NOVEMBER 3 ― I recently attended a bipartisan forum that posed the question: “Can the [sic] millennials save Malaysia?”
Aside from the overly ambitious premise of the discussion (millennials can’t even save themselves, as my 23-year-old brother put it), it was disappointing to see representatives from Umno Youth and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s (PPBM) Youth wing, Armada, defending the continuance of race politics.
Umno Youth exco Rahman Hussin said race-based parties like his were a result of supply and demand, while Armada chief Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman said the independence of institutions in Malaysia needed to be fixed first and pointed out that non-Bumiputeras were allowed to be associate members in PPBM.
Politicians from both Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH) generally favour big governments and centralised decision-making. Yet, when it comes to eradicating race politics, they suddenly assume the backseat role and claim that they are helpless to the majority that allegedly still want it.
This is 2017. Race politics has no place here.
While other countries elect young people as their heads of state, like New Zealand’s 37-year-old prime minister Jacinda Ardern and Austria’s possible new chancellor, 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz (blue-eyed fascist that he is), both mainstream Malaysian coalitions are led by a 64-year-old and a 92-year-old.
If former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is not the new prime minister in a PH administration, power couple Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is 64 while Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (still in jail) is 70. DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang, who repeatedly says he does not want to be prime minister, is 76.
Malaysia’s current political leaders were all born before the country became independent. They grew up during the times when non-Malays received citizenship in exchange for Malays being accorded a “special position.” They went through the 1969 race riots. The only system of governance they knew was a race-based one.
Old people can’t change their ways. Neither BN nor PH want to move with the times.
So it is doubly disappointing to see some millennials upholding race-based parties and racist policies that have defined Malaysia since the nation was born.
“Change” is not just about changing the federal government. The deeper, fundamental change that some of us millennials want for a start is a race-blind government, where public officials are not elected based on the colour of their skin, and where political parties do not champion the interests of a specific race. We don’t want to be treated as “special” by any particular political party; we just want to be treated equally.
It is not enough to use corruption as a campaign issue. Even Petaling Jaya City Councillor Lim Yi Wei from the DAP admitted at the forum that the recent anti-kleptocracy rally organised by PH had failed to attract the youth.
Global corruption scandals may disgust us, but we are preoccupied with more immediate issues like our inability to buy a decent house, to go on an occasional holiday, or to live a debt-free life. While our parents could afford to get married in their early 20s and have three or more children, we millennials are forced to postpone marriage.
I personally might not even have any children at all because I don’t think I can fund my child’s education (starting from primary school) if I want to have a decent amount of retirement savings, and also afford an annual overseas holiday trip in Asia.
Contrary to the popular belief that millennials just want everything handed to them on a silver platter, it is we who have to work twice as hard as our parents just to be able to buy a nice meal, a car, or a house. My parents bought a double-storey house in their mid-thirties. We millennials would be lucky if we can buy even a tiny studio apartment.
While our parents could send us to public school and be assured of a decent education, it was their generation that screwed up the education system, forcing us to look at private school for our children (if we have any).
And it was the older generation that created a racist system of governance and continue to prop it up today. Racial policies were not necessary then or now.
We millennials may not necessarily want to work typical nine-to-five jobs anymore because we don’t see the point in slaving away at some big corporation, just to try to buy a house and get tied to a 30-year loan that earns banks immoral profits.
It was the older generation that caused the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and the 2008 subprime crisis. The rise of bitcoin may kill banks that hold such immense power over the economy and return financial power to our hands, away from governments and greedy monetary institutions.
If we millennials want to wrest back control of our lives, the last thing we should do is to prop up old people who cling to stubbornly outdated ideas.
We need to remove these people from public life instead of giving them more decision-making powers, and decide for ourselves how to craft the Malaysia we want.
The youth are the present and the future. The old are the past.
This is the personal opinion of the columnist.