May 30 — “Government should be a place where people can come together, and no one gets left behind. No one gets left behind. An instrument of good.” (Aaron Sorkin, The West Wing)
Specifics kill rationale in Malaysia. Specifics as in who benefits and who loses out.
Once the groups to lose and win are announced, the arguments become irrelevant as evidenced by recent developments in the country.
So, let’s skip Malaysian specifics. Dangle in the general about what is fair, with little context.
Fair seems to be an ideal all Malaysians lay claim to. It appears being unfair is undesirable.
However, the evaluation of what is fair frequently manifests in how the appraiser is treated rather than how he treats others.
The dominance of self-interest in adjudication surely dilutes these claims’ fortitude, but spuriously, it does not.
In a perverse twist in the tale, the personal benefits accrued by the demanding faction’s champions don’t raise alarm bells.
Rather victimhood is celebrated. Everyone queues up to play the victim. They often are spiteful as they feel their pain or inherited memory of pain allows them this viciousness.
It is important to point out at this juncture, that whether groups are fairly or unfairly treated, the ability to retain our humanity remains with us.
Claimants equate fair with justifications, individual reasons presented. It’s not. Almost everything has justification, including genocide and oppression.
A skilled orator will find logical constructs to support the worst action. Which explains how fascists repackaged themselves as symbols of class oppression so quickly after the devastations of the previous century’s world war.
Thoughts and actions are not fair simply because they were permitted for a prolonged period. Or if people from another time agreed to demeaning terms.
Historical continuity is not proof, documenting the past is not necessarily agreeing to the past.
When enough justifications are gathered, its attributable act is justifiable. But there are various justifiable positions.
As much as China might line up encyclopaedic reasons to subjugate the Uighurs in order to preserve a superior and longstanding Han race, others vehemently disagree.
When two justifiable positions are diametrically opposed, how to deliberate? Both can’t be sanctioned.
Fair often requires the heavy choice to pick from justifiable positions. Justifiable positions with volumes of justifications can be rejected.
Fair is about difficult decisions, with full cognisance from those deciding. To accept, adjudication invites scorn. To know, and to live with the fact the decision was a conscionable rejection of valid justifications.
The public accesses the outcome but regularly does not compare the choices taken and that which was not, the path which remains unmeasured in an alternate reality.
Adjudicators live with the burden of what they failed to choose and the failures of their choices.
Their saving grace is how much they put into the process to determine what is fair.
Let’s assume these leaders arrive at what is fair, thereafter, would they act on it?
The wise mind may not be a brave mind.
This year-old government is beset on all sides by indecision. It constantly avoids soul-searches and instead formulates compromises akin to the coalition it replaced.
It fears to do the right thing.
Often the excuse is practicalities. Demographical practicalities, regional practicalities, bureaucratic practicalities, time practicalities or election practicalities.
Failing which, they move to pragmatism or realpolitik. Let’s be pragmatic about the religious ramifications or racial composition of the various parties in government.
This is why I cringed during the election campaign when Rafidah Aziz kept harping on the Najib Razak years as a blip, and how the return of Mahathir treads Malaysia back to his earlier glory days. She said, “Bring back the old general manager.”
This think is exactly why it has not been plain sailing. The choppy waters are brought by the conviction the square peg of almost one-party rule in the 80s and 90s can fit the round hole of a connected and demanding present.
This government has to revolutionise the way Malaysians think about themselves as a people, as a race, as a group with a shared future. It must reject much of the past openly, not just the bits involving the previous prime minister, and embrace a fair society.
Plenty will disagree, but the vast majority of that are those who’d oppose this government on anything mildly departed from the way it was and should always be, in their convoluted minds.
There is this misguided notion government has a bag of goodies, and its sole prerogative is to decide who gets what share from the bag.
Government surely does that, but for fledgling nations long before its people become nonchalant about freedoms and values, it does something more, it inspires its people.
Not to what resources they can garner, but to help them to possess the nation’s ideals. This is what the leaders can do which the previous administration can’t fathom, to share their idealism.
Fairness is not an abstraction, it’s the lifeblood of a country.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.