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OPINION: True reforms begin with ourselves

As published in Malay Mail today

By Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos

Any intention to want reforms and improvements in society is good and encouraging.  The fact is there have been people selflessly and unknown to many of us who have been struggling all their lives to bring about various kinds of reforms in our society. Sometimes they work together and often times, they work alone with like-minded friends. 
Without the slightest doubt, there is a need for improvement in many parts of our lives, the most obvious being that we have still failed to co-exist peacefully and compassionately with each other after so many thousands of years of being on earth. We have so many religions and yet it is difficult to say how many of us have attained God consciousness as opposed to religious consciousness. This  is a valid question for it is mind-boggling how anyone who wants the mercy of the Creator will fail to share that mercy with others. So, yes, there is a need for internal reform. A quest to find out what you are and why you want to live the way you live.
Each of us is so concerned for our own families and willing to sacrifice for them and yet we have absolutely no qualms to discriminate against the children of others. We invent and conjecture up all sorts of concepts to oppress, belittle, dehumanise and make life difficult for others who may not look or smell like us. When calamity befalls us, we fail to ask this question: if we do not care for others why should nature or God care for us? We forget that our actions collectively today are determining our future which we are already living in every second. This is yet another area of reform and it has to do with us again.
Is it not ironical that while technology has developed by leaps and bounds, human beings are largely and unashamedly still very primitive in their tribal ways? So, obviously there may be a need for each of us to examine what living together means and come to terms with the reality that we are, whether we like it or not, so inter-connected and inter-dependant. My unhappiness will sooner or later affect your happiness. 
In the misguided so-called reform movements, people get together, feel important, shout and scream and point fingers at anything other than themselves for the imagined or real grouses that they have. Having done that, they go back to being what they are and forgetting that any real reform to take place, it must have taken place within themselves and it must have been such a passion that it will only die when they do. 
Many people today are demanding quick fix solutions like a pain killer, or Maggie mee or McDonalds burger. Those are the gimmicks of politicians who will only prescribe short-term solutions to accurately fill up their political term. True reformers know that reformation of society is a long-term quest, huge sacrifice of time and eternal. This is because reformers know that human beings often relapse into their old ways when things get slighter better for them. This is testified by history.
We have to stop looking for heroes. I notice that many people look for heroes as if they themselves are total invalids or nincompoops. They have forgotten that they are that one sperm from a million that has fused with the ovum to come into this earth. We still wait for others to do something before we want to. We can look for guidance or help or ideas but should never idolise especially if that person is still alive. The problem with looking for heroes is that we end up idolising that person and in turn we may end up creating a monster that we had started off to dispose. 
As a teenager, I was very influenced by Gandhi’s Satyagraha and Ahimsa. Gandhi’s biggest message to me was that you have to start with yourself first and you have to be prepared to sacrifice what needs to be sacrificed to achieve something good for others. It doesn’t matter if what is achieved is small or without any fanfare. 
Unfortunately, I believe Gandhi’s definition of success in life will not be accepted by many, including those who claim him to be great leader! Today, we have become slaves of branding, marketing and realitwy shows. 
I believe this — if you passionately believe that you have to do good things selflessly, somehow or other you will end up doing it.  You will end up passionately supporting good causes and you will attract others to your good cause. True reforms begin with ourselves and it never ends till we leave this earth.

JAHABERDEEN is a senior lawyer and founder of Rapera, a movement that encourages thinking and compassionate citizens. He can be reached at


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