Thursday, July 5, 2007

MALAYSIA PARLIAMENTARIAN: Politics of Desperation


Bodoh. Bodoh. Bodoh. Bangang. Bengap. Bahlul. Bengap. Biol. Bebal. Binatang. Berok. Baghal. Baboon. Bocor. Booooooo! Bodoh. Bodoh. Bodoh.

These are some of the recurring B-words that have become the common nouns, adjectives, and adverb lacing our parliamentary debates. Like the chorus of clanking machines in W.S. Rendra's play "Perjuangan Suku Naga"

It's like Bronx gangsta rappers trying to rhyme the vulgar "B____" and "N_____" words to sell their albums and their degenerative ideology.

Don't we have any shame being representatives of the people who are supposed to not waste time spewing vulgarities and linguistic diarrhea in a house that is supposed to urgently and efficiently solve the problems of the poor, needy, the marginalized, and the dispossessed?

How much time gets wasted in parliamentary debates that thrive on cajouling and the hurling of abuses? Why do we still have rude, vulgar, and diplomatically incompetent "elected representatives" still sitting in those debates, representing the rakyat?

Is this the picture of progressive thinking we have developed as a political culture – 50 years after Merdeka?

Shame. Shame. Shame!

Politics of desperation

We teach children in schools, universities, and educational institutions how to debate respectfully and rationally but in the Parliament that is supposed to be a congress and congregation of highly intelligent and politically productive adults, we see the culture of George Orwell's animal farm reigning.

We hear adults screaming at each other, interrupting each other violently, rational voices drowned in the cacophony of political thuggery. Perception and reality is now one. The culture of Ijok and of the parliament is now all the same. The line between perception and reality is destroyed. What are we adults teaching our youth and the children of our next generation? Is this the coming of age of our politics of desperation in which anger rules as a result of the total eclipse of reason?

We wrongly call brutish politicians "Yang Berhormat". They should be called "Yang Tidak Patut di Hormati".

We cannot immediately change the culture of unreasoned and brutish parliamentary debates. We paid the price for voting those species of parliamentarians into power. This is the disease that this nation has contracted since feudal times; from the brutishness of those who ruled since the times of Srivijaya and Majapahit to the modern times of Putrajaya and Cyberjaya.

It will probably take a hundred years for this culture of intelligence amongst parliamentarians to evolve. It seems that to teach these people the art of listening while others are talking seem impossible.

Why are these rude parliamentarians called "Yang Berhormat" when they do not even have the necessary intelligence to carry out reasoned and data-driven arguments and when they have not earned the respect of the people?

We must evolve culturally.

Shouting

Our culture of parliamentary debate has the great potential to evolve from a 'circus' and a Balinese cock-fighting and keris-wielding arena to a problem-solving forum, if and when we begin to elect more intelligent, rational, and meaningfully articulate politicians to represent our constituencies.

Our society is becoming more intelligent and our imitation of models of development has become more sophisticated, but some of our parliamentarians need to learn how to speak in public and how to talk sense based on a data-driven style of argumentation.

Must we continue to live with news reports concerning parliamentary debates that have representatives call each other "bodoh", "berok", "baboon", "binatang" and other less than human designation, instead of calling upon facts and scientific reasoning to back up national issues that need to be resolved?

Must we tolerate a culture of shouting and yelling and cajoling in sessions that are supposed to be used to deliberate and mediate our most urgent and serious issues involving the social, economic, and political fate of millions of citizens who voted for those into power?

Must we let the culture permeate into our universities, schools, social and cultural institutions, and homes in which this brand of feudalism and ignorance and brute force rule in a half-baked democracy?

Why have parliamentarians who present well-researched issues in the most civil manner been shouted at and interrupted perpetually by those who cannot mount anything substantial other than foul language and a chorus of gangsterish rowdiness?

Why are we still seeing this culture at the time when our parliamentarians are becoming more and more educated either locally or abroad?

What kind of parliamentarians gets voted into power and do those with brutish public speaking skills really represent their constituencies? Or are they now becoming an embarrassment to their electorate and an insult to its intelligence?

I think this name-calling sessions that waste public money and glorify brute and arrogant ways of presenting opinion need to be ended.

But how? What must we do? Where do we begin?

Ponder these questions.

Be a smarter Voter

Rude parliamentarians with substandard intelligence need not be respected. They need to be voted out in the next election, so that the "general will" of the people can proceed with maturity, leaving these mentally decaying parliamentarians behind.

Rude supporters of rude parliamentarians need not be respected en masse either. They will merely continue the intellectual destruction we the Malaysian people are trying to create as culture and as a legacy for our children who are becoming more and more intelligent and idealistic than the generation of rotting parliamentarians who get voted through unethical means.

How might we recognise a Cicero, a Sheikh Kadir Jelani, a Gandhi, a Patrick Henry, a Sun Yat Sen, a Ho Chi Minh, a Che Guevara, a Sukarno, a Vaclav Havel, a John F Kennedy amongst us - leaders who can articulate sense with the power of reason and social imagination?

Here are some questions for us:

  • Do our parliamentarians read philosophy?

  • Can they reason scientifically?

  • Can they think holistically?

  • Can they understand the complexities of arguments?

  • Can they gracefully link one idea to another and understand the deeper meaning of the themes?

  • Can they argue beyond the prison-house of "race and ethnicity" and bring arguments to a different and more sophisticated level?

  • Can they analyse past, present, and future systems of oppression?

  • Can they recognise ethics in decision-making and move beyond partisan politics?

  • Can they articulate what a utopia of a truly multicultural and ethical nation is, based on the power of scientific rationality, transcultural ethical system, and social justice that evolve out of the respect for the human intellect and the freedom to think without being punished for speaking up?

  • Do they read much at all to develop the power of their intellect that will be manifested through their powerful oratory skills?

  • Do they know how to mediate instead of merely aggravate?

  • A hundred years is not too long for us to have our parliament evolve into a respectable and 'world-class' institution. We must begin to look at what concepts and skills we need in order to educate the younger generation with. We also need to explore what politics mean and what species of politicians we must create.

    The first step

    The first step is to recognise the symptoms of a corrupt political system – how much is spent to put a leader into power.

    The higher the office, the more the money is needed, seem to be the political wisdom of the day. Therefore, we now see the total enculturalisation of corruption – from the promotion system in our universities to the presenting of politically-charged 'ang pau' and 'duit hari raya' to children.

    The postmodern system dictates that billions of ringgit is needed to prepare for the next general election. The network of political-economic control is getting more sophisticated and the system of manipulation of human consciousness is getting more glitzy and savvy.

    The wealth of our resource-rich nation is used to maintain political hegemony. The ideological state apparatus is used to shut up citizens who speak up against various forms of injustices.

    Political hegemony translates into the control of the educational institutions, so that we may reproduce the brand of arrogance and ignorance desired.

    Our public universities are being used to shut people up more stylistically and sophisticatedly, using better language of mental domination, using more totalitarian system of educating, utilising authoritarian methods of teaching.

    What the must we do? You and I must decide fast. Our elected representatives have even lost the ability to speak politely in public.

    But essentially – we are all at fault.

    As the Indonesian poet Sutardji Calzoum Bachri would say: "Kalian... pun". (You... as well)

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