Despite my physical absence from Malaysia, I’ve stayed abreast with social and political developments in the country through my almost daily interactions with friends there, courtesy of that wonderful technological behemoth known as facebook, indulging in private and not-so-private chats, and reading of news from various sites such as www.thestar.com.my and malaysiakini. The one thing I’ve noticed is that Malaysians are as cheerfully optimistic as ever, despite the tense political climate and horrendous crime rate. I have friends on either side of the fence – some supporters of government, others supporters of the opposition – both sounding equally ebullient about the future. Both believe that change is possible, with the other faction out of the picture.
A writer friend of mine recently asked me to comment on a piece he wrote about Lynas, the Aussie-owned company intent on operating a rare earths processing plant in Gebeng, just outside of Kuantan, a seaside town I spent 3 years of my childhood in. Even though we’ve become great mates, enjoying many a good-natured verbal sparring session, I couldn’t very well agree with his support of the Lynas plant because I know the town, I know the Malaysian culture of “tidak-apa”, which translates into “Never mind if I fuck this up”, governing the mind-set of officials overseeing the roll-out, the foreign company that can just pack up and leave if anything goes wrong, unaccountable for any mess left behind.
I want to agree with my friend, that everything will improve under the current government but just can’t. I want to share in the hope of my other friends who see change in PKR, but can’t either. One story haunts me.
A fellow Malaysian migrant once related this story. She said, “A friend of ours said he is going into politics. I asked him which party. He said, ‘Does it matter?’ Either is also fine.”
It killed my belief that people go into politics to serve others.
“We need a sizeable opposition to maintain the balance of power,” I said to my writer friend. “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
This is true regardless of whether it is Malaysia or Australia or anywhere in the world we are talking about. It is in human nature to be self-serving.
“The lure of stupendous amounts of cash from having a public position is just too great,” I told my writer friend. “The only politician I respect is Michael Chong, even though I don’t care for MCA, because he helps people. A politician is meant to represent the interests of the people who elect him or her but everyone forgets this once they come into power.”
My writer friend laughed at me and said, “What you see is on the surface. Michael Chong is not respected, he is feared. He is an underworld boss.”
“Mahathir said he’d abolish ISA (the Internal Security Act) if he came into power. He didn’t during his extremely long tenure as PM. Pak Lah, his successor, said the same thing. He too didn’t. Let’s not even talk about Najib. It’s all the same regardless of who leads. That’s why I don’t care for politics. I don’t care for democracy either because the multitude vote thinking of themselves, what monetary benefits they can derive from a particular policy, irrespective of whether this is good for the country.”
“Now I just think of Malaysia as a fun place to visit, to see family and friends. What I know about the country upsets me. I don’t want to choose between the lesser of two evils. I refuse to choose at all. And now, living in Australia, I don’t have to.”
My writer friend said, “By the way, Obama implemented a law similar to the ISA. He reinstated it, so yeah, the majority is just too stupid to know anything about politics.”
“That’s taking a step backward,” I said.
I’d like to see the ISA abolished in Malaysia. It was enacted to protect Malaya against the threat of communism. What need is there for it now?
My writer friend laughed at me again. “But people love Obama. That’s why I don’t want to get into politics.”
“People love Kim Kardashian too and she’s a self-promoting skank.”
Well folks, this is our collective wisdom. I pray to God I die before we wind up like Private Joe Bowers in Luke Wilson’s movie “Idiocracy”. For those of you who’ve never seen it, I’ve included a nice movie trailer from youtube.
Oh, here’s another video from the movie: the message is, if smart, you better reproduce if you don’t want the world to be run by idiots.