Monday, 25 August 2008

Symbolism And Cult Figures

Rox asked, "How does flying the flag upside [down] help? Who's coming to help us?"

I have said it once and I will say it again, no one can help or save us but ourselves. We screwed up and now we need to patch ourselves up again.

We need to be constantly reminded of our predicament. We need to constantly remind those around us that we need change.

And what better reminder than something which is painful?

Our national flag is our greatest symbol of sovereignity, and of pride in ourselves as a nation. But it means NOTHING if we are oppressed in our own land. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is symbolism - a meaning beyond itself.

I actually cherish some of the criticism I receive for flying the flag upside down.

There was once, when people practically spat on the ground and growled, "F*ck Malaysia, may she rot in hell." Those moments really troubled me.

It really troubled me, because there were people out there who were not able to see Malaysia for her culture, her diversity, those smiling faces, and for what it's worth, the shiny happy people.

They only saw the nefarious government and its self-serving politicians. But today, I am chided for what people perceive as "abusing Malaysia" by flying its flag upside down. People feel like they belong in Malaysia, and for that, I have tears of pride and joy in my eyes.

In a few more years, I can expect them to understand the whole concept of symbolism.

Rox continues, "We can only help ourselves but the trouble is we want change at all costs. And I can only look on helplessly from my vantage point and see Malaysians who are so desperate that they are willing to throw themselves to sharks in order to escape from pirates."

Ah, but Rox. You and I are able to identify the sharks. The other Malaysians see them as dolphins. You know why? It's the Malaysian love for cult figures.

The problem with us is that we establish a picture of something or someone and get quite upset when our image of them is distorted or our expectations aren't met. Especially, when someone else points out a discrepancy.

It hit me in Blogger Strike 2 in The People's Parliament, when Helen Ang responded to a particularly asinine blog entry made by Marina Mahathir.

Now before I go on, I would like to point out that Marina does, on occasion write some good stuff. Strange Musings, is one of my favourites - articulate and eloquent.

But as a popular figure in Malaysian society, she should expect that her blog entries be commented upon, regardless of whether they are lauded or criticised.

Helen calls her an 'alpha blogger' and yes - in the minds of Malaysians, because she has made strides in improvement when it comes to AIDS, she is above criticism.

Perhaps what disturbs me about Marina, is that she tries to write from an average joe's point of view, though she’s obviously not. She is privileged, and while many say it is unfair to tar her with the same brush as her father, it cannot be disputed that she has had an advantage because of that.

People either fail to see that, or wilfully refuse to.

It cannot be said that Helen minced her words in her response to Marina's post. But I was more astonished at the number of people who were falling over themselves trying to defend Marina Mahathir when she's perfectly capable of doing so on her own (were she inclined to).

The herd instinct was remarkable. It took one person to start, and the rest jumped onto the bandwagon.

But Marina is not the only cult figure we have. We worship practically everyone who has done anything significant - that's how bad our Malaysia Boleh inferiority complex is. How many of us lap up every last word that RPK utters and declare it as the gospel truth?

Raja Petra Kamarudin has a way with words. I found his agony-aunt article, 'Dear Pete' a hoot! An absolute brainwave, and so apt for our current situation. If you haven't come across it, you must read it!

That being said, could you rationally and wholeheartedly believe the Statutory Declarations he comes up with on a regular basis?

I know he has a knack for throwing around money (and that usually makes informants sing like canaries) but really, he lost credibility with me after the first one.

And then, Anwar.

This, is unchartered territory. I've always regarded him as a cross between Najib Tun Razak and Hishammuddin Hussein Onn. If you know the colourful past of these two, you'd know how racist and dangerous a combo-pack can be.

The problem with people is that they worship the ground the man walks on. They believe he can do no wrong. Today, he is hailed as the the Saviour, the Messiah, God's Own Chosen One.

That, is what is wrong.

I have been giving it plenty of thought. I have watched Barisan Nasional employ every single dirty trick in the book to remain in government. Believe me when I say I marvel at how long they have managed to stay in power.

Honestly speaking, there is no best candidate who can lead us today. We have one who very much wants to be PM though, at all costs. The raw ambition is startling, but IT CAN ONLY HARM US IF WE LET IT.

The problem with us Malaysians, is that we tend to elect representatives and then ignore them for the next five years. That is not how democracy works.

Heck, I remind myself everyday that, "Politicians are a lot like diapers. They should be changed frequently, and for the same reasons."

There is no such thing as a perfect leader. No matter who we elect, they are bound to fail us at some point. At this point, I believe even a shark can lead. One did for 22 years.

