No riots, so what’s next?

[Aliran published an edited version]

Back in the 1860’s, Massimo d’Azeglio said at the unification of Italy, “L’Italia รจ fatta. Restano da fare gli italiani” (“We have made Italy; now we have to make Italians”).

How shall we make Malaysians?

When BN’s defeat was finally cemented, I inquired, “Any riots?” The answer was, “Not yet!” Prophets simply need their prophecy to be realised, no matter how unrealistic it is for the prophecy to come true. Many among us simply needed riots to happen.

Nobody apologised for stocking up, for dividing the nation, for inciting suspicion. That is after all those noisy demands for accountability. Ugly Malaysians only think for himself or herself, nothing beyond. After securing victory they are not satisfied still, they need to paint fellow rakyat evil.

Such are our narrow Malaysian hearts and narrow Malaysian minds. The very act of stocking up e.g. canned food hurts the larger whole. Setting our Gross Domestic Suspicion skyrocketting, such activities and beliefs divide the nation. No, it is neither harmless nor benign. Ours is far from a civilized society. We are ridding ourselves of good will.

Imagine how sick our society is, when so many among us have that special need for riots to happen. No, don’t blame it on history. Most of the noisiest clamouring for change and insisting that there would be riots never witnessed any May 13th bloodshed. The prophecy on riots is of their own invention.

It is really time that we pick up some courage for solidarity.

The change as defined by the loudest

Now that Najib is ousted, we developed the newfound indulgence of watching every twist and every turn of the unfolding drama — of travel bans and of further domino effects.
That is the change as defined by the loudest. Logically speaking — we can just take this as a student’s exercise on logical and critical thinking — whatever the outcome of the election we would have a thundering change anyway:

  • if Pakatan won, BN would lose for the first time in Malaysian history.
  • if BN won, Mahathir would fail to plant the prime minister for the first time.
  • if neither won the majority, we would have a coalition government for the first time in Malaysian history.

As history is minted, Mahathir planted Badawi, planted Najib, planted himself — he is now possibly planting Anwar and Mukhriz too. He is proven to be able to plant from any angle and any direction he likes, whether from BN or from the opposition. Hebat! It’s been Mahathirism since 1981, till what looks like eternity.

Mahathir’s name becomes synonymous with perdana menteri. Instantly switched (back) to statesman mode, he is admirably collected and focused. He stopped talking in that cheap rocket style of Kit Siang, Guan Eng and Jagdeep.

Sometimes we love Mahathir less, other times we hate him less. Love him, hate him, or anywhere in between, most of us would admit that he is a capable and respectable statesman. We have a man of action and effect.

Make no mistake: he is the leader. Demanding consensus in the formation of the cabinet is terribly naive. This is the space for leadership. No space for consensus. Don’t use Mahathir just to win the election and then expect a roundtable premiership. Don’t expect to have a shadow PM alongside the PM either — whatever the gentleman agreement, that is not healthy.

Do Malaysians mind?

There will always be something iron about Mahathir. (Or did we expect otherwise?) He openly announced that he prevented Najib and Rosmah from leaving the country. Our self-righteous cheerleaders who have been the loudest now keep quiet. Nobody asks whether Mahathir was exercising executive power. Hardly anyone echoes Andy Yong and Suhakam:

It isn’t just the travel ban, Najib is effectively under house arrest. Many Malaysians find these fitting and justified, “Serve him right. Don’t forget Altantuya and Teoh Beng Hock.” The list goes on.

Saddism and the lack of objectivity are typically Malaysian. We can sign our names there.
Why the house arrest if we are confident in our border control (that he won’t be able to sneak out) and our search team (that he won’t be able to hide)?

Just charge him in court.

After all that clamour for justice and righteousness, those who have been the loudest really do not care about integrity and principles. The loudest really don’t mind whether the travel bans and house arrest are constitutional. The loudest is the middle class looking for higher private profits and personal gains — the election has been all about moneyWan Emdeebee and GST.

Mahathir seems to backtrack on the repeal of the fake-news laws. Again, do people mind? Why would they, if they even aspire for Malaysia to become like Singapore! Money matters most. Money overides everything. Money will keep the loudest quiet.

