POLITICS. Can’t live with it, can certainly live without it, but for some reason can’t seem to get away from it. Statements, opinions, and news about politics almost always take up the top headlines of any media be it the mainstream press, websites, television or radio. And understandably so, as what our politicians our leaders say, think, and do is undoubtedly of great significance for us, the rakyat.
I’m not an expert in politics. To be honest, I’m not particularly interested in the partisan political posturing that regularly takes place in Malaysia. I’d like to think that this lack of understanding of the nitty-gritty of politics means that I am very much like the majority of Malaysians.
Not being very politically savvy is, however, a dangerous existence. It means that most Malaysians are very susceptible to the common tools employed by politicians to garner support or sympathy the cult of personality, playing with emotions, addressing the often-cited “sensitive issues”, and the subtle but dark art of “spin”.
Gutter politics and spin
The cult of personality is where the rakyat become aligned to a particular political party or individual simply because of what or who they are, and remain blindly loyal regardless of what they say or do. The extent to which this has perpetuated in Malaysia has become quite extreme.
The Malaysian political landscape is very polarised. When it comes to elections, people rarely talk about real issues, and do not consider these issues when exercising their right to vote. Instead, the conversation and decision-making process often hinges on sensationalised fluff.
The cult of personality leads to blind loyalty, hence our politicians aren’t required to engage on real issues; the issues that in the long run really make a difference to the lives of the rakyat. These “bread and butter issues” get sidelined almost completely by shallow, and ultimately insignificant, rubbish. Politics becomes an emotional battleground pitting the rakyat against each other in an endless “us versus them” scenario.
Our politicians are very quick to play the “sensitive issue” card whenever it suits them. Whenever anything that has a vague link to race, religion, or the currently popular “public order” or “national security” which, let’s face it, could be almost anything is brought up for discussion, it’s a “sensitive issue”.
Freedom of religion. Detention without trial. Free and fair elections. The country still being under emergency law. Separation of powers. All “sensitive issues” discussion prohibited, rakyat please be quiet, and be grateful for our peaceful multi-racial existence.
These politicians are also very quick to “spin” any remotely significant issue or event one way or the other.
Recent times have also shown that even in the face of photo and video evidence people are not shy of spinning things to such an extent that it becomes an obvious lie.
There is a lack of accountability, and politicians have somehow become larger than life that they believe, and act, as though they are immune from any repercussions for their actions. I believe this is linked to the way that politicians have been treated for so long they are revered like gods wherever they go, feted like VIPs, many with police outriders (sitting in traffic is, after all, for us commoners), and rarely have to step on anything other than a red carpet. This is quite ridiculous for people who are supposed to be representatives of the rakyat.
So, what can we, the rakyat, do about this?
Power to the people
Firstly, we should realise that it is time for the rakyat to reclaim our power. The power should always rest with the people, and not the politicians or government of the day. Our leaders should always be answerable to us.
In order to do this, we must equip ourselves with the necessary information and knowledge to keep our leaders accountable. They must know that they are being watched, and that we know the right questions to ask.
If you happen to meet your MP or ADUN, ask them about issues don’t spend the entire conversation telling them how much you love them, posing for photos, and thanking them for turning up at your event. Constantly remind them of their duties to you, so that they know they have a job to do.
Read. Don’t just read the mainstream media. Don’t just read the alternative media. Read everything, or at least read a balance of both. Remember the dangers of being caught up in partisan politics. Whatever you read, hear or see digest it, and question it: Is it true? Is there an alternative way of looking at it? Don’t just take everything as fact.
After some time of doing this, you will broaden your mind, and be able to come to your own conclusions. You will no longer be beholden to any particular media outlet to ram conclusions down your throat. And you will certainly be less susceptible to being a victim of spin, or lies. Knowledge is power, and it is an essential means towards reclaiming your power and your rights as a rakyat.
It is also important not to become apathetic, or fatigued by the constant noise from all these politicians. That is exactly what many of them want for the rakyat to remain ignorant and powerless, which would enable the politicians to continue to impose their will on us. Constantly engage on the issues that matter to you. Hopefully we will begin to see increased maturity in discourse the ability to agree to disagree which comes with moving away from the partisan politics mentioned earlier.
Whichever political party or politician you are more inclined to, you must realise that no one is ever right all the time. I’ve already mentioned the dangers of swallowing everything that is said by anyone as gospel truth. If Malaysia is to move on from here, we the rakyat must accept that our various issues and needs are more important than our political affiliations. Come to your own independent conclusions. Read up, stand up, speak up. Reclaim the country for the rakyat.
This article was first published in The Star [link].