Evolving from ‘bullshit to truth’

Dr. Azly Rahman

Each candidate behaved well in the hope of being judged worthy of election. However, this system was disastrous when the city had become corrupt. For then it was not the most virtuous but the most powerful who stood for election, and the weak, even if virtuous, were too frightened to run for office. – Niccolo Machiavelli

It’s exciting; I don’t know whether I’m going to win or not. I think I am. I do know I’m ready for the job. And, if not, that’s just the way it goes.- George W Bush, 43rd President of the United States

Elections are supposed to be an educational process – not a time when propaganda rules the airwaves and cyberspace, and indoctrination rules the minds of those playing the game of choosing a new government.

It is a time when, borrowing the words of Princeton professor Harold Frankfurt, one sees the evolution of “bullshit to truth” in the continuum of “truthiness or truthism”.

But one wonders how much understanding of the election process the Malaysian voters have. We seem to rush through elections and have become good at being indecisive, secretive and calculative about the date of the general election. We should instead be preparing the minds of voters with a sense of predictability and basic understanding of what is involved in electing a government.

We must treat an election as something more that a Geertzian ‘Balinese cockfight’; a time of high stakes in a game of shame and blame. We must make our voters more intelligent so that they may in turn choose intelligent governments that respect human rights and freedom of speech, and will work for all.

As voters, we have to ask ourselves many questions.

Are we voting on issues or are we voting for individuals with unresolved issues? What are the election issues that we have understood and are ready to take a stand on? What is the character of the individual we are voting for? Is he/she a good person for all seasons and all races? Or a racist and a bigot who is out of sync with a cosmopolitan world?

What is the platform of each political party? What are they fighting for? Which one is more credible than the others and which one will deliver the promises better? Which political party or a coalition of many will do a better job given the circumstances of changing times in changing realities and the shifting of the definition of freedom in this age of globalisation?

Within each political party, what criteria are set for each candidate? What is the track record of each candidate? Have they amassed millions of Ringgit during their tenure as elected representatives? Who will finance their stay in power? How have they performed and where can the public access data on their failures and accomplishments?

Who owns the media and what impact will this have on the process of indoctrination and the dissemination of propaganda as election approaches? Will the media give each candidate equal access during campaigning?

How dynastic should politics be? Can anybody’s sister-in-law become the prime minister? Why shouldn’t a non-Malay with excellent values become the prime minister?

How do we better prepare the public psychologically and educationally for the election process?

What do the people want? Do they understand what the government is doing to ensure that tolerance and social justice become the guiding principles of national development? How ready are they to choose the next regime?

Cure voter-apathy

For the last 50 years, we have failed to educate our children on the importance of democracy and elections.

Our textbooks on civics education are perhaps written from the point of view of telling the citizens what a government is, based on selected history packaged as official knowledge, to be memorised as facts and to be regurgitated when the time comes for teachers to demand for the right answers from our children.

We have failed to ask them what it means to be a Malaysian, how to think like a Malaysian, and how to elect governments that will serve the interest of all Malaysians. There is no debate in schools on the merit of what our various political parties stand for.

We therefore cannot blame voters for this disease called ‘voter apathy’. Children’s understanding of politics has become truncated and limited to the idea that politics is only about political parties, dying dictators, and deadwood wakil rakyat; politics is not to be discussed in schools let alone be used as a platform of learning about good citizenship.

We therefore cannot blame university students for being more interested in passing exams, acquiring the latest electronic gadgets, idolising gangsta rappers and Death Metallists, or chanting slogans during rallies.

They are not able to articulate diverse viewpoints, let alone define a just society or conjure up the essence of a Malaysian-inspired ‘republic of virtue’. Ironically, the moment they are interested in politics and the fate of the nation, they get hunted down by university authorities!

We have only ourselves to blame. We deserve the government we elect because we have been conditioned to believe that one race is superior to others. The false sense of superiority demands, by any means necessary, that a fresh mandate be given in this ritual called election.