In that noisy clamour for change, we sacrificed our best reps from PSM. They are the ones rolling up their sleeves and getting down to dirty work, rather than posing for phototaking and suing every Tom, Dick and Harry. They remain steadfast in service even as they were wiped out in the election. How many Malaysians acknowledge that sacrifice? Is anyone looking back at all? Do people care about building a more balanced nation?

It is really time that we pick up some courage for solidarity.

These people are so racist

Malaysian tend to reciprocally see racism in each other. Now let us be more specific: what do we mean when we claim not to be racist like ‘these people’?

For the self-righteous who have been the loudest, affirmative actions conferring special rights other than that by merit are racist. Don’t be surprised if they refuse to rent their houses to tenants of a different skin — for them this has nothing to do with racism.

I floated the idea of handouts more powerful than we imagine. The spontaneous reflex of a friend was, “The Malays have been getting far more.” She lamented how Indians and Chinese added together can never beat “their number” and “their breeding rate”.

That brought me back to the Malaysian reality. From a local standpoint, such views can be entirely natural and understandable. Outside the box, myself having lived abroad over a decade, such concerns can be jaw-dropping.

Goodness, how kolot! What era is this? Do people actually worry about a competing race out-breeding us? Come on, such racism isn’t played up by Najib. No Najib to blame here. It is just intrinsically Malaysian, started long before Najib came into the radar.

The next awakening was Guan Eng being named to be the finance minister. My first reaction was oh dear he is going to drive us into the worst capitalism, as he did in Penang. My friends’ reaction was oh wow we are going to have a Chinese finance minister!

Malaysians are intrinsically racist. At some point I guess we probably need that breakthrough of non-Malay ministers or even prime minister. At some point too, Malaysians need to learn to be colour-blind a bit. At least, do not let colours blind us.

We are blinded if we see only Guan Eng’s skin but not see his dangerous capitalism, his indulgence for the reporters’ camera and his obsession for suing people — what energy and time are left for service to the people? (Our chief statesman of the sharpest focus never sued anyone as PM.)

Of all the things, handbags!

We have handbags in focus:

How silly and how sad. Of all the things, handbags!

Be careful, though, for we have many mini Rosmahs in our midst. Mini Rosmahs within their own capacity — glamorous and materialistic.

Here is how an RM2k watch became a Malaysian standard: Guan Eng’s son denies his watch costs RM350,000

He even added, “How I wish I can have that kind of watch.” By that he sets a new norm and an okay aspiration — particularly for the many followers his father gathers. A watch, after all, is completely optional at this age of smartphones. I last wore a watch in 2005, in Naples, when a student from mainland China was travelling home from a summer school. His watch was stolen, he got panic, so I removed mine from my wrist and passed it to him.

So what are people screaming about over the ‘unmanageable’ high cost of living? Let us get down to some details:

  • Housing costs: this is indeed a challenge, which is due to bad capitalism. People buy homes not to live in but to bet (speculate) on price appreciation. Once this is put under control, much of the problem will disappear.
  • Housing loans: once the housing problem is solved, much of household debts will reduce to almost zero. As suggested in earlier articles, housing solutions should not incur more debts — the way to achieve this is by introducing housing cooperatives.
  • Petrol and toll costs: governments elsewhere raise these to save the environment. If we find these unmanageable, that means we are overusing private cars.
  • Household debts other than housing loans: much of these are optional, sometimes boil down to greed e.g. the RM2k watch and expensive furniture which can all be bought by borrowing — sometimes interest-free. People spend to pamper themselves and to show off without having the money at all.
  • Food: is the cost of living really that bad? Roti canai was 40 sen each in 1995. 23 years later, it is now RM1. That’s an increase of 4% per year; not unreasonable if we consider annual inflation rates. The problem is probably not roti canai, but that habit of wanting to be seen cool e.g. with Starbucks coffee in one’s hand.
  • holidays abroad: this has really been overdone, so much for glamour and Facebooking. If half of those sejours abroad had made Malaysians better persons of greater depth and breadth, the whole clamour for change wouldn’t have been the way it was — passive sing-along culminating in that what-to-do resignation of voting for the ‘lesser of two evils’.

Insya Allah we shall have less to blame the government for, and we shall come face to face with the question echoing Massimo d’Azeglio: now we have to make Malaysians.

The only way to a balanced and happy nation is to embrace solidarity and diversity, to think less of self, glamour and private gains.

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