Looking for my liberal army
|Praba Ganesan is Parti Keadilan Rakyat's Social Media Strategist. He wants to engage with you, and learn from your viewpoints. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @prabaganesan|
JULY 26 — Are you a liberal?
It’s not as bad as being a communist or foreign lackey according to the government’s “scourge list”, but it’s definitely not cool in 1 Malaysia lexicon.
If you are — that liberal — it is time to act because forces are intent on sidelining you from deciding what happens to the country. The less of you is good for them.
There is a reason why they — the government — actively sideline liberals, for liberals are the silver bullet. The one group of people if they come together and act will end Barisan Nasional’s 60-year power streak.
Liberals are indeed dangerous, but who are they, really?
A demographic constantly stereotyped as a discomforting box of excesses. Too much booze, sexual partners and deeds, insolence to culture and near anarchic disposition, that’s your liberal they point with disgust.
The liberal is unfairly cocooned as an irresponsible person seeking instant, constant, persistent and medicated gratification. He is no less, and without upper limits, a hedonist.
Hedonists don’t get much sympathy from most people, because they care only about indulging themselves.
This column is not about hedonists. Painting liberals as hedonists is a Putrajaya ploy to alienate people.
Liberals are upright, responsible and, in our case, committed Malaysian citizens who believe that every sphere of life must celebrate choice and that in recognising the individuality of a person, you empower them. Laying the extension that empowered citizens lead to empowered societies.
They believe the person is too important to be separated from himself or the things that affect him. They understand the collective, and what is necessary to render the institution to thrive. However they are convinced that the collective does not matter if the individual inside the collective is ignored.
Everything begins with choice, freedom is defined by choice.
At an intuitive level, all people are attracted to that ideal, the basic proposition. But it is the liberal who acts on his conviction.
And there lies the rub. A group of people willing to act according to their conscience, not state-mandated conditioning. They are the group of people who give the prime minister sleepless nights.
A quick test
Checklist the following:
a. Do you like to be told what to believe?
b. You have your preference and indeed your moral compass and ever ready to impose your values on others? Because you think in the long run they’d thank you.
c. Are you likely to use your power of authority to get an outcome as a first resort?
d. Do you feel persuading those considered “weaker” rather than just telling them is a sign of personal weakness?
If you keep saying no, then you are edging away from 1 Malaysia.
But then again, there are hundreds of thousands of you all over the country, so don’t feel isolated. Where can you be found?
Curiously in Malaysia you are rarely in anything political. You power industries, charm in the hospitality sectors, lead in social enterprises, produce in the arts and raise families.
But not politics. You use the excuse that in an increasingly borderless world that nation states don’t matter; there is the Internet, you do talk to your Czech programmer in Skopje daily, even when her Macedonian boyfriend is watching TV. However, you wake up the next morning and you look at the 50 sen you paid to the government in taxes as displayed by the coffee receipt. You look around you and you realise all the taxes paid in all forms. In your mind you can imagine those large oil rigs and fleets of oil tankers traversing the seas with untold wealth.
And then you realise, someone is sitting on a pile of money while a sea of people don’t get clean water to drink, let alone Perrier. We live in a country with the worst wealth distribution in Asia bar Papua New Guinea.
Whenever large economic numbers are paraded about by ministers they forget to mention that a large proportion of Malaysians are not going to enjoy those numbers.
So as a liberal, can you live with a system like this?
The government does not want liberals to be active because they will do something, probably to BN’s disadvantage. They are OK with them being disinterested, unimpressed, disenchanted or bitter. Those emotions they can accept, and they would try to reaffirm those emotions with disinformation.
Fortunately the liberals here are not so hard on the government.
They feel they are in a difficult place and vote BN because they are the devil they know. There is no saying how many of our personal liberties are going to be compromised by PAS, or if the DAP would provide a hegemony of another kind and if PKR does have a real plan.
Personally, I feel that most liberals are most critical of Pakatan because they expect a lot from people who they think should know better. The expectations are set by the fact they inadvertently want the parties to be good enough for them to join.
So the bar is much higher for Pakatan, and since BN is BN then nothing they do is surprising therefore in a roundabout perverse way not disappointing.
But a life of compromises under BN does not encourage freedom, it only promises the constant shrinking of rights.
Second, it is not about Pakatan or BN. I am asking for fellow liberals to roll up their socks and to engage. I don’t want your agreement, your disagreements are far more attractive. I do want your presence.
The invincibility ruse
Always when I explain Malaysia to others keen to learn about our system of government and politics, I’d give a disclaimer that change is never straightforward here.
That there is the race thing, the religion thing, the history thing, the British thing and then a few more things, just for good measure.
I realised today, an epiphany of sorts that all countries are unique and different. That in itself is not an excuse for not changing.
Malaysia is a moderately populated country in a region steamrolling social evolutions for the last two decades. The pace is growing relentless, and Malaysia remains unrelenting.
The window of opportunity is ajar.
The reason why liberals contend that change is late to come is because they too, like me, have been fooled to think that the peak is impossible to scale.
It is not. Ending BN rule is not theory, it is only an exercise which requires execution by the able and supported by the many.
The many are ready. It is the execution that is outstanding.
For a group of people who believe choice is paramount and all people matter, and are willing to act upon their conscience.
Time to act, if you still want to be a liberal.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.