Giving up the Struggle… Our Political Frustration, Emasculation & Despair
By Dr David Quek, 06.06.2016
Just 2 weeks ago, I had a heated exchange with a fellow colleague, a physician, at our doctor’s lounge in the hospital. It began cursorily enough when we inevitably exchanged our viewpoints on the dismal state of politics in this country of ours.
Then, it escalated when I mentioned in passing that perhaps I’d given up on this country in expecting change or reform for the better… I’d declared en passant that it’s perhaps a ‘lost cause’… Unbeknown to me, that evocative phrase set the sparks flying!
He was suddenly angry with surprisingly pent-up fury… I wasn’t sure exactly why, but on hindsight, perhaps I understood why he was so irascible, so angst-driven of feeling so hopelessly inadequate, as a thinking citizen, a Malaysian. Perhaps like all who aspire for a better modern Malaysia, he had hoped to be able to influence the more positive direction or future of this once beautiful and multi-culturally rich and united nation.
Sadly, this Malaysian dream now appears to be in tatters. Malaysia Boleh or ‘Can-do’ism is dissipating, some would say even disappearing into the black hole of mono-ethnic supremacist politics and systematic clientelistic ‘grand corruption’!
Malaysia by most reckoning among the world’s press of alleged biased ‘noises’, is now seemingly drowning in its quagmire of humongous ‘corruption’ by any other name. The government can choose to call this anything else, even the implausibly farfetched ‘donation’ but this would remain an inerasable blemish that cannot be whitewashed away, or expunged… It is nothing short of shameless political arrogation of ‘business-as-usual’ power-play, that can fool some of the people, some of the time, but certainly not all the people, all the time… Our shrinking Ringgit is testimony to the world’s confidence or incredulity in our economic, fiscal probity and political stability, vis-à-vis our neighbours.
This physician then berated me for having given up on the country. He was aghast that I had so ‘easily’ given up the ghost of so many people’s struggles, after having been quite vocal about our troubled political state in the recent past. He asked what had happened that I had chosen to remain ‘silent’ of late! I’d plainly stated that I’m just too tired, too jaded, too disappointed, to respond to the unending political shenanigans that go nowhere…
Obviously he had expected me (or for that matter someone, anyone else!) to continually pursue raising the socio-political tempo or ‘consciousness’ as to our devolving nationhood and its meandering collapsing moral compass…
Our opposition politicians are not enough to highlight the woes and tribulations of this punch-drunk nation, now stumbling and staggering to keep afloat and standing. Our social activist groups like ‘Bersih’, G25, G40, or Islamic Renaissance Front, etc. are not enough to spotlight our citizens’ plight and political follies. Ordinary citizens must also stand up to be counted, so he said.
He obviously was happy that someone else was making the correct melancholic noises of angst that is enveloping our sadly besmirched nation. As if these soundbites could help assuage the widespread feeling of anguish and disappointment among many Malaysians who can’t express more clearly or boldly enough… But oh, what’s the point, really, I’d asked?!
He wanted to know if I’d chickened out and why I haven’t been contributing to the national discourse, to lament, nay to articulate, to concretize, to denounce, our declining status, our contentious flirtation with politically-manoeuvred Islamization, of casuistic ‘hudud’ threat of passage in Parliament, our unchecked ranting racism, our selective political persecution of human rights activists, and ‘freedom of speech’ artists, cartoonists, advocates…
Why haven’t more spoken up against those recurrent political and prosecutorial abuses that shatter our hopes: what about those now languishing in jails and/or are being accused, charged and fined for seditious remarks, merely for undeclared gatherings, for throwing yellow ‘Bersih’ balloons, for criticising this government’s corruption and its foundering feckless leaders, its moral decline, its wanton cronyism and its decaying institutions…?
Why are some blatant pro-government troublemakers and racist taunters and instigators let off the hook? Why this flagrant discrepancy in application of the rule of law or by law, by our wayward authorities?
He pontificated that we all have to do more, to contribute more to effecting change in this nation of ours. He wants more of us to speak out more aggressively, and engage more people in this increasingly futile struggle. He expressed that pent-up sense that many intellectuals and the comfortable middle class Malaysians in particular are increasingly feeling, that we as a nation is devolving into a self-destruct mode of a pariah state, an arrogant, corrupt banana republic!
So I asked him perhaps too sarcastically what he thought, would be doing enough to bring about meaningful change for this beloved nation of ours. What should we do, as conscientious and patriotic Malaysians?
Both of us had returned to this country after having worked abroad professionally, so no one can actually accuse us of having copped out as emigrants or ‘pendatang’ immigrants! Even if we chose to remain the silent majority! Even if we opt to hold our tongue, bite our lips, and seethe inside… But does choosing to come home or remain here in Malaysia, signify that we are patriots, who are wholeheartedly entitled or just nominally labelled as citizens? Are just paying taxes, abiding by the law, enough as contributing to nation building? Is being here enough?
Should we just moan, grumble and engage in coffee talk per se? Does just speaking out in the comfort of closeted isolated corridors, doctor’s lounge, ivory towers, ‘sarabat’ (‘mamak’) stalls, or kopitiams, or pubs and/or home lounges, or simple engaging in social media WhatsApp cyber-messages and petulant Facebook/Twitter haranguing, qualify as meaningful efforts on the part of citizens, as working towards a better democracy, a better nation?
Can we indeed help shape our nation’s true destiny or are we doomed to the sophistry of our lost-cause political leaders?
Finally, I asked this fellow physician what he has been doing so far to further the noble cause for a better Malaysia. Has he ever walked the talk? Has he engaged with like-minded people to inspire them to work for a better Malaysia, against the travails of extremist ideologies? Has he spoken up or written anything to the media to express his trenchant views?
Has he taken part in leadership roles or participatory roles to help bring about consciousness or awareness, such as Bersih and others? Has he contributed in kind to help fund change for the better? Or is it all just talk or angst-driven rhetoric?
He clamped down, thoughtful for a minute, seething in anger once again but then vehemently argued that: “I’ve my profession, my family and own musical interest to think of…” he said, as an apologetic climb down…
Thus, I remain deflated, unconvinced, frustrated, emasculated, for indeed, I too am lost… What more do you expect of me, as a Malaysian to do? What more can I do, say or write? What and how much more can I contribute?
Perhaps, each and every one of us must at least engage in this personal and collective conversation with ourselves and others. But at least, we have to try, to start, or else some others out there would… and they have! Life-changing policies are being driven through with minimal thoughts for the greater Malaysian good or common future, except for short-term political gains and Machiavellian scoring points… So what are we to do?
Martin Jalleh in one of his powerful PowerPoint graphic quoted this apt remark by Joan Kirner:
“There is no such thing as being non-political. Just by making a decision to stay out of politics you are making the decision to allow others to shape politics and exert power over you. And if you are alienated from the current political system, then just by staying out of it you do nothing to change it, you simply entrench it.”
And of course, this is paraphrased from one of the more famous Platonic platitudes: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”
John F Kennedy perhaps states this more magnanimously:
“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
So, who else can save Malaysia, if not each and every one of us? God Bless Malaysia!