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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Have Malaysians Lives Changed Much Since the “Tsunami”?


It is easy to play the blame game and accuse the Malays of being unwilling to give up their competitive advantage for the good of the country while subscribing wholeheartedly to the selfish capitalist ideology of the “hidden hand”. This is naïve and takes the Malays for being fools or at the very least altruistic “Tuans”. Worse, it is pathetic political tactics.

By batsman

So why the big fuss over politics?

For most of us life has changed little. It is still the daily grind. The majority has gone back to working for a living. Decide for yourself how much your own life has really changed. Yet for some people, it IS a real tsunami. Arguably, AAB’s life has changed, some may say for the better while Ms Hee’s life has probably also changed – some may say for the worse.

It does seem that the further up the ladder, the greater the impact of the “tsunami”. So the “tsunami” actually applies only to VIPs and their honchos. For most of us, we are just spectators in a drama. So why the big fuss over politics?

It would seem that the bigger your ambition, the bigger the fuss you are likely to make. I mean “ambition” in the broadest sense, not necessarily climbing up the political ladder but also ambition to change or “improve” society – making your contribution to “progress”, standing up for justice or helping the disadvantaged. I guess it also applies to those who have great ambition and wish for their lives to change but become disappointed when they are not able to attract sufficient attention from the VIPs and powerful persons as well as those who wish for their lives to change by joining UMNO.

Obviously, there are complications to this model or interpretation. For example, for some, the ability does not match the ambition, so the action speaks less loudly than the words – much like a small puppy noisily barking for attention, or to impress its owners.

Yet it is undeniable that politics does affect ones life. In the long term, corruption destroys the community and breeds brutal selfish violence. Ordinary people are forced by circumstance to become criminals and people become victims through no fault of their own. This has a real effect on individual lives however much one tries to avoid it.

It is like global warming. People talk about it, people worry about it, but few take any really effective action. Politics affects each and everyone of us through the social and economic environment, while those who are politically involved in a direct way are affected more the more they are involved in the political process. Those who become targeted when political circumstances collide (when they are dined and feted for winning elections, or just because they are political assistants to politicians whom evil people wish to bring down) face the brunt of plots and machination. Their lives are therefore greatly affected.

Don’t blame such people if they become personal about it especially when the majority of us don’t really bother very much anyway what happens to them. Some become personal by accepting tempting and corrupting offers while others become personal by increasing their hatred and bile for those who are not bothered about politics and don’t even bother to vote.

So when does it become personal? This is difficult to say. In the example on global warming, things become very personal when one lives by the sea side and the waves are eroding one’s house and property away or when one lives somewhere near slopes which are apt to collapse in devastating landslides.

We have individual and community lives. These must be properly balanced for things to make sense. If the majority look after only their individual lives and ignore the needs of the community, then when politics affect the community and subsequently affect ones individual life then things may get a bit confusing and some may start to ask the question “Why me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?”

In Malaysia, the community needs a lot of attention. People are too focused on their individual lives. There are lots of individual actions to improve individual lives, but there is very little joint action or community action to improve the social and economic environment.

One may blame capitalism and the concept of the “hidden hand” for this. Apparently if the individual acts selfishly, the sum total of all individual selfish acts will benefit society. There is something perverse about this type of thinking.

According to this reasoning, the Chinese in Malaysia may justifiably act selfishly and use their competitive advantage in business and technology as well as financial clout to get ahead and this will benefit Malaysian society as a whole. By the same token, the Malays may use their competitive advantage of greater political power and support UMNO to protect Malay dominance and this will benefit Malaysian society as a whole. The Indians are then justified to use the selfish examples of the other 2 communities and demand Indian rights alone and this will benefit Malaysian society as a whole.

Such thinking will never contribute to the creation of a common Malaysian identity and loyalty despite slogans such as “1 Malaysia” or “Malaysia for the Malaysians”.

Let me try and provide the argument why. We are like 3 princes vying for the throne in a fairy tale, each using his competitive advantage to the full and obsessed with the power and threat from the others, while blissfully unaware that the real power is being stolen by the manipulative and evil prime minister. In a sense we quarrel over goodies, each using their competitive advantage against each other while forgetting that competition for the overall economic pie also includes powerful foreign forces.

We have this predicament of Bahasa Malaysia versus English in schools. This is not all. There is also the predicament of Tamil schools and Chinese schools as well as madrasahs. In a sense we need to get the balance right in spite of all these complications and overly sensitive feelings.

For the Indians, it is arguable that those who have good command of English are also those who are better off economically. These Indians have also gone one step further and accepted western values and practices to a certain extent. They have made sacrifices in order to get ahead economically and have tried to balance traditions versus modernity without losing too much of their identity.

It is the same with the Chinese although to a lesser degree since the Chinese are much more powerful economically (both nationally and now increasingly internationally as well) and a great many Chinese can get along very well without having to learn any English. Well, good for them, but it is a bit worrying that if they can comfortably ignore the global environment and isolate themselves within the Chinese economic community, would it not be even easier to ignore the national environment?

It is easy to play the blame game and accuse the Malays of being unwilling to give up their competitive advantage for the good of the country while subscribing wholeheartedly to the selfish capitalist ideology of the “hidden hand”. This is naïve and takes the Malays for being fools or at the very least altruistic “Tuans”. Worse, it is pathetic political tactics.

After all it is the reformists who are pushing for political reforms and it is they who must take the initiative.

So while there is still a stalemate in the political situation in Malaysia with each side jockeying for advantage, wouldn’t it be a good thing to review political agendas and platforms and make a more decent appeal to the Malaysian masses such that they can seriously consider abandoning the old paradigms and venture to try new ones in the hope that their lives can change for the better?

Better still, can we frame political agendas and platforms such that the social and economic environment in the country has a hope of changing for the better and a truly Malaysian identity can be forged without depending on cheap slogans? We need changes to the environment to effectively reflect greater fairness and justice, professionalism and integrity, the talented being given more opportunity and responsibility while the untalented are guaranteed dignity as long as they strive to the best of their ability. Gosh – have I indulged in some cheap sloganeering? I too have a cat that needs a name. heeheehee

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