Chillax Malaysia: This is the message we want to hear

AUGUST 15 — Two rules for compassionate leaders to live by; one, condemn all violence regardless of source, purpose or perpetrator, and second, never threaten violence.

This indeed applies to the death on the highway, and death of our tolerance and objectivity in education policies. About a leadership frail and absent, incapable of shooing violence away from our hearts and our hands.

Further, those who believe they must remind other people they are tempting retaliatory violence from them, in order to prevent violence, are the most sinister of them all. They indeed pass a backhanded compliment to the very thing they presumably oppose, hate.

Hate is the precursor of violence, and in hate’s lair there is no compassion.

In this Merdeka season, there are nefarious characters upping the ante under the guise of defending rights to raise temperatures in order to achieve their personal political goals.

They have no time for complexities or balance in their argumentation or position, they only have naked ambition. They play to the gallery, every move to enchant the masses and win their votes.

Aaron Sorkin phrased it laconically, how “making you afraid of it, and telling you who to blame for it,” is the way to win elections — in the movie, The American President

It might as well be the story of most Malaysian general elections, until the last one.

For those who thought we have chosen to leave the hate behind, the constant public bickering which revolves around race — supremacy, interest, protection and feelings — has dragged the country right back into the storm. I’m sorry for you.

The blame game is the easiest game to get into, and there are too many too eager for it.

Responsibility

I’m upset with this government’s cowardice.

It’s not complicit but it seems not to be able to oppose the hate proliferating in its midst.

The police try to keep a lid on the matter, by downplaying other factors to the incident and focussing on the road rage which caused a death near Bandar Baru Bangi.

“Other factors” is why no senior government leader has spoken about it. It’s a euphemism for race.

One Chinese, and one Malay. The latter deceased and the former in a lock-up pending a trial.

How to comment when there is a risk of political fallout?  Our politicians are playing politics when people expect only compassion. The fear of offending their perceived vote base keeps them cautious, and safe, even when life is forfeited. Any overture risks attacks for overreaching or picking sides.

I’ve always struggled to find the words to convey my condolences when I attend funerals, because nothing I say can reduce the family’s loss. Nothing. Yet, it’s my presence which the family appreciates.

As put at the start, no one expects any leader to make sense or explain the situation, but they can condemn the violence. But no one has.

Appropriate

I’ve already articulated about the khat/Jawi in classroom policy.

It’s the unchecked agitation brought by the government upon itself which requires further response. Umno, PAS, MCA and right-wing Chinese/Malay fans were always going to milk the toxic pollutants from it, but the government has unravelled under its weight.

The education minister should have stayed front and centre of the issue. The policy shift predated him, but he backs the ministry’s technocrats and their ideas, so he must stand or fall by his decision.

But Maszlee Malik is not that man. He’s just a motivational speaker with a bag of clichés and Star Wars memorabilia, who won a seat by chance for a party in power but with too few MPs, forced to offer the best from the worst to become ministers.

He hides when it gets too adult.

Instead, the prime minister is now in the middle of it, with the finance minister defending the Chinese educationists — way past it being polite.

Really, if there was a competition on who is more pig-headed — mind the pun — between Malay right-wingers and the Chinese educationists, it would go into extra, extra time without a winner. It’s nutcase versus fruitcake.

The reason why the prime minister must stay above the fray is in order for him to have the prerogative to ask his administration to cease the altercation and state a reconciliatory message to quieten things down.

He can eat his cake and have it too, in the old days, but it is Malaysia Baharu today. Everything is fair game, including the prime minister if he misspeaks.

How then?

Mahathir Mohamad is too invested in it to have manoeuvre room to back down, and Lim Guan Eng is in a spot close to the deep blue sea. DAP has built itself on the notion no one cares about the Chinese more than them, nobody, and Chinese education is the pillar of that belief.

This is not about calligraphy or 10-year-olds anymore. It’s about power and who yields more of it. A playground battle on steroids.

If this is not reined in, the matter will escalate to worse threats than closing down Dong Zong.

Rewind

The fortnight’s events confirm race politics of both sides of the divide drives wedges in our harmony.

Mahathir concurs in his book, The Malaysian System of Government (1995), on how by accepting our inner racist tendencies Malaysians are best able to arrive at just arrangements because we fight from our race corners. To be aware of our race first, nation second works in Malaysia’s interest, he says.

Well, here we are, enough people fighting their race interests above national interest, and at times cloaking their interests as national interests. All sides.

The road tragedy over the weekend was soaked with hate and brought shameful violence.

It’s a microcosm of our national predicament. If simple slights can’t be delicately handled and facilitated, not to outcomes — that’s way off — but to processes where representation, voices and arbitration are present, then things inflame.  

Someone has to put this back in the jar. Someone compassionate exhibiting courage.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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