A New Beginning
Political analysis is useful for providing the insights that flow from the more rounded appreciation of context such analysis allows for. Without context the significance of specific action will elude us. For instance, a statement by a politician could mean one thing in isolation but mean something completely different when considered against a backdrop of political intrigue. Anwar Ibrahim saying that he has six defectors from the Barisan Nasional is in itself suggestive of nothing more than an erosion of political support for the BN. However, when viewed against all else that Anwar Ibrahim has been involved in these past six months, the statement potentially takes on added resonance.
Post March-8th, there has been a sharp increase of political analysis on the Malaysian socio-political scene. The alternative media and blogs provide a veritable feast of information on a daily basis on a diverse range of subjects in the field. This has been a good thing for in setting out context, Malaysians have been more able to appreciate the many other ways of looking at things. They have also been able to see that free expression is something that does not harm our society as much as it does the politicians who hide their deficiencies behind such fears. Freer access to a range of diverse opinion has allowed for a maturing of the viewpoint of the Malaysian on the street.
There is however a downside, the root of which lies in the self-perception of the analyst that he and what he says is important. In their enthusiasm, analysts sometimes tend to forget that their analysis is not so much about their being able to do so but rather the truth of a given matter.
In an interview in 1993, the late Edward Said reflected that his meditations on politics and life had “always been a matter of exploration, of self-criticism and constant change in trying to surprise myself as well as my readers.” His reflection was prompted by a sense that public intellectuals tended to allow themselves to become “prisoners of their own language” and to be more concerned with “producing more work in fidelity to what they’d done before” at the expense of a truer perspective.
A noteworthy observation, it cautions against the very thing that seems to have occurred as the state of play between the BN and the Pakatan Rakyat intensifies. Analysis in these heightened times could be likened in many ways to commentary on a football league cup with many commentators having picked their side. Governance is however not about picking a side and sadly, more has been obscured than revealed by the parade of viewpoints and assessments.
In the run-up to the Kuala Trengganu by-election and its aftermath, we have been told what it all means for the BN, Abdullah Badawi, Najib Razak, the Pakatan Rakyat and Anwar Ibrahim. There are permutations upon permutations. We are asked to consider whether there was vote rigging, whether it is Abdullah Badawi that the people rejected or Najib or even the BN, whether it was the Chinese vote that swung the result or whether, as the MCA claims, the Chinese remained loyal to the MCA. We are told so many things in one form or the other, that in the end we are told very little.
For all this, nothing has been made clear and the question uppermost in mind is whether it really matters at all anymore who does what and how.
Whatever the spin or counter-spin, it is glaringly apparent that things are not as they should be in this country. Just as it is obvious that things should have been far better and could have been. It would not be incorrect to say that there are Malaysians who feel that they have come to be held hostage by an administration that is more concerned with protecting its own interests than those of the nation.
The state of flux points to many Malaysians having woken up to the fact. They want change in the most fundamental of ways: independence from a mindset that has left them colonized by an elite for its own benefit.
They are not fastidious as to who it is that becomes the Prime Minister of this country or who it is that forms the government. All they want is a government made up of men and women who believe in the ideals that the founders of this nation thought were a solid basis for a glorious future for all Malaysians. They want those men and women to believe in these ideals enough to get on with what needs to be done as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. They want the respect that each and every one of them is entitled to as a citizen.
In one of the several speeches that President Barack Obama gave on his historic journey into Washington for his inauguration, he said: “What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives.”
It is the same for us. We are in search of a new Malaysia. To find it, we must embrace the possibilities. To do that, our minds and hearts need to be liberated.
It is time for a new beginning.
(Malay Mail; 20th January 2009)