It has been a year of spectacular highs and shocking lows, a year of living dramatically, if not downright dangerously.
Yet, the past year has been remarkable not for scandalous behaviour and political theatre, but the manner in which an increasing number of Malaysians are taking responsibility for our nation's future. The most fundamental and important difference since March 8 cannot be found in political parties nor public institutions. Instead, it is the change that has occurred among us citizens.
Malaysian society grew up at an accelerated pace the past year, and the sense of entitlement that made whining in private such a part of our culture is beginning to give way to an eagerness to take action.
One year later, it is apt to pay tribute to us ordinary Malaysians who have collectively found our voice. While we might not always speak as one, no longer will we shut up while our country is mismanaged or exploited. So if you have stood up for victims of police brutality or ISA detainees in the face of intimidation and water cannons, I thank you.
If you have blogged about unpopular government initiatives like the privatisation of IJN or the construction of a new airport, I thank you too. If you refused to be cowed by violence and protested the illegal closing of a toll-free road, I would like to express my gratitude to you, even though I try to avoid the haphazard Cheras area as much as possible.
And if you have gone from being apathetic about the political process to discussing the issues of the day with your friends, family and neighbours, I salute you. You are more influential than any newspaper or television station. If your state assemblyperson was unfairly victimised, I would like to thank you for openly expressing your support for her.
If yours decided to jump ship and cause the collapse of your state government, well, I'm sorry to hear that. Yes, it's not unfair to wonder if some Pakatan Rakyat leaders are the same as their political rivals in BN. It's also true that the past year had been overwhelmed by a focus on political battles, many of which are trivial, as opposed to the many pressing issues related to governance.
And yes, it's true that a year on, while there have been many encouraging changes, our day-to-day lives have not been transformed in significant ways. In the scheme of things, 365 days isn't a lot of time, but it is long enough for some disappointment and pessimism to set in.
The euphoria of having made history has expectedly given way to a realisation that true fundamental change is an ongoing process, one that will still ultimately require a change in the federal government. Even then, it is no certainty.
Decades of entrenched interests and behaviours cannot be removed overnight. But we need to remember that being a part of the democratic process is not a phase nor a passing fad. It isn't limited to one year, or even one decade. Instead, it must be part of our culture, moving forward.
In the face of a new prime minister whose democratic credentials are questionable, it is all the more important that the spirit of the past year not only continues, but continues to grow. In the past year, Malaysians of all stripes and colours have increasingly staked our claim to this nation. The chaos of this transition to a functioning democracy can be a little tiring, but surely Malaysia is the better for it.
When we Malaysians argue, whether about language or university enrollment, we are arguing about what we stand for as a country, a debate that is as important as it is long overdue. One year later and beyond, we must continue to be bold in our support for things we believe in, whether it is the right for a state to own its own water resources or the right to due process.
Remember, if we don't speak for ourselves, someone else is speaking for us. If we don't continue to get involved, somebody else will. In fact, somebody probably already is.