‘Citizen’ - a bitter reminder of Merdeka - By Commander (Rtd) S THAYAPARAN Royal Malaysian Navy
Sunday, September 03, 2017
Malaysiakini : “When everything gets answered, it's fake.” ― Sean Penn
COMMENT | Did filmmakers Pete Teo
and Liew Seng Tat make the ultimate downer Merdeka movie? In other
words, did they make a Merdeka film worth watching instead of the pablum
that passes as art in the alternative and mainstream scene here in
Unlike most other folks, I really did not enjoy the late Yasmin
Ahmad’s oeuvre that defined the mainstream definition of what it means
to be Malaysian and by that, I mean the propaganda of the 1Malaysia and
Bangsa Malaysia kool-aid that mainstream politics assures is what
Malaysia is all about. When we talk about films and themes like these, we are talking about a
specific demographic. We are not talking about the rural communities
who have no idea that the 1Malaysia and Bangsa Malaysia canards exist.
To them, what Malaysia's urban electorate are fighting for is a foreign
Pete Teo may have saidthe
six-minute film is about hope but you do not really get much hope in
this short mediation about futility. My reading of the film is a little
different. The discussion between the ‘politician’ and the ‘citizen’ in
this short film is not really about how politics have failed the people
but rather how people have failed politics.
When the politician makes himself at home by making a cup of coffee,
he is bewildered that the citizen asks why he would do such a thing. The
answer is simple. For decades, a majority of Malaysian citizens voted
in corrupt officials without ever thinking of how their votes were
destroying the country. In other words, we made these politicians feel
at home. We made them feel that their corruption, racism, venality, but
most importantly their arrogance, were welcomed in our homes.
When the politician speaks of his dreams for Malaysia, that is total
horse manure. Politicians do not dream of a better anything. What they
dream of is power. How to get it, but more importantly, sustain it.
Citizens are supposed to be the gatekeepers to that power. Citizens are
supposed to be the ultimate check and balance to the dreams of power of
these politicians, and if we continue failing as a democracy it is
because we do not take our jobs as gatekeepers seriously.
Citizens are the ones whose dreams matter. Their dreams matter
because they define their waking reality. If citizens are deceitful in
their dreams, they will continue voting in politicians who sustain those
dreams. If they do not really believe in equality, they will most
likely vote for politicians who pay lip service to such ideals. If they
do not believe in anything - and by this, I mean willing to risks
everything for those beliefs - they will enable politicians who tell
them that partisan victory is the panacea for all that ails this
When the citizen gripes about corruption and racism, it is like the
tantrums of a child unwilling to accept responsibility for his or her
actions and blaming authority figures for all that it wrong. Typically,
in this type of mindset, it is the authority figure that could have done
better. That could have changed something. That could have lived up to
expectations. The child/citizen merely makes demands but has no real
idea of what it takes to fulfil these demands.
Give us a better country. Give us a system free of racism. Give us
system free of corruption. Give us all of this and all we will do is
vote for you. So, politicians say those things. They say they will give
us a better country. They say they will give us a system free of racism.
They will give us everything we claim to want. And in the end, they
know that their lies serve our apathy.
Quest for change
Think about it this for a moment. Forget that it is an MCA
personality (Liow Tiong Lai) that is giving the “I had a dream” speech.
Does his speech sound more like what opposition politicians tell us they
dream of in their quest to change Malaysia? Does not this sound like
the dream stuff that fuels opposition dogma?
What if this encounter between the politician and the citizen is
actually a future encounter between a citizen who voted for change and
the politician who he entrusted to make that change? What if all this
talk of racism and corruption is actually the dashed dreams of people
who voted for an alliance that was extremely like the alliance citizens
voted out years before?
What if the politician’s excuses were something that we have heard
before because the former establishment politicians that were voted out
had made the same excuses? What if the citizen hurling the sweets at the
politician is a rejection of sugar-coated political placebos that he
had swallowed when casting his vote thinking he was voting for medicine
that would change this country?
Remember when I told you to disregard the fact that the politician
was played by a MCA operative. Well, do not. Maybe that is the point.
Maybe the point is that beneath the progressive masks, the real visage
of politics remains the same. The MCA did not start out as “running
dogs” to the establishment, they evolved into that role.Maybe that is the warning. That if left unchecked, that if not
sustained by principles demanded by their supporters, non-Malay
political power structures will evolve into MCA or MIC or any other
race-based power structures that define mainstream Malaysian politics.
And if people take exception to my reading of the film and my
obsession with race-based politics, this film in Pete Teo’s words was
about the "fear, anger and helplessness especially in the non-Malay
communities right now”. The problem is, of course, nobody wants to change the paradigm of race-based politics but that is the topic for another film.
Hope you are having an enjoyable Merdeka.