But if we keep a close eye on our leaders, and stay to the course, I think we might actually work out a symbiotic relationship, where the PM enjoys relative luxury and power, but still serves the people.

If we can see Anwar Ibrahim for what he is, a fallible mortal with weaknesses, who needs as many kudos as brickbats, we may have a chance.

If we stop making a cult figure out of him, he may actually be able to lead.

I am an idealist, but not to the point of waiting for the perfect timing and for the perfect man (or woman) to come along. Perfection does not exist in our world. And perhaps that was what we Malaysians did for over 50 years.

Tomorrow, the people of Permatang Pauh get to decide the fate of an entire nation.

It could be the beginning of a tumultous journey of discovering and growing. It could also be a period of instability. But it is NOT in the hands of Anwar Ibrahim, no matter what anyone says.

It is in OUR hands.


walla said...

Today we read an assemblyman was denied audience with rapidkl's management to discuss transport woes of his constituents - simply because he was dap. He was asked to go to DBKL. He asked what has cityhall got to do with transport access in his area. Even a short meeting would have been civil courtesy, one would think.

To race and religion, you can add politicization into the brew that divides our people. What happened in the public sector has spilled into the private sector. Soon these three viral infections will spread. Unless change is made.

But as is said, if we wait for the right guy to be in the right place at the right time, Lt John McClane will be out of a job in Die Hard V. Sequels are usually a pale shadow of the original.

If anything is telling, it was the GE12 results. The undercurrents just burst the dams. The message was clear. The rakyat are fedup to the last man, woman and child with the way things have been going on. Yet after the sentence, those who should have repented and mended their ways continued instead doing the same thing, even to the extent of escalating the very mindsets that had led to the problems in the first place.

There isn't a single super-political leader today who can heal, galvanize and thrust this nation forward. That itself is a clear indictment of the way Umno has ruled this country for the past half century. And when you look at Singapore which practises what it preaches, namely its motto of Service, Integrity and Excellence, you wonder how Umno here can continue to plunder and squander away the money of the future, those funds which are supposed to pay for trains and education, industries and services, even good trees for your tarmacs, and able-minded policemen for your security.

So if not Umno and what's left of the skeletal remains of BN, who else? Indeed one should not iconize a politician because that would put undue pressure on him or her to become grandiose later. But if virtues like those mentioned are given clear and firm setting from the very beginning, then the rakyat will be able to balance their adulation for a man with a new patriotism, not so much to a country, but to virtues that we have somehow lost over the decades.

It remains to say that after GE12, a no-man's land divided the landscape. You have a govt trying to be an opposition, and an opposition trying to be a govt. Naturally enough, new hybrids would appear in this no-man's land while those two sumo-wrestlers try to feel each other out. The hybrids are bloggers and their impecunious commentators. Just as one type of rice feeds a thousand types of people, these hybrids will also write and act from null to unity. By their actions, they loosen mindsets, and set ablaze the very emotions that stir the same undercurrents that must again rise to shake this nation to make a real, credible, enduring change. Otherwise fizzle when it should be sizzle.

Let me stake my flag here. We cannot remain doing the same as before. We have lost ground. We have lost ability. We have lost hope. We must not lose our last vestige of sanity and the kickass drive to make Malaysia happen again. Malaysia has lost her dear soul. And only a bunch of intelligent ghostbusters can exorcise the place so that she can come home again.

One doesn't change. The other talks of change. In between, and surrounding, all eyes peeled, ears 'xx'. If the change-agent fouls up like the other guy, throw both of them out with their dirt waters of race, religion and politicization.

Even gearboxes need an overhaul sometimes, what more a nation.

shar101 said...

Wow, what a mouthful from you, C.

Then, opening up the comments, I see Walla walloping away too.

There's been too much white noise on the blogs since GE12 hence I took a break, just content with blog hopping and observing post-election ground sentiments. Kinda like listening rather talking. Less stressful too.

The flag thingy touched raw nerves, Malaysian raw nerves to be precise. That's a good thing coz it shows people do care for this nation.

I'm skeptical about AI too but let me relate a recent encounter I had with the wild man of the legal fraternity aka owner of TPP. He was encouraged with AI's speech in Bentong and was prepared to 'support' him at PP with the hope that change for the better will prevail eventually.

So I asked him whether AI has changed quickly enough to lead and 'H' replied, "Civil society must change its mindset first and we then take our aspirations to the elected politicians".

With Barisan Rakyat, it sounds like a plan to me.

Oh yeah, forget about the old foggies, 2013 will be for the young.

Chin up, eh C.