Education is a tedious process, a long haul, and an enterprise in which one makes one step ahead and perhaps go back three steps backwards. Education for democracy in a country such as Malaysia is going to be a tedious process not only because he have failed to prepare our citizens with the concepts and skills necessary to become informed voters, but also because we have successfully instill the fear of change in them.

It is ironic that we often talk about critical thinking and creativity in schools and structure these concepts into the curriculum and the learning process across all disciplines, but we have not seen the manifestations of this idea of education for social imagination.

What we have successfully done is to instill fear of each other based on the racial construct or religious constructs and economic condition we are born into. We not only have race-based political parties in fact playing their role in dividing and conquering the people, but also powerful related agencies working closely with structures of race-based ideology. These institutions are employed to turn our citizens into what American sociologist Herbert Marcuse call “one-dimensional beings”.

However, all is not lost. Let us at least hold the election next year. Let all the information be out in the open, so that we will have all the facts and informed opinions before each one of us votes. There is still time to educate, not aggravate. In education, there will always be hope.

As for our elections, let us set it for May 13, 2009 – a symbolic date of building bridges in a new era of change. It will be a more predictable date.

We can then open a new peaceful chapter of our epic story on race relations in a country of broken promises run by politicians demanding a fresh mandate.

  1. #1 by People on Thursday, 31 January 2008 - 8:16 am

    The words by Machiavelli sums up the entire election system in this country. We have got 1st world infrastructures but 3rd world voting system !! Wake up Rakyat !!

  2. #2 by DarkHorse on Thursday, 31 January 2008 - 8:22 am

    “We must treat an election as something more that a Geertzian ‘Balinese cockfight’…”

    I’m sorry but how do you explain the presence of Sen. Hilary Clinton among them?

  3. #3 by k1980 on Thursday, 31 January 2008 - 9:11 am

    Only 38 percent of Indians and 42 percent of Chinese said they strongly or somewhat approved of Abdullah’s job performance, by far the lowest rating for the prime minister. When he came to power, he had an overall approval rating of 91 percent.

    His overall approval rating in the new poll was 61 percent, a poor showing for Malaysia, where the opposition is weak. Almost two-thirds of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the way the government was handling issues of ethnicity and inequality.

  4. #4 by oknyua on Thursday, 31 January 2008 - 9:58 am

    […one sees the evolution of “bullshit to truth” in the continuum of “truthiness or truthism”.]

    The first thing that came to my mind is the RM105 billion (US32 billion) make-over of Sabah. The ruling BN could do better than presenting a ridiculous (implausible) projection for a state of 800,000 Sabahan. According to STAR, it would create jobs for 900,000 workforce elevating per capital income to RM14,000.

    It is projected as truth to us. The working population of Sabah is presently at 300,000 (roughly 30%), including the workforce that had “migrated” to W. Malaysia. For a start RM5 billion is allocated to Sabah under the 9th Malaysia Plan, which means another RM100 billion would be pumped in for the balance 13 years. I am already thinking of Zimbabwe’s useless billions.

    I won’t go to the maths of it, it’s crappy. What is clear is AAB advisors’ mentality that prosperity follows an inflow of cash. Sabah’s problem is not money. The same can be said in other Malaysian states. This is a nation rich in raw materials and richer still in talents. Malaysia had never been built on RM billions. The rich and powerful nations of the world have all been built on the principle of fairness, opportunities and good governance. Learn from the fall of socialism, communism, apartheid and segregations.

    Coming back to Sabah’s bullshit-to-truth, the RM105 billion could only be raised from the international market. That would further inflate our foreign borrowings. Our present 3% (of revenue) allocated for loan repayment could double; repayment would continue till our grandchildren’s days. I hope AAB is still around when this Sabah bullshit-to-truth becomes reality after 18 years. Hopefully he’d see the miseries Malaysians suffer then is the direct result of election bullshit he presented in 2008.

    (Note: The stock market reacted by declining 4.4 points the day RM105 billion is announced).

