Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Democracy: up on the air

8th of December 2001? What significant does this date have? For most of Malaysian, it would mean nothing though they are affected by the revolution directly or indirectly.

Post 911 whilst the global politics were still struggling and local politics was in turmoil when DAP walked off from Barisan Alternatif, a very nice surprise was made by Tune Air Sdn Bhd which then bought 99.25 percent of Hicom’s equity in Air Asia which not only domineering but gave us such breath of fresh air to Malaysian aviation and the region which were still affected by 911.

8th December 2001 saw the birth of new Air Asia, a new company which offered low-cost carrier to the mass with their slogan “Now Eeveryone Can Fly”. Its presence was sceptically accepted and its slogan was presumption as any other rhetoric thrown by politicians on television and ceramah circuit.

Fast forward to ten years, Air Asia gets extraordinarily bigger with more aircrafts and various routes to lots of tourist destinations under their belt. Air Asia’s subsidiaries are now formed in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines and Japan as the latest addition. Unlike political party, Air Asia manages to make their motto becomes reality most of the time and strengthens its brand as democratic champion on air.

In accordance to Air Asia’s 10 year anniversary, there are two positive matters that I believe is worth mentioning: How Air Asia impacted me as an individual and art community known as Frinjan Collective which I manage together with a group of friends. Before doing so, I must admit that there are a lot of criticism be it on a strong basis and mostly are not which I shall never want to discuss further.

The first one would be on the relationship built either by an individual or a group of people from Malaysia with people from the country visited with Air Asia especially in the South East Asia region.

Before, only government managed to do so with all the budgets that they have. But now, with Air Asia’s reasonable fare, more individuals or groups are capable to build genuine relationship without having to waste public fund that are usually used to obscure certain issues from mass.

It doesn’t come as a surprise to learn that the rivalries between Malaysia and Indonesia didn’t have any affects unto individuals and groups that have built strong bonds between them. Post Air-Asia ambassadors are not another government’s puppet and with various backgrounds like from music, literature, film and cultured society they are now successfully brought down the red tapes. Individual solidarity or groups are very bold in sharing their crusade either socially or politically and begs to differ from how the government manages the mass.

For example, Frinjan Collective with a few participants and I had visited Indonesia and as expected we were warmly received by our new found friends.

The second one would be the effect on way of thinking and the dynamism on seeing the world prompted by Air Asia. Before, our only way of understanding our neighbours like Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, China and others were based on reports in mainstreams media such as Utusan Malaysia which most of the time is dubious. It had become our norm to underestimate or highly regard one country based on the report read in mainstream media.

Imagine the absurdity of our fellow Malaysian that step into Jakarta for the first time and really is surprised to find that shopping malls could be found everywhere as opposed to Utusan Malaysia’s Indonesian correspondent reports. Visualize how freak out they could be when they learn that Malays in Philippines are mostly Christian. They could not fathom why on earth the Malays could be other than Muslim unlike in Malaysia where Muslims are forbidden from converting as written in the constitution. Only four percent of Malays in Philippines are Muslims while 91.5 percent are Christian.

In my opinion, these two instances have proven the changes in Malaysian’s rationale specially and our region generally which is similar to what had happened in the past history. Set aside the extra charges need to be paid for check-in at counter, extra space, flight delay and out-of this-world fare for last minute ticket purchase because at the end of the day Air Asia had given us the changes that could not be seen through our naked eyes. Rationale could not be measured on how much money spent in Kuta, Pasar Baru and Platinum Mall.

An elitist once said, Air Asia had degraded the quality of those in suit by making them sitting in the same lane as those wearing pre-loved shirts. That is what Air Asia is all about! Democracy Warrior in the air!

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