Rule of thumb: "All it takes is a dinner with a focused topic of discussion". This seemingly trivial statement has forged us in a way we couldn't even begin to comprehend. I remember having our first dinner with Sim, John, Mean Yeit, Charis, and Professor Emmerson on a cold winter night. My intention initially was to find out more about Malaysians in the Bay Area in general, as well as meet this professor that I've heard so much about, an expert in Southeast Asian countries some say.
It wasn't long before I was listening to one of the most mature discussions I've ever heard over the 4 years I was in the United States. Some of the questions that were posed were very refreshing (sensitive some called it back home), but the debate was neutral and professional. An academic tone was highly used rather than the more widely practised bashing of the government or adversarial characters in modern day Malaysia.
It has since been a year - and still, the best discussions we have are group dinner conversations, as well as those that comes through a mailing list (smf-kopitiam in particular). From the common values of being a Malaysian to the welfare economics of the country, we have never walked away without learning something. The power of being able to speak eye to eye, person to person, expressing the deep and mutual desire to trash out all our feelings and emotions, and then finding a solution as a civil society to solve the problem has led to many great ideas, some of which has been taken up by enthusiastic volunteers.
To set up a forum like we did, you'll need the following:
- A small core group of people, preferably 4 to 8 people. (Grow when your have the basic style of conversation established)
- A vision of what this group is trying to accomplish - discuss this amongst yourself. We (the Bay Area group) took months to figure out ours.
What we can do to help you:
- Publicity - we can help in whatever way we can. Some of us are particularly good at harnessing the power of the web.
- Contacts - we are slowly but surely growing the number of key individuals in ensuring that we continue to stay in touch with what's going on in the country. They play a vital role in our discussions.
- Finance - we did not register Malaysia Forum as an official entity. Time will tell whether it deserves to be one. As for our local group in the Bay Area, we took advantage of the fact that some of the individuals in the groups are students; therefore we register ourselves with the school in order to obtain financial support. You can do that too.
What you can do to help us help you:
- We like the web. We can link to your site if you give us a webpage that contains information about your group to link to.
- Spread the word about Malaysia Forum. The more people who knows about Malaysia Forum, the more people will know about you too.
- Share your discussions. We're in the process of creating a public wiki page as a repository of information both regrading the facts and fiction of the country, as well as summaries of the conversations that we have.
Please let us know that you're interested by subscribing to our mailing list. So far we've got a group in Los Angeles going and would really like to see more groups like this around the world. Gandhi once said, "You've got to be the change you want to see in this world." Let's join hands to find the change we want to make together and be the change we and our people want to see.
Your friends from the Bay Area, California