  5. #5 by sheriff singh on Thursday, 31 January 2008 - 10:26 am

    But BN will still win big !! Its all arranged basing on the delineation of constituencies. For every Opposition seat in heavily populated areas, BN will have 5 in the countryside.

    But most people missed what has been going on these past few days thats becoming critical. It involves one Mr Vincent of the Lingam tape fame, who counts the retired and forgetful Tun as his “close” friend and “mentor”.

    He has just bought the more independent-minded “Sun” and has put his men in there. He’s gonna do the gomen a big favour by using this highly read newspaper to turn public opinion and perception around in the run-up to the coming elections.

    He’s gonna turn his “guns” on the Opposition soon giving them no outlet to air their views or to report on their activities. And he’s gonna blast the likes of Anwar, the Lims et al kow-kow.

    “The Sun” has set and has emerged (“Up is Down”) as another obedient servant of the BN masters. And Mr Vincent is slated to become a “good and close” friend of both f-i-l and s-i-l and other outlaws. The cunning devil. “Its good business”.

    So all the Opposition’s outlets have been plugged. An uphill task lies ahead.

    “Truth” might turn to “Bullshit” instead. Be prepared for a diarrhoea epidemic.

  6. #6 by Colonel on Thursday, 31 January 2008 - 11:07 am

    Judging from the responses of the last three threads, there seems to be a drop in interest in this blog.

  7. #7 by locoza on Thursday, 31 January 2008 - 11:19 am

    The coalition is not the most convincing we’ve seen. Every component party market to a certain niche. Why race and religion should be the platform? Why don’t we look beyond race and what is good for all? Why can’t there be a non-malay PM? Why the criteria tied to race when the definition od race itself is veru ambiguous. Fundamentally flawed system, backed with arrogance and fear mongering, we just witnessed how Barisan Nasional messed up a great Nation of Malaysia when our neighbor S’pore is climbing up the global. Racial polarization in every aspect is definitely taking its toll on Malaysian social structure. NEP is as effective as Samy Vellu’s hairpiece. It’s about time our leaders “wake up” and realize we’re sinking and come up with a rescue plan. If not, we might as well jump boats.

  8. #8 by Evenmind on Thursday, 31 January 2008 - 11:48 am

    Is any any human rights at all in Malaysia. I doubt it. They thrive on race based polictics, and is always using this to garner support and fame, like the kris waving incident.

    There is no basis or need to divide people ( Malaysia’s own ) we should call them Malaysians and thats it bottom line.The world we live in today is so modern and yet the thinking of this govt. is so archaic.

    The divide they use is so repulsive , they categorize people is as bumi/non bumi , islam/ non islam etc., In my terms there are only two words that i wud recognize i.e. bodoh / bukan bodoh and our govt. belongs to the BODOH category, and when they have people like samy velu you can even call it HODOH.

    This is 2008 , not 1958 pls take note .People are getting smarter each day, but not our govt., that’s why our economy is nowhere near that our tiny southern neighbour., becos they are way forward in thier thinking and ideology.

    gud luck to all you ppl who our govt is great , they are nothing but rotten eggs, that should be get RID OFF.

  9. #9 by cheng on soo on Thursday, 31 January 2008 - 12:02 pm

    Non malay cannot even become, VC of public Uni / college or Menteri Bsar, or Head of govt hospitals, or Postmaster or head of GLC, or town / city mayor.
    How to bcome PM, dont dream lah!

  10. #10 by aiD_kamikuP on Thursday, 31 January 2008 - 12:04 pm

    “Judging from the responses of the last three threads, there seems to be a drop in interest in this blog.” Colonel

    Lull before the big storm?

  11. #11 by votemalaysia on Thursday, 31 January 2008 - 12:47 pm

    Hon. LKS, hope you don’t mind this, we recently created a website to gauge the mood of the voting public in Malaysia. goto http://www.votemalaysia.com and participate!

  12. #12 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 31 January 2008 - 1:43 pm

    The idealist Dr. started with a good point i.e., what do people vote for? But then he goes asking questions that does not help voters to think but rather confuses them? What is he up to?

