Friday, August 7, 2009

Would You Bring Your Children to the KL Street Rallies?

I don't think so. Why not? Because you realise there's a very strong likelihood that things could get ugly (even in a place as peaceful, sensible and mob-effect-free as Kuala Lumpur). You also realise that should the police's water-cannons and chemical bombs injure your child, it is you who are primarily responsible, not the police.

Being a reasonable person, you do not move your vulnerable loved-ones into a danger-zone, regardless of the blame-games being played by all parties involved. You wouldn't even move your precious vehicles into that area.

But here's the catch: For some folks in the KL area, they do not have the luxury of choosing to stay away. For them, their children and their property, they can only pray that the stones, batons and cannons hit other targets. For them, they face the risk of danger, danger which wouldn't exist if not for two factors:
  1. The trigger-happy crowd-hating police
  2. The demonstrators and those who organised it

You need BOTH these items to take place for third-parties to be put in harm's way.

Last weekend, some children were ridiculously hand-cuffed and shoved into a police van. In my view, they were lucky: They could've been seriously injured or could've died (would anyone dare dispute this?)

If any children (or even adults) had died, whose fault would it be? Whilst the police would take heavy flak, can anyone deny that the organisers of the demonstration (plus anyone who actively called for the people to march) have to take some direct responsibility as well? Can the Opposition really wash their hands of any death or injury, especially now when the Malaysian PM has already allowed the use of stadiums to voice their protest?

Things get even worse if the injured/dead belonged to families who did NOT wish to participate but were simply 'around', either because they live or work there. Imagine I'm a father whose daughter was hit by some chemical-laced juices or a stray rock, or who has to replace some smashed building windows. Do you think I would care ONE JOT about the following responses?
  • "The police started the violence"
  • "There should've been adequate crowd control"
  • "We cannot let the government take away our freedom of speech and restrict the use of public spaces"
  • "We are marching against injustice and oppression"

I'm not sure many victims would care. My children and property have been compromised/damaged because the battle against injustice must get BBC/CNN air-time and its combatants are committed to lofty ideals of universal rights (at the expense of local safety).

The 'street vs stadium' debate isn't just about venue. It's about how we fight against evil (personal, systemic or otherwise) and the casualties we're willing to accept - or couldn't care less about.

The above remains fiction. Let's hope we have the sense to make it stay that way.

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