MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Thursday, May 19, 2022

Damn! We got conned again, didn’t we?


Last week, many Malaysians watched the debate between the current leader of the opposition with the disgraced and embattled former prime minister of our country.

I watched it, for the same reason we slow down to catch a glimpse of a bad road accident that happens on the opposite side of the highway. I know I should not have really done it, but I just could not help myself.

It was excruciating. Cake analogies, repetitive sloganeering, drudging up irrelevant pieces of information from a bygone era, and the cloying acceptance of not debating the state of the nation and how corruption has run rampant in recent memory.

Obviously, this is the real reason why Malaysia is in this mess right now.

It ended up being a sickening collegial banter between two former bedfellows, with pleasantries, planted questions, and regular reminders from a moderator who told the audience not to jeer, cheer or even remotely express support or admonish either protagonist.

Reams upon reams of analysis in both the print and digital news outlets, came out like clockwork after the event. Everyone and their cat had an opinion about who ‘won’ the debate. Sycophants wrote op-eds championing ‘their guy’ on traditional media and through other information dissemination networks that operate in current times.

The Twitterati went into overdrive. And, hashtags about the debate were all the rage. “My guy won”. “No! It was my guy who actually won”. This was the gist of the discussions in the country.

Some wrote columns waxing lyrical about how this debate spoke volumes about the ‘maturity’ of the nation. So-called ‘experts’ were wheeled out from the far-reaching corners of the Malaysian diaspora who argued and opined that Malaysia was the real winner.

But really, for the common Malaysian citizen dealing with a glut of issues on a daily basis, this debate did nothing tangible. This is pretty normal for Malaysia’s political landscape, isn’t it?

For whatever reason, this ‘debate’ landed exclusively on some networks. The venue was carefully curated. The debaters were experienced political veterans, and far more articulate than the moderator. The characters on display lobbed out information and misinformation while oozing great confidence.

The chair did not call out either one, except to keep time and rebuke the audience if they made even the squeakiest of sounds.

The debaters were patronising while the moderator punctuated every other sentence with the deferential ‘Datuk Seri’ moniker. The power dynamics, by far, favoured the politicians who had apparently agreed in advance not to ask each other the real awkward questions that we all needed answers to.

This debate wasn’t an exchange of questions and rebuttals highlighting our country’s most pressing issues, but instead it turned out to be prepared marketing material by each politician, with helpful promptings by the moderator, and a couple of clearly planted questions from the audience.

The debate did not canvass alternative narratives, but simply legitimised their particular story.

If you tuned in, you would not have obtained any new insights to the predominant issues in our country, but instead you would have heard carefully rehearsed, and simplistic versions of events. Neither debater held each other accountable for what they did or said in the past, issues were just white-washed.

Let’s be frank. This debate didn’t expand our understanding or help us in any shape or form, but only served up choreographed propaganda.

A real debate would have been between two equals.

A real political debate about the state of Malaysia, which sought to educate the public, would have seen the debaters offer alternative truths and question falsehoods with facts and history. Each one of them would have presented counter narratives to the other’s crude, self-absorbed, chauvinistic, and fearful view of Malaysia.

They would have pushed back powerfully and knowledgeably. And, they would have called each other out on any misrepresentations. Most importantly, they would have asked difficult questions of each other, and held each other to account.

And by doing this, they would have given us citizens alternative views, and a more intricate version of recent history, of which we were all already quite aware of. Eventually, a fact-based understanding of why they did what they did should have emerged.

But what we witnessed was the sham of these two politicians just taking turns offering their unchecked opinions on our nation’s economic or social challenges. And they did this unashamedly without contrasting their views to all the well documented wrongdoings of the other one.

Both debaters were not once held to account by the moderator or the audience.

The only realisation I had after this debacle of a debate was that the media has become less of a filter of propaganda and toxicity, and more of its spreader.

All in all, nothing good will ever come of this nonsensical display of so-called ‘maturity’. It cannot be even remotely deemed ‘mature’ when no one addressed the elephant (or even the elephants) in the room.

There was no winner.

Only us Malaysians ended up being losers, again. As it is becoming more and more prevalent, citizens gained nothing while our national ‘intelligentsia’ tried very hard to convince us that this debate was good for our ‘democracy’.

It could have only been a proper sign of a real maturing nation, if it was a no-holds-barred discussion and everything was up for debate. But as always, this was not permitted for a variety of opaque reasons.

So, I don’t really care who ‘won’. All I know is that we Malaysians got the wool pulled over our eyes, once again. - FMT

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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