Update: My latest writeup in Malayisan Insider:
Can Malaysians live that dream too ?
NOV 3 — On July 4th, 1774, a declaration was adopted by the Second Congress of Thirteen States of America, then at war with Great Britain. This was drafted by Thomas Jefferson and it was a formal declaration of independence.
The preamble was as follows:
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.
We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
Note the phrase that “all men are created equal”, but at that time, this equality had a caveat; only the whites were entitled to enjoy the equality, whereas those labourers imported from Continental Africa were considered slaves, and were not entitled to the protection and provision of this clause.
It took a civil war, the deaths of a few hundred thousand soldiers and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln to end official slavery in the States.
But even then, African Americans were discriminated against and segregated by laws, and it was not until 1955 that a movement, the African American Civil Rights Movement, was formed to push for the equal treatment of all Americans.
The movement championed various ways to push for civil rights for African Americans, including sit-ins, freedom rides into the Southern Segregation States, civil disobedience and the well-known March on Washington in 1963, where 300,000 people demonstrated in front of Lincoln Memorial.
This was when the late Dr Martin Luther King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech.
Later, various laws were enacted to do away with segregation. It took America 200 years to do so. And now Martin Luther King’s dream is going to be realised.
Without any last-minute hitches, Barack Obama is going to be elected as the first black president of America.
We do not know whether he would turn out to be a good president or not, but the fact that a black man can be elected to be the President of the United States of America, the most powerful nation on Earth, speaks much about the progress of human rights in the evolution of the species called homo sapiens.
Men are created equal. This is an indisputable fact. From the eyes of a doctor, all humans are the same. We have the same brains, the same skin structures even though pigmentation levels may vary, we have two eyes, one nose, one mouth, one liver with two lobes, two upper and two lower limbs. We walk the same way.
We eat through our mouths. We use our hands to do work. There is no difference at all except the levels of pigmentation in our skin make some of us a shade darker, and this difference in levels of pigmentation is more due to prolonged exposure to the effects of the elements rather than any structural difference in our skin layers.
Due to the differences of habitats and lack of interaction of people in different regions, there are notable cultural and behavioural differences of various groups of people living in different areas of our world, including differences in languages, speech, and religious beliefs. But the fundamental parts of the human species are the same.
It took the Americans two centuries to achieve equality. But should it take us, the Malaysians, as long to achieve integration and equality?
It should be noted that whereas before, there were very little interactions between various people, due to the great barriers in physical travel, long-distance communications, and difficulties for various ethnic groups to understand one another as a result of linguistic differences, these barriers are by and large removed in the modern world.
Travelling around the world now takes only a few hours, communications across continents can be achieved within the blink of an eye, and the world is increasingly a place where interactions, and even intermarriages, between various ethnic groups are the norm rather than the exception now.
In line with this global trend where people from one ethnic group are increasingly treating others from other groups as equal, should we Malaysians still be so anachronistic and persist in unfair and unjust policies?
Should we not, while respecting the special rights as enshrined in the Constitution, be more liberal and adopt an economic policy based on “needs” and social strata rather than ethnic origins?
Should we not change the New Economic Policy into a “needs-based” economic policy? Wouldn’t a more liberalised and fairer policy give us more scope to expand our economic activities and hence avoid being marginalised by those countries outside our own?
If Obama can be elected as president in a country where the whites are the dominant group, why can’t we Malaysians be more liberal and adopt policies to ensure a fair and equal society for our future generations?
Do we really need 200 years to achieve that?