From race and religion to Psy

Hafiz Noor Shams
The Malaysian Insider
Feb 28, 2013

FEB 28 — For better or worse, quantity is important in a democratic contest. It is about gaining the majority. It is about popularity.

With that as the context, we have to remember we live in a young society. The Department of Statistics estimates that the median Malaysia age in 2010 was slightly above 26 years. In simpler terms, the age of one half of the population today is younger than the median just three years ago. The profile of the Malaysian electorate pretty much reflects the demographics of our society.

Thanks to their sheer size, those in their 20s and 30s are clearly the biggest and thus the most important group. Collectively they can decisively determine the path which the country would take.

But what makes these young people stand out further politically is that most of them will be voting in a national election for the first time in their lives. Their minds more flexible than those belonging to the older generation who more often than not are hung up on legacy issues. Ibrahim Ali, for instance, still has the May 13 incident as his talking point.

So, young adults are the cool kids on the block and the two nationally-relevant political factions are competing to be the friend of these cool kids. The Barisan Nasional-led federal government has launched several policies for that purpose and chief among them are affordable housing and other cash transfers. The federal opposition Pakatan Rakyat promises the same young adults free tertiary education, among others. Both sides are pulling out all stops to be the one special friend.

While I find many of those policies too populist, at least those policies are serious in the sense that they affect a person’s welfare. The existence of a real policy competition between two credible sides is heartening since previously, it was really all about the old, stale, suffocating issues of race and religion. That is not to say that race and religion are no longer factors but at the very least, we have something substantive to base our election on.

But I do have a feeling that the courting is starting to go a bit too far and starting to appear regressive. It is starting to go into the realm of the trivial that debases the very serious nature of our elections. In an effort to become ever more popular, political parties are starting to make entertainment the focal point of their political events, instead of what the parties stand for.

This happened in Penang recently. Barisan Nasional organised its Chinese New Year celebration with Psy, the Korean sensation — and not the Malaysian prime minister — as the star of the event. The hosts of “That Effing Show” — a sarcastic online talk show focusing on Malaysian affairs — were right on the money when they joked that in the United States, a singer would introduce the president to the crowd but in Malaysia, the prime minister introduced a singer. Such is the office of the prime minister which is obviously too engrossed in crass populism.

While I despise the debasement of the highest political office of the land, I think I understand the reasoning behind it. Young adults are seen wedded together with pop culture. They ARE the pop culture.

Maybe, just maybe, the politicians think, if they could harness the power of pop culture, if they could show that they have their finger on pop culture, then they could connect with these young adults. We could win their votes, so the politicians thought. At the end, these politicians hoped what happened in Penang stayed in Penang. (Tourism Minister Ng Yen Yen had a different idea in Malacca, some weeks after.)

But this line of thinking — of entertainment, young adults and politics — is potentially insulting to young adults. Is entertainment the thing that matters the most in attracting them to participate in a political process? Are young adults fluffy-headed, uncritical, naïve voters to be wooed with inconsequential gimmicks? Is the future worth a trivial song in an age where one-hit wonders happen almost every week, if not every day? I pray to the god in the mirror for the answer to be no.

I know it did not work in Penang but I do not know if it will never work. I hope that it will never work so that our elections have less possibility of becoming an exercise of triviality. The truth is Barisan Nasional is not the only one guilty of putting entertainment at the centrestage or a big part of a political event or rally.

The danger is that if it works and pulls in the votes. When that happens, there goes the future as votes of substantial value are traded for a trivial piece of song popular with the cool kids.

If it does happen, that will be no progress from the days of race and religion. It is just as bad as the days of old.

  1. #1 by rockdaboat on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 7:11 am

    In the Chinese New Year celebration in Penang,

    Penang people get: PSY
    BN get: 粪

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 7:38 am

    The problem here is that last more than 30 years an entire generation has been taught, exposed to and inculcated the values of Mahathirism focus on race/religion/culture and the separateness of one group from another rather than country/people as a whole; pressures to conform to one group’s religious and cultural norms or face ostracism and withdrawal of privileges; influence and the examples of a few prominent ones who could rise up to prominence and wealth by identifying with system and connecting to power, engaging in opportunistic behaviour and double speak for self interest in denigration of wider country’s interest, sometimes to extent of renouncing or suppressing even their own racial heritage…With these kind of influences on the mindset of those in their 20s and 30s in their formative years, should one be sanguine as Allen Goh in his ‘Malaysia Reborn’ that they could have a mindset change, rebel and vote against the iniquities of the very system under which they have spent their entire formative years? Yes only if they, with access to and countervailing information from education and the Net – and yes influence of Psy- are really genuinely fed up with it.

  3. #3 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 8:09 am

    Flyover near science park II snapped into two and collapsed.

    Jib Jib 1Boleh.
    Ros Ros 1 Cantik!

  4. #4 by monsterball on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 9:01 am

    Najib will use every opportunity to fish for votes.
    Look at the CNY celebration in Penang….trying hard to use Psy too.
    40 odds days to 13th GE.
    What will be his next move???…for all his past moves have been exposed as hypocritical……..insincere.

  5. #5 by boh-liao on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 9:23 am

    NEXT move – easi lah, NR will ask pornoSnake 2 use his experience 2 fish 4 youngsters’ votes, esp hot blooded males
    PornoSnake will announce, vote 4 UmnoB/BN in GE13, when we win, we will guarantee U unlimited VCD experience without d knowledge of your spouse n girlfren; don’t worri, I KNOW what I am talking; BEEN there, DONE dat, deja vu

  6. #6 by Bigjoe on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 9:29 am

    That the 3-peat “Nos” is happening again and again and both Najib and NYY is publicly brushing it away unconvinsingly just reinforces the believe that UMNO/BN can’t change and their message of ‘transformation’ and ‘new’ are all nonsense.

