Why M’sians could not be bothered to choose sides - By Commander (Rtd) S THAYAPARAN Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Malaysiakini : “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to
the right, here I am - not stuck in the middle, but hovering above the
entire farcical spectrum, weeping as I behold my fellow man's devotion
to political illusion and self-destruction.” ― Robert Higgs
COMMENT | DAP’s Syerleena Abdul Rashid asks, “Are we on the right path?” in considering the greater mystery as to why some people have not chosen a side.
First off, in order for people to choose a side, it would mean there
has to be a difference between each side. Such a difference is usually
profound and easily identifiable.
In partisan politics, which is an illusion (in case you did not
know), each side would point to certain issues that set one apart.
Partisans would then claim that these issues, sometimes major sometimes
peripheral, are the only thing separating right from wrong. The smarter
ones link them to some sort of ideology and this becomes easier for
identity politics to get in the way of facts. Every issue becomes a
Manichaean struggle and people become invested in the side they choose
Some would argue that this is a good thing and that most democratic
systems are built to encourage just such behaviour. We get some of this
in Malaysia and the really funny part is that the so-called intellectual
propaganda organs of the Umno establishment have begun investing in the
nomenclature of the American right to describe the conflict between
Barisan National and Pakatan Harapan.
Turn the question around, and ask why Malaysians do not care which
side wins and perhaps you could get a clearer picture as to why some
folks do not choose a side. Syerleena (photo) seems to think
that the reason why people are apathetic is because the opposition has
not done enough to “educate” the people as to their goals and agendas.
The irony, of course, is that while Syerleena acknowledges that
social media has fuelled the rise of the opposition, she cannot seem to
understand that maybe people are informed about the policies of the
opposition. It is just that they do not see anything worth voting for or
worse, stepping out of their comfort zones and vote for something other
than what has made this country with all its problems worth living in
Let us take this whole issue of corruption, for instance. People know
that politicians are corrupt. They realise that corruption exists.
Commerce in this country is based on cronyism and bribery (I am painting
in broad strokes here, so do not get your knickers in a twist) and this
has worked fine for decades. The whole idea that this country will
become a failed state just because Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is
allegedly a crook, thief and robber just does not make sense to some
people when for decades, the crooks were running the show and most
Malaysians voted for them.
Now, the opposition says that this is what is destroying Malaysia and
Malaysians need to reject a corrupt government. They make this claim
with the Umno leader who for decades the opposition has said was evil
incarnate – former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. So, what gives?
The opposition always says that people are not “educated” and that if
they only knew the “truth”, they would understand why we need to change
the government. Perhaps people know the truth and they believe that it
is safer for whatever reason not to vote because it would not make any
difference, especially now that the opposition has joined forces with
the very man they claimed was destroying this country – how many times
has this country been destroyed? – and attempting to engineer a revival
that would see the system not only rejuvenated but also redeemed.
Perhaps some folks do not want to be a part of that.
Now before you go with "do not blame the opposition when the
situation gets worse if BN remains in power," here is the thing though.
The situation has got worse and will only get worse, and the opposition
has not demonstrated that it could change the situation. Attempting to
make the claim that every election is apocalyptic does not make people
more inclined to vote for you when they know that the day after would
probably be the same as the day before, no matter which side they
choose. Life goes on.
I will give you another example. Take MCA, for instance. People say
they are running dogs of the Umno establishment. The implication being
that if they just stood up to Umno, this would make them acceptable. If
non-Malay rights were infringed and the MCA went against Umno, they
would be doing their job.
Now let us look at the opposition. The opposition keeps reminding us
that they need the Malay vote, the heartland Malay vote to be more
specific – although my own reading is that maybe the urban Malay vote
may not be totally locked down but I digress – and that people should
not harp on certain issues because this would jeopardise possible votes
from the Malay heartland.
Maybe, and I am just spitballing here, the people who could not be
bothered to choose a side, understand that this is not really about
their vote. This is about appealing to special interests and as long as
their vote either is taken for granted or is less than the vote of some
rural constituent, the better option is to abstain not out of spite or
apathy but because no matter what, this urban dweller will survive or
has the option of leaving.
In other words, if people, whatever side they choose, do not feel as
if they are all in this together, it would be way better to stand back
and watch the drama unfold.
Finally, the issue of Islam. People are afraid. People who have a
stake in voting for the opposition are afraid. This is anecdotal but you
have no idea of the hundreds of emails – I am not joking – I get from
Malaysians (many of them Muslims) who curse the day they allowed PAS
into the mainstream by supporting the opposition. They are repulsed by
the idea of non-Muslim politicians in religious drag haunting mosques
and giving oxygen to ideas that are anathema to secularism.
You would be surprised at how many young Muslims yearn for something
other than what the establishment (both government and opposition)
offers but have no alternative to turn to. People mock PSM for being an
“Indian” party or a “mosquito” party, but let me tell you I have seen
young Malay activists that perhaps do not have the polish of their urban
counterparts but who know exactly what is going on in Malaysia, unlike
the urban politicians who tell naive opposition supporting electorate
what they want to hear.
In other words, if people could not be bothered to pick a side (your side?), the problem is not the people but the side. Give them solutions or ideas that are genuine and you will start a movement.