Don’t be deceived
|Syazwan Zainal is a reluctant law student at The University of Warwick, writer-wannabe, actor-aspirant, professional procrastinator who dreams of winning the Academy Award for Best Actor and Nobel Prize for Literature. He is a fierce idealist and non-conformist and would love to rid the world of football. He also writes for CEKU at www.ceku.org.|
JULY 10 — The most dangerous form of government, at first glance, is probably a totalitarian one: one that crushes dissent and does not hesitate to murder its own citizens. But I would argue that appearances can be deceiving; that the most sinister act that a government can do is not murder, but deceive.
Imagine the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. It would appear that his government has no qualms about sending in tanks and attacking its own citizens. It would be almost impossible to understand the complexities of the Syrian issue without years of research by historians and journalists, let alone trying to comprehend the motives for the acts or omissions of Syrian leaders.
We can only speculate what goes on in their minds. Do they honestly feel that they have a God-given right to rule their country? Do they honestly believe that what they are doing (even though they might appear to be cruelly and ruthlessly slaughtering innocents) is for the benefit of their nation? Have they so lost a grip on reality that paranoia has overcome them, so much so that they see threats everywhere?
Only an omniscient entity can truly answer these questions with certainty. Humans unfortunately are left to our own fallible devices: attempting to deduce conclusions from evidence that has been uncovered. Alas, the plight of man.
Publicity because of murders
But something good can be derived from the situation of a murderous government. The situation has spiralled to a point so dire for the common man that the world demands something be done about it. Regardless of how the world reacts to these astonishing acts, world leaders, at the very least, express condemnation to it.
Suddenly al-Jazeera, BBC and CNN will produce shows devoted to the acts of violence of that government. At the height of violence by the government against its own people, one would be hard-pressed not to feel bored by the same incessant shows repeated by these news channels, recycling the same old stories and opinions from the same old commentators.
But at least the plight is made known by the international bodies which try valiantly (however futile their efforts may be) to change the world for the better. Lip service is paid — that international currency which makes the diplomatic world go round. Sometimes if the interests match that of the powers-that-be (read: America), action will be taken.
But at least the plight is known. They will have a fighting chance, given enough publicity from Hollywood stars and donations from business titans, as well as attention from viewers worldwide.
Not too liberal, not too murderous
But what of citizens of countries who are somewhere in between? The government is not so ruthless as to murder its own citizens out on the streets, yet it refuses to respect certain rights of the minorities.
Forgive me for being crass, but humans revel in the extremities of the news. It would take a particularly abhorrent and astonishing act of violence suffered by as many people as possible to shock us, and make us take action.
We lead a sterilised and drugged existence. We have grown accustomed to acts of violence and oppression.
When the world is (rightfully, I think) outraged by the violence of a government killing its own citizens, the plight of countless other people who are oppressed systematically in countless countries fall on deaf ears because it lacks the dramatic element needed to be featured in international news.
So imagine any other country in the world, except of course Malaysia, because Malaysia is perfection personified. Governments banning books and silencing dissent through legal means. A legitimate exercise in criticism is exaggerated to the point that it seems to be a threat to the nation as a whole. The mere fact that a book does not conform to a superficial level of “acceptability” leads to it being banned. Even when citizens want to exercise one of the most fundamental and basic rights of expressing their opinions, fear creeps in.
The electoral roll needs to be cleaned up and the judiciary must be more sensitive to the needs of individual citizens rather than that of the mighty government. Propaganda being injected into the minds of citizens through the monopolistic control of the mainstream media and education is possibly the most dangerous element in the arsenal of a government. It need not be as obvious as films made by Goebbels but the fact that it exists is a cause for concern.
This is the more sinister threat that all reasonable persons must be vigilant of. The fact that it is couched in legal terms makes it all the more frightening.
No murders, no drama
Oppression and injustice is dangerous regardless of the form that it takes. Arguably though, due to its vague nature, oppression that lacks the dramatic dimension of genocide or murder of hundreds of children becomes more sinister and dangerous than the most violent form of oppression because it is difficult to recognise. Thus it is hard for it to capture the imagination of the public and to cause public outrage. The number of deaths must be in the hundreds at least. Women and children are preferred victims to invoke further public outrage.
Movies are made about the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide. But rarely, if ever, is a movie or documentary made regarding the small number of activists who are dumped into the prison with trumped-up charges. Even if it is made, it rarely captures the imagination of the public. Such stories lack romanticism and heroism. No one died. It was just a couple of years in the prison or a couple of thousand dollars (or whatever currency the country deals in) in fines. Nothing big.
Different forms of oppression
Such apathy or indifference is exactly what these governments desire. Needless to say the attention that we have afforded to these horrible acts of murder is right. However, the danger is that we become relaxed towards other forms of oppression in our own backyard.
It may not be as cruel and as ruthless, but it is just as dangerous and possibly even more sinister.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.