Of flowery explosions and wacky Malaysia

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind; so instead of taking each others’ eyes out, how ’bout I get you a new pair of specs instead?” –Dreaming Human

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Malaysians leaving flowers at the Philippines embassy. Embassy, pick your favorite.

There are many things about my country that is considered unique (replace this with bizarre / cool / amazing / predictable / just downright crazy / all of the above, as is deemed appropriate), but I think this one takes the cake of Malaysia’s uniqueness..or at least a very large bite of it.

And here I’m not talking about the food (although yes, the kuih lapis I had this morning was absolutely heavenly, oh sorry, did you want some?) or about the cultural melting-pot, the super-friendly attitude my fellow Malaysians exhibit to foreigners or even the three-month holiday most secondary-school leavers embark on before starting college. Oh no, I’m talking about something else entirely.

I’m talking about the fact that we Malaysians can, and actually choose to, fight fire.. with flowers.

That’s right, folks, historically when things turn ugly and homemade human rubbish hits the fan, the media goes wild, the Americans have tea, still others produce their own unmentionables, but Malaysians go out prove that we’re all exceptionally, decently mad and leave flowers on  the opposing side’s doorsteps.

To any poor dears who are actually attempting to follow this but have not the faintest clue what I’m talking about, you can read about what we’re calling the Ops Bunga — my inner snarker would like to inform you it’s transliterated to Operation Flowers, and is giggling maniacally as we read while chanting “Flower Power!” — in the link provided above. The short, over-simplified (I’m serious) version goes something like this:

  • a claimant to the Filipino sultanate has had his militants invade Malaysian shore
  • the militants / invaders — oh wait, they’re officially terrorists now! And here we thought that only the world’s biggest superpower would have to face these scary things we call terrorists.. Anyway, they set up an ambush in a direct snub to the police-extended deadline for the armed group to leave without repercussion. They killed two  policemen in the ambush and left both my country and the Philippines in an awkward fix that’s slowly — if minimally; small comfort there, I’m sure  —  turning bloody.
  • …fingers are inevitably pointed by keyboard warriors and known figures alike, heroes are proudly made and heartrendingly lost, sides come together and turn against each other and as the presidents do damage control and the military launches air assaults to end it once and for all..
  • some members of the Philippines’ public decided to convene in front of the Malaysian embassy there to show their protest of the way the country is managing the standoff. 

Credits go to them for it being peaceful affair. However, the fact that Malaysia initially tried to prevent bloodshed in the first place seems to have escaped their memory, while certain quarters remember it all too well and now call us soft-hearted, weak, ineffective etc., when I’m sure most civilised humans would agree upon more fitting terms like ‘merciful’ or at least the all-encompassing ‘diplomatic’.

I mean, come on, who’ll be the last one snarking when this fiasco is over? Certainly not the trigger-happy people who would jump into battle at the slightest provocation.

But enough about that. My fellow Malaysians have proved that they are a peace-loving bunch who’d rather look around and smell the flowers — quite literally — than descend into a free-for-all squabble meant only for experts on those touchy-feel-y issues concerning ancient rights and obscure treaties.My friends, I have seen the future, and ironically my vision consists of a History textbook: History of Malaysia, let it be oh-so-creatively titled (can you tell when I’m snarking?). And in a particular page in it I see this block of text:

“EVIDENCE THAT MALAYSIA IS A PEACEFUL AND DIPLOMATIC NATION”

(historians, alternately insert whatever official-sounding, textbook appropriate title here)

  • [various dates]:mention the whole got-Independence-by-diplomacy stuff, plus the successful-protest-of-Malayan-Union and whatever else should be put in here; hey, don’t look at me like that, it’s only natural History becomes a vague mammoth for post-SPM students still enjoying their holiday blues–
  • May 2013: in response to a protest carried out by the some Philippines, the public leaves bouquet after bouquet of flowers at the Philippine embassy as a gesture of love and goodwill towards their fellow Suluk countrymen, as appreciation for their fallen policemen, as their show for solidarity and peace, and — 

Alright, so I’m not cut out to write a textbook — yet. Still, you get the idea : what  transpired in Ops Bunga really made a mark on me, and should leave a mark in history even, because everywhere we look these days, the world’s fraught with war or some semblance of it; looking at the way the Lahad Datu standoff is going right now, and in places like Afghanistan or  Korea, even the US when you consider the random gunmen..Everyone’s scared, every side wants to look out for themselves, so much that we insist on giving back exactly what hell the enemy gives us; we go tit for tat. Gandhi’s words mean less than naught.

But then suddenly my lovably wacky, cracked nation decided to change that by bombarding the other side not with bombs but with pretty, fragrant flowers.

Granted, it’s a small step, but a significant one nonetheless — at least, that’s what the there’s-still-hope-for-humanity side in everyone would like to believe, I’m sure. To quote the poet Max Ehrmann, “for all its lies, sham and drudgery, it’s still a beautiful world.”

For all its political finger-pointing, its fluid race/culture-dependent allegiance and its other faults, it’s still beautiful, peaceful, loving Malaysia.

So here goes, let’s all #prayforsabah, and for this nation to keep up the peace. God knows, the world needs it; me and you, we all do.

Now excuse me while I toy with the idea of bombarding people I dislike (not that there’s any, I say with a straight face) with flowers. The look of dumb shock and bemusement I should be receiving seems sweet enough a revenge.