    They say all politics are local but by that it means that include national issues that trickle down to local level is what determine votes. On it really means that it depends on how Federal issues trickle down to local levels.

    For the Indians, its all about temples, body-snatching, and economics – all of which state level have failed and its all Federal.

    Lets forget about the Chinese for now.

    For the Malays, there is no Federal issues that is that dramatic. Waste of money? Corruption? Judicial Integrity? Its nothing new and not dramatic enough. They are running on inflation and election fraud. Election fraud does not translate to local issue unless someone saudara is affected. Inflation? Sure 10% pay hike while 30% increase in food prices is not good, but car prices have gone down, electronic prices have gone down. So it will be largely dependent on local issues which in Terengganu and Kelantan is doing well by the various Corridors have a lot of hype going. Perlis has some local politics brewing but its a small state while Sabah bumi vote should still hold despite Musa pissing off many people.

    Nothing is more dissapointing that what the opposition is doing regarding Malay votes. Keadilan and PAS is lost while DAP have not even considered what to do about it for decades. Dr. M is doing more than the entire opposition is doing. Isn’t that ironic?

  13. #13 by anak sungeisiput on Thursday, 31 January 2008 - 5:15 pm

    Hindraff calls on all politcal parties to do the right thing up front for the Indians.This statement was just released by the Chairman of HINDRAF, Waytha Moorthy.

    135-3 Jalan Toman 7
    Kemayan Square 70200
    Seremban N.Sembilan

    PRESS STATEMENT 31st January 2008



    HINDRAF has always maintained it’s non-partisan stand and has always steered clear of party politics or align itself with any political party including the opposition

    However HINDRAF cannot deny it has “Political Friends” both from within the ruling as well as opposition parties who have supported us in our cause for the protection of the ethnic minority Indian rights in Malaysia.

    Hence taking into consideration of the upcoming general election, HINDRAF is now forced to advice the Malaysian Indians on “Whom to Vote”.

    HINDRAF calls upon the Indian community not to blindly assume that by voting for the opposition political party in the next upcoming General Elections would solve the problems of oppression, suppression, marginalization and permanent colonization of the ethnic Indian community.

    HINDRAF urges the political parties to:

    a) Be transparent, fair and equitable in the distribution of seats to the Indian candidates both Parliamentary as well as State seats.

    b) Make their manifesto extremely clear as to their commitment for advocating and implementing Indian rights should they be elected to lead the next Government. The 18 Point Demands made and submitted by HINDRAF to the Prime Minister are crystal clear on the needs and thirst of the Indian community to undo 50 years of Political and Socio Economic violations of the UMNO led Malaysian Government. These points should be the paramount consideration in respect to the Indian needs.

    I call upon the interested political parties to immediately engage in talks on the above two crucial aspects as soon as possible so that we can advice the Malaysian Indian community “ Whom to Vote”.

    Malaysian Indians have been cheated in the political arena for 50 years by the UMNO led BARISAN Government. HINDRAF’s leaders have made great sacrifices to relate this message to the Malaysian Indian community.

    We will not betray the trust of Malaysian Indian community on HINDRAF’S leadership and will not advice the Malaysian Indians to place “a blind hope” on either BARISAN or the Opposition party unless we are satisfied the above two issues are adequately addressed.

    HINDRAF is also happy to engage in dialogue with BARISAN subject to releasing the 5 HINDRAF leaders and accepting HINDRAF as a pressure group.

    P.Waytha Moorthy



    Currently in London

    Get your free suite of Windows Live services! Windows Live

  14. #14 by DarkHorse on Thursday, 31 January 2008 - 11:00 pm

    A smart move by Hindraf to distance itself from the Opposition.

  15. #15 by DarkHorse on Thursday, 31 January 2008 - 11:01 pm

    In that way these people are not putting all their eggs in one basket.