    What is amazing is that its still not sinking into the likes of Najib and NYY as well as most top BN leaders is that – they don’t realize that the public themselves, collectively, is CALLING THEM LIARS – DISHONEST.

    You can’t spin yourself out of such a state. Its the classic Emperor has no clothes – they have lost the respect of the public personally and its only the institutions that they still hold some respect. The fact it was done spontaneously and in public repeatedly says respect for institution is wafer thin even.

    What has not happened is the 3-peat Nos happening in the heartland of UMNO or worst Sarawak and Sabah. If it had happened in any of the heartland be it in Johor and even worst in Sarawak and Sabah, its the end of UMNO/BN for sure..

  7. #7 by machiavelli on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 11:11 am

    Frankly speaking, as a Malaysian I felt quite ashamed about the whole incident; our PM being stood up by a horse prancing comedian from S. Korea.

    Politics aside this is the highest office in the country and we would expect others to respect this office; being the Rakyat of this nation.

    I had the opportunity to catch the incident on the YouTube and the whole episode was quite pathetic and embarassing.

    Our PM was fiddling with his handphone and the rest of the VVIPs were clapping and cheering and the emcee all hoarse and hot calling for this joker to come on stage.


  8. #8 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 11:18 am

    Jib promoted himself hard in the last 3-4 yrs as a celebrity. And this celebrity thingy has really got to him. As a result he truly believes that he is a star. That is until psy showed him what a real star is.


  9. #9 by pwcheng on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 3:22 pm

    UMNO as a Product.
    It’s simple common sense that if your product is good people will pay to buy your product but UMNO have to pay people for their product, through BR1M1, BR1M2 and also promised BR1M3. That shows UMNO as a product is rotten to the core. How pathetic!
    I hope our clever Rakyat will collect the money and throw the rotten UMNO product into the Rubbish bin, the most fitting destination for them.

  10. #10 by Loh on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 8:07 pm

    ///Thanks to their sheer size, those in their 20s and 30s are clearly the biggest and thus the most important group. Collectively they can decisively determine the path which the country would take.///–the author

    Fifty two years ago US President Kennedy said in his inauguration, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. Maybe Kennedy was not thinking about reelection!

    Over the past 56 years, UMNO has been promising what they could do for one sector of the population which alone can ensure their return to power, and to ensure that the beneficiaries would not forget, UMNO points to them their imaginary enemy to focus their attention. If only UMNO had asked the same question as Kennedy did, Malaysia would have been more prosperous and united. Indeed when there were racial segregation in the US when Kennedy took office in 1960 while there was obvious racial harmony in Malaya, the situation in both countries are reverse now. Racial harmony in USA is evident and racial discrimination institutionalized by the government in Malaysia is entrenched.

    The fate of the nation is determined by one thought; whether it should pursue populist policies to garner votes, or to pursue fair and just policies to benefit the nation.

  11. #11 by Loh on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 9:07 pm

    ///The tunnel project will be paid by a land swap in Gurney Drive, one of George Town’s must-see destinations for those who want to feel the sea breeze in the Pearl of the Orient.

    Now, does Penang need a third link? Is Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng gambling his first-term government’s goodwill on such a mammoth project?

    Or does Penang just need a better transport system on the island, where the warren of streets in George Town is choked with motorcycle, trishaw and other vehicular traffic.///–

    The swap of 44.51 hectare of reclaimed land in Tanjong Pinang for the tunnel across the sea from Gurney Drive to Bagan Ajam on the mainland which will no doubt bring about development there; a 4.2 km Gurney Drive-Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu bypass (tunnel), a 4.6 km Lebuhraya TDLCE to Bandar Bahru Ayer Item bypass (tunnel), and a 12km road connecting Tanjung Bungah and Teluk Pahang, is worth every inch of the land.

    The question is whether the third link harms Penang, or should one think about Penang Island only for Penang state? The third link will help reduce traffic not only on the two bridges, but also on traffic across Penang Island. Besides the two tunnels help solve traffic problems for vehicles to move on the Island, and the project does not preclude improvement of transport system to move people around. In fact, motorcycles and other vehicles will not disappear just because public transport improves, and the tunnels help ease the situation.

    Penang is lucky that 100 acres of reclaimed land allows it to swap for a 8-billion ringgit project. More land can be reclaimed before it reaches international water. It is a matter of confidence the contractor has on the state that the swap was possible.

    People can also feel the sea breeze on the other side of the island along Lebuhraya TDLCE, not just at Gurney drive. Indeed part of Lebuhraya TDLCE sits on reclaimed land.

  12. #12 by Loh on Friday, 1 March 2013 - 9:47 pm

    ///PAKATAN Rakyat has unveiled its manifesto. It is all about reducing government revenues and increasing spending.///–Mamakthir in A manifesto that hoodwinks voters – Columnist – New Straits Times

    Mamakthir chose to make use of simple arithmetic on revenues versus expenditures to make his argument. He has conveniently ignored the issue of rampant corruptions which has caused Malaysia to be in a dire state economically and socially. Status quo in the country does not attract investments and return of talents for knowledge-based economic development. The new Pakatan Rakyat government will provide conducive environment to grow the economy and hence tax revenue. For example, when Mamakthir is no longer Advisor to Petronas, saving from leakage would be huge.

    Malaysians understand relevant issues more than the simple arithmetic Mamakthir advanced trying to argue his lost case.

  13. #13 by Noble House on Saturday, 2 March 2013 - 2:27 am

    The younger generation should learn to ask questions and do less with just listenings. This is the one important criteria I found lacking amongst our undergraduates.

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