THE prime minister's exhortation at the Wesak Day celebrations "to not only tolerate one another" but to achieve "a level of total acceptance" (NST, May 6) is a call that must be heeded by all Malaysians.
We are, unfortunately, witnessing a growing and unpleasant trend in attitude and tone of resentment, even anger and hostility, penetrating the demands, speeches and writings of almost all quarters in the country.
Clearly, there is a need for integrity, openness and accommodation if we are to unite for the common good. Only then can we break through the division built on foundations of fear of "the other". We must recognise it is only on the other side of that dividing wall that true understanding, equity and shared values for peace and prosperity for all can be found.
Throughout history, universally, we see that it is instinctual fear, often fanned by those who seek to manipulate others for their own ends, that makes people pursue domination of "the other".
However, it is the path of religious faith that points the way to ethical values by which to tolerate human differences. The long, doleful history of humankind suggests that its tendency to view life as a continual struggle of "us against them" is built into our DNA.
But is that struggle characteristic of the kind of society and nation we want? Wouldn't we prefer one that is free from the shackles of fear, duplicity, hypocrisy and bad conscience, all of which constrain us to the relentless pursuit of wanting to control and dominate "the other" so that we can always have the best and be ahead?
Don't we want a nation that opens the way to the compassionate sharing of the essentials of life and the fruits of our creativity? These ends depend on a policy that balances our own material interests and ambitions with a caring regard for the dignity, rights, human needs and aspirations of every other citizen.
As the prime minister pointed out, "whatever faith one had, it was vital to find the goodness of the religion because positive attitudes and good teachings could form good values for the nation".
Today, we have every incentive to pursue those ends together.
We must eschew the urge to merely seek power to subdue "the other", but rather respect the powers of empathy, compassion and love. That is the only path in order for all to advance economically and socially and for stability, security and justice to prevail in the nation.
Pursuing and committing ourselves to work in synch for the greater good of all and for the people's most pressing needs, wants and demands to be met, however, can represent an immense challenge.
As long as we succumb to "me-first" values, we can hardly be expected to march together towards shared economic fairness and moral justice.
Before ordinary citizens can effectively progress on the path of shared values, they themselves must be freed from manipulation by vested interests that seek only to further their own selfish ends.
We must first learn not to underpin our lives on the false blandishments of those who try to manipulate our thinking and our support. Then, we need to start building a life for ourselves that moves toward authenticity and those who share its legitimate and genuine values.
Let us together, irrespective of our divisions, demand greater scope for participation, increased investment and accountability to shape a creative economy that can upgrade our physical and information infrastructure, raise healthcare to the highest plane, provide resources for strategic technological advances, create quality employment and enhance educational opportunities.
We will be pleasantly surprised to find that our gestures in the true spirit of shared humanity will change our presumptive "adversaries" -- "the other" -- and will be swiftly reciprocated. Such small overtures, extended to "the other", will in time lead to a full flowering of the spirit of open, empathetic and compassionate human co-existence and cooperation rather than hateful confrontation.
All citizens with the power to do good must yield to the higher aspect of our nature. This can enable us, in the words of the prime minister, "to look forward, to reconcile, that's the concept which Malaysians need to be reminded of" so as to "build and prosper the nation".
Rueben Dudley, Petaling Jaya, Selangor