By TAY TIAN YAN
Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily
We used to have a Ms Tow Truck. And now we have a Kneeling Uncle.
Both are otherwise very common people we might meet in the street with hardly any authority in political spokesmanship and minimal influences in our society.
Generally speaking, even if they do open their mouths, what they say will very unlikely draw any attention.
But they said something "inappropriate" during "inappropriate" times, touching the nerves of mainstream consensus, resulting in brutal verbal assaults, ridicules and threats against them.
The Kneeling Uncle's experience was far worse than that of Ms Tow Truck. Imagine how much pressure he must have gone through that would bring him humbly down on his knees and apologise.
Sure the Uncle did something not very right by posting on his Facebook: "Dead now? He deserved it!"
It is natural something so unsympathetic would arouse public indignation, but the consequences are way more serious than what he has imagined. He was attacked thousand times over in the cyberspace, followed by merciless searches and revelation of his personal particulars and phone numbers.
He has received tonnes of intimidating calls, his car pasted with warning memos; some knocking at this doors demanding a kneel down apology.
Such developments have breached the line of sensible arguments.
This reminds me of the witch-hunting operations during the mediaeval times when an alleged witch could be openly executed or burnt to death.
Those were barbaric acts of the middle ages, something intolerable in our civilised society today.
Even as the Chinese physician said something very inappropriate, there should have been more decent and civilised ways to handle the verbal lapses. The rally organisers and injured protestor the Uncle referred to could demand an apology or take legal actions against him.
While those unhappy with him could refute and argue, they are not in any position to deploy means unacceptable in a civilised society ruled by law.
Such public trials and handing out of punishments could only occur in societies lacking law and discipline during the bygone witch-hunting era.
French philosopher Voltaire said: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
Supporting the assembly for clean elections aside, we must also come to terms with the fact that ours is a democratic, plural society which allows people holding differing views to exist and speak.
This includes the bearing of enduring some senseless talks.