P.S. Can't do the upside-down flag. Am an airforce brat so waaayy too much loyalty baggage. But I did the next best i.e. got Mob1900 to design a reverse AAB plus possibly a Merdeka Day special edition. Hope it catches on with the JG detractors. Just my 'don't get mad, get even' option. Like I said earlier - less stressful lah.

Rox said...

It might not be so easy to kick Anwar out once he's in power. Remember Anwar had Dr M as mentor? And Dr M was a despot during his reign.

Despite whatever we may think of Pak Lah, most of us are allowed to speak our minds without being sent to Kamunting - we have partial freedom of speech precisely because he's a weak PM.

And THAT is a fact. Would we dare to speak out under Dr M? Do you think Anwar will allow us to be so vocal once he's in power? I'm a skeptic, I think not.

Anwar was ethnocentric in all those years he was DPM and he did nothing to lessen the burden of the non-Malays, and the only time when he wanted change was when he became impatient to be PM, so why should we believe him now? Prison, old age and wisdom?

NO. Through his actions, he's showing he's revengeful, getting old and psychopathic but not wiser. He said it himself, it's now or never to be PM so he just want to be PM at all costs, and desperate non-Malays wants to believe he has changed for them and the country.

HeKTmoc wrote a fantastic and objective piece, "The torment and impatience of Anwar Ibrahim".

If he really gives a damn about you and I, he would have listened and waited, and in the time before GE13 try and earn our respect and trust. (I'm suspicious of people who hurry me into a deal because behind such a deal is always a scammer.)

People want to believe so much that they are willing to be deceived and nobody knows that better than RPK because he's a tragic victim of his own self-aggrandisement and belief that he's the king maker. He has even deceived himself so that he can deceive others better.

Anyway, Anwar has said he's no moral qualms over enticing BN politicians because the country is in deep trouble and it can't wait four years.

Yes the country is going to the dogs because it is stunned by his political ploys, and four years is too long for an impatient man who wants to be PM on Sept 16.

And why may I ask, would Anwar's "imperfections" - closer to Dr M's - more acceptable than Pak Lah's?

Like I said before enticing BN politicians over to PR would mean that the immediate change you Malaysians are so gian after will remain a dream because PR will become BN again, so, I'll REPEAT, what change?

We'll have Anwar as the new "Dr M" and the only change we'll have is its name. And adding to it, we will probably lose our freedom of speech totally.

And I'm still asking the same question, which I've yet to receive a satisfactory answer, how does flying the Malaysian flag upside down help? We all know a flag is a symbol of nationhood so by flying it up side down means that our nation is not "in distress" but kaput.

Like a belly-up tortoise - dead.

I believe we are fucked but I refuse to believe that we are a nation no more because we are more united than ever before by our fight for equality. To me the flag symbolises the country I love and I'm upset by people who declare its death.

Beloved Sheih, bless his heart, is known to be impulsive when he's desperate. And desperateness usually leads us to do unthinking things - like declaring our nation dead ... and turning to Anwar for resurrection.

And then the people who should know better are starting to give in and talk about Anwar's minor defects and ignoring his major one - his inability to keep his words. And to convince themselves even further, they lap up his "head-petting" words "‘Anak Melayu, anak kita, anak Cina anak kita, anak India, pun anak kita. Mengapa harus kita bezakan?” in Bentong and wag their tails like satisfied puppies at his feet.

And some went so far as to reassure each other by saying if he doesn't deliver, the rakyat will remove him like they are going to remove Pak Lah. Really? Do you think Anwar will go so easily - just walk into the horizon without turning it bloody red? Once you put a Dr M "clone" up there, he's for stay, so like what Dr M, ironically, had once said, people deserve the country they get.

PS. And it's beyond my comprehension as to why pro-Anwar supporters are acting as if Anwar is the underdog in PP when we all know he's the overdog there? Who are they trying to fool this time?

PS. And so you have changed you mind and willing to settle for less? I remember you wrote you would not. Yes, settle for less (I've always recommend that to idealists and I remember to you too) but I do hope you haven't compromised your principles out of desperation.

Patricia said...

I like this post, Crankshaft. It echoes a lot of what I feel and then some.

About Marina Mahathir, don't get me started! I blogged about her, and have tried to keep peace since.

Anwar? He's something else, isn't he? So many of us preface his name with 'I don't really trust/like/care for the man...' but.... Have you noticed that?

He is leading us all down a path, that's for sure. But where...?

So many see him as saviour, and I worry about this. For there is nothing that breaks you more than having an idol wrong you.

