Carlsberg beerNov 23 – Edi Rejang, a man who posted on Facebook a video of himself berating a young Chinese woman for giving out beer samples at the alcohol section of a supermarket, unexpectedly ended up the target of vitriol and cyberbullying himself, instead of his intended victim. 

Edi, who is supporting his family on a single income, reportedly lost his job as a dispatch rider after the social media shaming. It appears that Malaysia is heading towards America’s direction, where a stupid Facebook post or tweet can get you fired.

He is also under a police investigation under Section 509 of the Penal Code for allegedly intending to insult the modesty of a woman. 

Despite the tragedy of Edi’s situation, it is a little hard to be sympathetic with him because it was not enough for him to verbally abuse the teenager in person; by posting the video, he wanted her to receive the full-blown public shaming that he is suffering now. 

Although Edi’s actions should not necessarily be considered a criminal offence, I can say that as a woman, it can be terrifying to be confronted in person by an angry man.

In any case, this column wishes to explore how we can express our opinions and try to effect change without resorting to social media all the time, a double-edged sword that can backfire on you.

If you are upset by the provision of free samples of alcoholic beverages in a supermarket, rather than spew vulgarities and racist insults at the poor promoter, who is merely a low-level employee or may not even be working for the beer company, it would be more effective to target action at the corporation or the supermarket.

The first step is to organise. Get like-minded people, preferably from that community where the supermarket is located, to work on an action together.

It doesn’t have to be terribly many, but the more the better. This is the most important and crucial step because corporations and politicians will only be moved to action if they perceive mass dissatisfaction.  

Find out who your allies are. Your allies, in this case, could be religious leaders in that community. Get them to support your cause and add pressure on the supermarket or beer company.

As a group, you can write letters to the supermarket and the beer company to stop providing alcohol samples. Send letters to the editor in the media as well to explain why free beer samples should not be given out even from the alcohol section of the supermarket.

If there is no response, flood customer service with complaints. Your group can also flood the supermarket and beer company’s Facebook pages with polite and non-racist complaints.

Start a petition too. Identify the person in charge who can stop the provision of free alcohol samples in the supermarket and draft the petition to that person. If you cannot identify the person in charge, you can address the petition to, probably, the corporate affairs manager of the supermarket and beer company.

Identifying the person with the power to act on your demands is very important. So take some time to figure this out. Don’t simply address the petition to the prime minister or the Mentri Besar because they are not in charge of local issues.

Set a signature goal. You can publicise your petition on social media, but again, do not be racist because racism will only harm your cause.

Once you achieve the targeted number of signatures, deliver the petition in person to the supermarket and beer company. You may want to call the media too. Take photos and videos of the petition handover and share them on social media to keep up the pressure on the corporations.

You can also complain to the local council or state assemblyman of the area where the supermarket is located. It may, unfortunately, be a little difficult to find the person in charge in the local council to speak to, so expect a little runaround and red tape. But once you manage to find the local councillor or the person in charge, get your group to hound their office with phone calls and complaints.

Local councils may drag their feet because they may not feel a sense of accountability due to the lack of local elections. So it is best to also approach the state assemblyman for local issues like these.

Call the state assemblyman’s office. If she or he does not have dedicated staff to receive complaints, air your grievances on Facebook or Twitter (but nicely and not in a racist manner) and tag the assemblyman.

Try and secure a meeting with the local councillor or assemblyman so you can make your case. When your group gets a meeting, ask politely for specific actions to be taken within a specific timeline. Politicians will usually try to fob you off with vague promises, so it is important to hold them to specific pledges and to keep following up with them.

If there is still no action, you can move on to more confrontational (but peaceful) methods like staging a demonstration outside the supermarket. Again, do not say racist things to avoid looking like religious fanatics who shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Keep trying the methods above or think of more creative actions. Community organising is a long and difficult process that can take years before you achieve your goals. Sometimes, you may have to compromise with other parties and take the middle path.

After all your actions, perhaps the supermarket may require beer promoters to hold up signs that say “Only for people above 18 who are allowed to consume alcohol. Otherwise, stay away”.

Of course, if reading all this is giving you a hangover-style headache, you can just let the matter slide.

If your religion forbids you from consuming alcohol, then don’t take the free beer sample in the supermarket. Let your fellow brothers and sisters of the faith make their own choices to also resist taking the free beer samples.

Even if the promoter inadvertently offers beer to those people, they can always politely decline and be on their way to shop early ahead of the Christmas horde.

Let’s live and let live.