Malaysia Day lessons for Najib
|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|
SEPT 13 — My ex-girlfriend did tell me once: “I know that you are right Praba, but do you have to be right every $%*&ing time?”
It was an eye-opener on the relationship end of things, primarily on the part it “ended” [N1]. But today, I mean specifically this day of writing, it does imbue a certain emotion in me. Not about being right, or even in the vicinity of right, but appearing pretentious.
How does one tell the obvious, without sounding like a sanctimonious, self-indulgent and over-rated diva? [N2]
For I have lessons for Najib Razak with Malaysia Day weekend coming. And rather than tiptoeing around the niceties, I might as well drop my load. Realising fully well, they are the obvious.
A democracy is about everyone ruling — it’s OK to pass the “power” parcel
Malaysian public schools are not hotbeds for the dissemination of political thought, you might even go as far as saying they are the centres of nurturing political incomprehension inside each of its inmates.
But it did allow “democracy” to exist as a word, even if it was never allowed to be discussed by students.
Democracy, my teacher told me, was “the rule of the many” and she added without reservation, that Malaysia had it. Democratic Malaysia was ruled by the many, and this I was to cherish.
Democracy in Greek is two words — people and power. Everyone ruling might be more accurate, but my teacher was not misleading with her definition.
Presently, Najib spends time telling the same as my teacher [N3], that Malaysia is a democracy.
But he spends the same amount of time telling that the guys ruling, primarily himself, should always be ruling and that all Malaysians must endeavour to keep it that way.
It is madness, sheer madness, to champion the right for all to rule and then emphasise what you mean “by all” is the same and only group ever to rule.
Narcissism on steroids is barely touching the surface of this “saviour son” paranoia. This might be how the Najib years will be recollected.
A democracy must entail power rotating as willed by the people to various factions in the country indefinitely. The system can be all hues of representation, branches of power, federalism and voting system, but it cannot call itself a democracy if power is to remain with one group by lawful application.
The prime minister has to come to terms that he and his friends are just one of the many playing “passing the parcel” and as long as the music of democracy plays, they have to carry on passing it on. They don’t have to smile, but pass they must and then wait for their turn. Or leave if they can’t wait.
Only Fascists rely on fear
Fear is the most powerful tool of an authoritarian state.
Democrats may differ on taxation, size of government, defence spending and decorations at the front of the presidential palace, but they do not differ on fear. Fear as a means to govern is the antithesis of democratic rule, therefore true democrats oppose fear.
Mahathir Mohamad depended on cracked pictures of Chinese families in 1999 to scare the stuffing out of millions of voters. It worked — it also sealed that prime minister’s place in history.
Najib must choose his own path, or condemn himself to a similar verdict.
Though the prime minister may deny being behind any of the scurrilous and faceless fear-mongering, neither has he spoken out against them.
Allowing fear to linger in the midst because the cumulative effects benefit you does not exclude you from judgment.
That is about the same as not taking responsibility for keeping the country on edge for three years with talk of a general election because ruling out early polls would not have been a good tactical call.
Najib may expose himself by loosening the noose around the people, but is it not real leadership to let your people breathe? Surely, your own political survival comes after the lives of your citizens are secured. Something about captains being the last to abandon ship.
Know your system by living in it, not above it — hiccups without a pick-up
My friend once quipped that you do not know how it feels to be someone else until you walked a mile in that someone’s shoes [N4].
Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders might want to live like the average rakyat for a change.
One week driving to Kuala Lumpur city centre in the morning, and they’d realise that the MRT project and poor traffic management are bleeding them votes everywhere in the country.
And if they actually use public transportation, they may actually know what happens — or more so, what does not happen — as crowds wait for overcrowded, late-to-appear buses.
Sending their own kids to local universities might invoke in some interest in the quality of education in these institutes and not the extent of political indoctrination coupled with brownie points won by notching up a higher graduate count.
By that token, they may even overzealously let their graduating children join the job market unprotected, and see what they end up with — like clerks and cashiers. It is an unforgiving market for those emerging from subpar programmes and institutions.
There is a tidy long list to go with getting the rakyat “experience”.
Buying houses where the completion is never certain, the environmental impact analysis often suspect and general infrastructure hit and miss. And then when you have the house, worry about break-ins. And when the house is secured, you worry about your security at work or school or while commuting.
The list of unsatisfactory service grows every day, but since those who rule live in a world different from the rakyat, they are largely indifferent.
Obvious, but so what?
There is the school of thought that the people in this country are minimalists. No matter how desperate things become as long as they have enough, they’d put up with it.
The guys in power don’t want to relinquish power, so what? The average Malaysian is not keen to seek power, so it is a non-issue.
It appears to be a time of living dangerously, so what? The many are only concerned with keeping their jobs and clearing away from their immediate threats. Living in an inhospitable country is just incidental.
Those who rule us don’t know how it is to be us, so what? Those who rule don’t need to know us and definitely need not live like us, they just have to leave us alone.
Maybe that is true. The obvious may not matter.
I guess Najib, in that case, can just skip the lessons and move directly to the general election. I’m just wagering that it does matter.
[N1] Being right has nothing to do with being in a relationship. Being wrong too, I have learnt belatedly. Just stand real close to her, and hope she does not make a dash for it when the bus filled with college jocks passes by. Smile when uncertain. (That’s about all the relationship advice I can lie about.)
[N2] This might be equally a backhanded compliment to an ex.
[N3] She said it without foreign consultants handing her fancy slides.
[N4] Plus he added, you’d be too far for that barefooted someone to chase. This way you get shoes and know how someone felt before and after.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.