Me? I've said what I think of politicians, and that's just what he is. Tread carefully, is what I say. Don't pin your hopes on anyone. A dark vision, true. But realistic.

But you are young. And you have the energy to DO something. Be a voice. Change a mind. Affect a change. My generation? May 13-lobotomised.

I think our country is in good hands with young brains like yours, and your friends. Even those you disagree with you.

The one common thread I find in all the blogs and comments I read? We love this place - Malaysia. We call it home. And our hearts are breaking because we see it slipping away from us.

May there be light at the end of this tunnel. May there be hope. May we finally find a reason to hold our heads up high again.

Peace, Crankshaft ;)

Anonymous said...

Like many rational Malaysians, I am concerned about the future of the country. The re- emergence of Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia’s political scene has resulted in a dynamic shift in politics.The fusion of his established charisma, intriguing persona and current events have contributed to this dynamic shift.However, what concerns me is his brand of politics, relying on the message of ‘hope’ for Malaysians. Hope is abstract and is infinite. Anwar is likened to a painter drawing on an empty canvass where the only limitation is his imagination.

‘Hope’ can be anything he wants it to be. Anwar has his ears close to the ground. Through his extensive network, he understands the sentiments on the ground and he uses this as colours for the empty canvass.

But as a rational Malaysian, the concern is that his painting of Malaysia’s future is based on what will get him in power and not on substantive policy on a sustainable basis. Does he really believe in what he is saying? Can we believe what he is saying? Can Anwar change Malaysia?

Many think he is the leader that will bring forth the hope and aspirations of all Malaysians. I think not. If we look at Anwar’s track record as a leader, his time in Umno was tainted with claims of cronyism and corruption. He was known to be a man in a hurry, ousting Umno stalwart Ghafar Baba mercilessly.

Maybe some would argue that his time in confinement has given him a different perspective of life. Somehow, his few years away warrants his ‘knighthood’ as South East Asia’s Nelson Mandela.

Because of his ’suffering’, he now has the moral authority to be the messenger of hope for Malaysian politics. However, I would argue that the best proxy to judge his current leadership post-Umno is his management of his party PKR today.

The party, reflects the leader. After March 8 swept the nation, Anwar’s PKR has fell short of voter’s expectations. The Selangor government fiasco(s), the recent Perak ‘sex and money’ scandal all indicate that the message of hope somehow got lost in translation.
Zulkifli Nordin’s recent actions prove that there is trouble brewing in the multiracial party. What is Azmin Ali stand? Saifuddin Nasution’s? Even worse, Anwar Ibrahim’s?

The differences runs deep in PKR and it indicates that there is no strong strand of belief that is holding them together.

Another clear indication of Anwar’s true brand of leadership is the behaviour of Anwar’s hardcore supporters. Reports of gangsterism involving local and international media, reports of disruptive behaviour towards women, all this reflects on the real leadership stand of Anwar Ibrahim.

As rational Malaysians, we must judge Anwar on real and tangible events and not merely as the harbinger of hope. Not all of us are rats of Hamelin that will follow his mesmerising tune into our graves.

The question that rational Malaysians must ask therefore is, will the real Anwar Ibrahim, please stand up? Decide once and for all is your motto ‘A New Dawn For Malaysia’ or ‘Lawan Tetap Lawan’?

Poetic Injustice

Crankster said...

Walla - you have a point. BN has brought its own downfall, they piss the hell out of any self-respecting citizen.

Shar - I figured. Your blog hasn't been touched in ages. But you've spread some really good ideas like the remedy for roadblocks: put up your bonnet, turn off your engine, and make friends with the joe next to you. I thought that was ace.

Rox, you bring up some really good points. Too little time today to whip up a response, but will get to it soon. I took the upside down flag down before noon, lest I be seen as making a distress call to Anwar Ibrahim.

I've been catching up with news on the ground. Anwar is certainly no underdog in Permatang Pauh, that's for sure.

Pat - I try. I analyse. Some things I still haven't figured out yet, but I don't reckon it all comes in one go. My parents are still under the May 13 shadow, getting them to vote for Opposition last elections was a herculean feat.

I too hope there is light at the end of this tunnel.

Poetic Injustice, also some very good points about AI's personality which must be addressed. But it's too long, I will post in a blog entry.

GobloKing said...

clap clap cranky!

You said what I too think. Just that when I thought it - all by me lonesome self (remember I am on an island where there ain't enough msians here to fill my bathtub? - I went "am I freakin' mad with these thots or are there others out there like me?"

KABOOMM!! There you are!

And on that note I pray that the young of Malaysia - will be just like ALL of you here - & continue to have critical thinking in our "civil" society.