Never a dull day in the nation's political arena
Saturday, 20 September 2008 08:01am
©New Straits Times (Used by permission)by Johan JaaffarI FIND solace in the wise words of great men and women when things get unsettling "out there". Call it my salvation. Or retreat. I'd rather bury myself in the world of letters than engage in some furious debate with friends and strangers who claim to be political analysts, soothsayers and cynics, all in one. There are far too many experts on all things politics in the country. Everyone has two professions now -- political analyst and his or her own job.
Don't get me wrong. I find it intriguing observing the dramas unfolding on the political front. There is never a dull day in the nation's politics. Perhaps, if I am somewhere in Timbuktu reading about the goings-on, I will imagine Malaysia to be as tantalising as Zimbabwe or Thailand, probably even more. But that is not the case. We are certainly not Pakistan or Nepal. Democracy is very much alive and kicking in this country. It is just that we are expecting too much from democracy that we are willing to cut each other's throats in the name of power, fame and legacy, though not necessarily in that order.Shakespeare's tragedies and histories pale in comparison. Perhaps many of us have become political animals or merely instruments of politics. Everyone, even bit players, want a fair share in the making of the comedy of errors. Or, perhaps we are expecting too much from any one man, just like the Romans in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar who fell dangerously under "one man's awe". No one is nobler than the other in politics. Remember what a character said about the Romans in the play: "You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!" Some of us simply fit the description.J.K. Galbraith has this to say about politics: "It is not the art of the possible, it consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable". Too harsh an assessment maybe. But it sounds just about right. Little wonder Charles de Gaulle once said "politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians". Perhaps he was right, too. Politics, someone else intoned, is the food of sense exposed to the hunger of folly.Where do we go from here? Go on bickering in the name of power? Or engage in the power-grabbing drama that will create enough turmoil to lead us to instability and anarchy? Or let it play it out, the best man wins, might is right, allowing the one who is the noisiest to represent the truth? Or to label the one who is on the defensive as weak and vulnerable?
Do we have to go through another tumultuous time that will bleed us emotionally and strain us physically? Is there such a thing as a zero-sum game in politics? Could the phrase "to be or not to be, that is the question" be applicable in determining our moral dilemma? Should we forget about respect and decorum? In Coriolanus, a character speaks about nature teaching beasts to know their friends. In politics, friends are as elusive as honour. After all, there are no permanent friends nor permanent enemies in politics.Perhaps Henry Kissinger was right. Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac for some people. It is an elixir of life for others. Some simply die of indigestion for too much power rested on them. Power is nothing when underutilised and corrupts when in excessive quantity. Competence without authority is as powerless as authority without competence, someone said.There are those who have power but use little of it and there are those who live on the illusion that the little power they have can change the world. Others simply find ecstasy fiddling with the notion of power. Still others are sadists enjoying the spectacle of people suffering as he or she pursues his or her dream of political immortality.Sadly, there are those who are willing to play Russian roulette with the destiny of the nation. Nothing is sacred. Everything is possible. After all, politics is the systematic organisation of hatred, as Henry Adams once said. Many among us have perfected the art of hating others for their differences in opinion. Little wonder we are a nation divided now. The animosity heightens. And we are being demarcated by our political orientations.What about "Us" The People? We voted for them. We put them where they are. They are supposed to represent our interest. And our hopes. They are there to speak on our behalf, not as accidental politicians but as our rightful representatives. What about our aspirations? Our future? Our destiny? Does anyone care about us any more? What about the plight of the nation's poor? The disparity of income among us? What about our people drifting apart? And our failure to integrate like we used to? Why is racial politics being played to the hilt?Where are "We", the people viewed from the corridors of power or the powers-to-be? Are we merely numbers and statistics? Are we relevant only when they court us to vote for them once every five years? And later, we become totally irrelevant in their pursuit of more power and glory? Or are we merely props in their political plays?Let's get real. The business of politics is one thing, the business of providing the best for our people is another. We need to move on to a different plain, to position ourselves in the ever-changing dynamics of today's world.We are a nation that has massive potentials. Yet there have been too many distractions that derail our plans for the betterment of our people. Many among us simply want to go on with our business of feeding our children and ensuring a prosperous tomorrow for them.You politicians may have better ideas. Sort it out among yourselves first. We want results, not bickering and name-calling. You may want to jump ship or hop to a new pasture or cling desperately to power. Please do not do it at our expense. We have had enough of that already.We just want to carry on with our lives for now. Is that too much to ask?