  16. #16 by limkamput on Thursday, 31 January 2008 - 11:28 pm

    This in one thing I don’t quite understand what HINDRAF is talking about. For 50 years BN led by UMNO has marginalised the Indians as well as other minorities (don’t forget that). The opposition parties have not governed this country even for a single day except in some state governments. And yet you HINDRAF want to paint the oppositions with the same tar as BN. How can this be? Whether you like it or not, you have to put your bet on someone just like the way Malaysians in general do. You can’t have the cake and eat it too.

  17. #17 by chandar on Friday, 1 February 2008 - 1:13 am

    Im not sure about the 50yrs , but in the 20odd years of blantant disregard for rights of the individual and equality that we have stomached our kids and future generations should endure this …its time for a change!!! There is no superior race, like some of our UMNO leaders think…we have to show them.

  18. #18 by DarkHorse on Friday, 1 February 2008 - 7:41 am

    “And yet you HINDRAF want to paint the oppositions with the same tar as BN.”

    It is not about painting the opposition with anything or painting it with a broad brush stroke.

    Hindraf from the very start has made its intention to be bipartisan in its approach to what is really a socio-economic problem. It has not registered itself as a political party for good reason. That reason is apparently to prevent the government from treating it like another opposition party and its leaders as aspirants to political office. It has the advantage of being a social movement allied not to political parties but to a broad spectrum of NGO etc.

    Yet as we all can see it fails to stop the government from branding what is in reality a loose coalition of interest groups as an organization with links to a foreign terrorist organization.

    Certainly it is not about keeping the cake and eating it. It is about getting the support of the broad spectrum of right thinking Malaysians of whatever race, religion or political affiliations – be they BN supporters or DAP supporters, MIC or UMNO. The fact that its cause has lent itself to manipulation by opposition politicians should not reduce its importance as a movement bipartisan in approach, to attract the attention of the nation to a long standing issue affecting the Indian community in particular and to the Malaysian community generally.

  19. #19 by DarkHorse on Friday, 1 February 2008 - 7:43 am

    ooops delete “broad spectrum of NGOs etc”

  20. #20 by Jeffrey on Friday, 1 February 2008 - 9:13 am

    Although it is true as what Lim Kam Put said that “the opposition parties have not governed this country even for a single day except in some state governments” what Hindraf is saying (indirectly) is that in this 50 years of neglect of Malaysian Indians’ plight, the Opposition voice to speak up for their cause against the govt in this last 50 years was until Hindraf raised the profile either not there or somewhat mute, and it implies that Opposition’s sincerity should not be taken for granted by Indian voters as it is subject to proof.

  21. #21 by limkamput on Friday, 1 February 2008 - 10:31 am

    Fair enough, Jeffrey and Darkhorse. It is not that I can’t see what Hindraf is trying to say. What I observe is that minority Malaysians would usually want to form a political party or a NGO and then suck up with UNMO/BN. We have MIC, PPP and IPF before this, and we also have “good for nothing” NGOs who are ever eager to work with the government just to get some allocations. The moment they do that, their cause gets diluted/corrupted and the problem is back to square one. I admired what Hindraf has achieved thus far and I think I have been consistent in expressing my support. But their last statement (as issued in London) rattled me. Hindraf may wish to remain non political, but it will be a spent force like PPP, IPF and MIC the moment it goes back to the government with tail between its legs. If you “negotiate” and work with BN based on existing arrangement, it will be based on dominance and subservience, period. Many here are talking about change. Yes, change we must, and one of these changes is about changing the master-slave and dominance-subservience relationship. Anything less than that, we are beggars and beggars can not choose and can not set term. So, I wish Hindraf can revisit the statement and see in what way it can achieve its objective.

  22. #22 by DarkHorse on Saturday, 2 February 2008 - 7:57 am

    limkamput, you’re once again waffling as usual.

  23. #23 by limkamput on Saturday, 2 February 2008 - 8:50 am

    Darkhorse, No I am not. What I said has empirical basis, unlike you. YOU are waffling and condescending. By the way are you a fair Indian, you know Indians with a fairer skin type? Usually they think they are smart and therefore are quite arrogant and cocky type.

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