What is it that forced a docile population under threat of a repeat of May 13, teargas, water cannons, beatings, and arrests by the Police to come out in the thousands in defiance of the government's ban and the Police? Bersih 2.0 was a defining moment in the history of a people that have been too trusting of a government that has betrayed their trust. Bersih 2.0 has galvanized a nation of diverse people to stand up to claim their right to a fair and clean government. Bersih 2.0 is no longer only about fair and clean elections; it is about a government of the people by the people for the people.
What made more than 170,000 Facebook users support the call to urge the Prime Minister to step down? The Prime Minister has exhorted the silent majority to speak up against illegal street demonstrations, and within a couple of days after the Bersih March, the 'silent' majority thumbed their noses at him. Bersih is different things to different people. Some took to the street to have 'fun'; some to record the historic event that could change the life of the nation; to some it was a catharsis to exorcise and bury the ghost of May 13 that has haunted them through the machination of government controlled media and politicians of divide and rule. Whatever the motivation, Bersih 2.0 was like a collective expulsion of air most foul that has suffocated the people for too long.
Scores of personal narratives in July 9 My Story revealed how it has forever changed the lives of those who marched. The thread that runs through all the narratives has been the same: the palpable sense of unity, of oneness, of shedding bigotry and embracing humanity, of people caring for and helping each other without thought to colour of the skin or religion in the face of batons, teargas and water cannons.
And the wondrous thing about these personal accounts are that they were written by young people who have been until Bersih 2.0, self-centred, apathetic, consumed with only one thought: to lead a comfortable life surrounded by the trappings of comfort. To them it was a rebirth, an awakening to the possibility that they could shape a new nation, without the baggage of the older generation. What of those who didn't march or were afraid to? They had taken to Facebook and Twitter with a vengeance to throw their support behind those who had descended on to KL.
That is the greatest gift of Bersih 2.0 to these young people, to this nation. Their stories henceforth will be read again and again as inspiration to the young and old alike. It is a beginning, a very good beginning.
# More personal accounts on Bersih 2.0 on the side bar.