader), a Malaysian from Kemaman, Terengganu, who had made Mekkah his home (complete with second family and all), asked the Indonesian group how much they knew about the Hajj ritual. To his dismay, and this is not an isolated case mind you, none of them knew a thing.

Never mind, he said, just follow exactly what he does. He led the group through the main door leading to the Kabbah, the Babus Salam. He then read out the doa (prayer) and asked them to raise their palms and just recite “amin” (amen). They did just that. He then waved at the Kabbah and they aped him. He then led the group down the steps to the main courtyard of the Kabbah. The group followed close behind.

As the Sheikh walked down the steps he slipped on some water that had overflowed from the Zam Zam containers lining the mosque. He was thrown backwards and almost hit the floor but, in a reflex action, he grabbed the railing and saved himself from smashing his skull on the mosque steps. The entire group of Indonesians, seeing this magnificent display of acrobatics by their Sheikh, all slid down the steps and grabbed the railing in a sort of break dance fashion.

This scene would probably have been ideal on the streets of New York accompanied by some background rap music. It was, however, certainly not one of the obligated rituals of the Hajj. But the Sheikh had done this and the group of Indonesians did exactly as instructed; follow everything and anything their Sheikh does, including any accidental moves the Sheikh makes.

This is the danger when people try to perform certain rituals or acts without understanding the concept behind it. And this goes for the concept of perjuangan (struggle) as well.

Since the Reformasi ‘explosion’ in September 1998, many regard themselves as Reformists struggling (berjuang) for a better Malaysia. They shout rhetoric asking for equality for all races, transparency in the government, an end to corruption, the restoration of an independent judiciary, more fundamental liberties for Malaysians, freedom of the press, freedom of expression, association and assembly, an end to police brutality, an end to wastage of public funds and spending on mega projects, and so on and so forth -- certainly noble ideals and ideals that demand a struggle.

But those who propagate it do not understand the word ‘struggle’. Struggle means sacrifice, and sacrifice means you face inconvenience and difficulties. And this is something not many can endure.

Rafidah Aziz, the controversial Trade and Industry Minister, said something very relevant many years back. Malays have daya maju (viability or ingredients to success), said Rafidah, but they do not have daya tahan (resilience or staying power). And this is probably one of those times Rafidah is absolutely right. Malays have the ability to achieve certain things. But they have no ability to maintain it. They reach a certain level, then they taper off, after which they slide back down again.

How many Malay success stories have we seen over the last three decades or so? Many Malays have made it big-time in the business world. But they cannot seem to stay there. After awhile, they falter, then fall faster than they rose. And the same goes for the Malays in the political arena.

To berjuang or struggle is not difficult. If the Malays put their hearts to it they can reach the pinnacle of their struggle. But the Malays are not able to sustain this for long. After some time they get tired. Struggling is hard work. It involves dedication and sacrifice. It involves a long-term commitment where the results may not necessarily be seen in your lifetime but enjoyed by the next generation. This, the Malays are not able to endure.

Take PAS as an example. Today, PAS is at its peak. Has it fully reached its pinnacle or can it go even higher? Only time can tell but chances are the best is yet to be seen. Today, many of the PAS leaders are enjoying this success -- holding various positions in government such as State Assemblymen, Executive Council (EXCO) Members, Parliamentarians, and so on.

But it was the sacrifices and struggles of the first generation PAS leaders that made all this possible. The seeds of success were planted by the likes of Burhanuddin Hilmi. The fruits of success are being enjoyed by the likes of Abdul Hadi Awang. And this is the political reality. Those who planted the seeds may not always necessarily get to eat its fruit. The first generation works hard, struggles, sacrifices, and nurtures it with tender loving care. Then they move on. They may or may not be around to see the result of what they have done. Most likely they would be long gone by the time the good they have done bears results. And those who come after them enjoy all the benefits.

This is the whole problem with a perjuangan. It is long term. You need resilience. What you do in your lifetime will benefit others who come after you. Most times your blood, sweat and tears would have been in vain. Either you fail or, even if you succeed, you will never know about it, as you will be dead and buried in the ground when success is finally realised.

And not many can endure this.

For those who shout and scream about perjuangan, they need to ask themselves, are they really prepared to sacrifice? Sacrifice is an inconvenience and wrought with difficulties. If it is convenient and easy, then you need not struggle. A person with no money struggles to feed his family. A rich person needs not struggle to feed his family and can do so effortless. A person floundering in the water struggles to keep his head above water just to breathe and not drown. A person cruising by in his million-dollar yacht faces no such crisis.

And this is why many eventually give up their struggle for the safety and security of firm ground. And this is why many eventually leave the opposition for the comfort the ruling party can offer them. And this is why many throw in the towel and cross over to the greener pastures of the group in power. While they may have reached the pinnacle of their struggle, they are not able to sustain the energy required to continue with their sacrifices.

There is much lacking by being in the opposition. The flashy Mercedes Benz you once drove needs to be switched for public transport. The cushy job you once had is exchanged for unemployment. The overseas holiday you used to enjoy is replaced with a couple of nights in the police station lockup.

And is all this worth it? Certainly not if all your hard work and sacrifice is merely for the benefit of the next generation. Certainly not if you will not be around to enjoy the fruits of your effort. Certainly not if you must suffer so that others will have a good life. If this is what a struggle or perjuangan is all about, then it is better we move on and enjoy life while there are still some years left to enjoy.

Perjuangan is not so easy after all is it?

Raja Petra Kamarudin
Director, Free Anwar Campaign - 27.02.2004

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