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Friday, July 01, 2005

24] Abandon adolescent politics

Abandon adolescent politics
Azly Rahman
Jun 27, 05 3:48pm


Does our nation need psychological and spiritual counselling? Are we experiencing excruciating pains of growing up in our world of ‘arrested modernisation’ in which the democratic traditions are retarded by the advancement of politics of greed?

We seem to be at war with ourselves, fighting shadows of our own creation – shadows whose producers lie in the past and in the present. Our politics and the cross-cultural relationship we forge are like the plight of adolescents forced to grow up painfully.

We have so much to learn from the self, so many levels of fear and mistrust to rise above from, and so many moments of self-reflection to make in order to evolve from child-like politics to the age of illumination, enlightenment and wisdom.

"Stations of our soul"

We have a long way to go for our nation to reach the level of ‘inter-individual’, self in the evolutionary scheme of things; a level in which Harvard psychologist Robert Kegan would put it, whereby we no longer look at each other using the lens of race, class, colour and creed. In the language of Sufism, we are yet to evolve from the lowest station of the soul in which anger and arrogance rules, onto the level of dialogue and understanding until we reach the stage of realising that we are a sea of Humanity yearning to be free from the shackles of domination we ourselves construct out of the economic condition we live in - a condition that is built upon materialism rooted in history.

In the language of Taoism, we are moving further and further away from Nature, and in the language of Hinduism, we are meeting the needs of dharma less and less. We now honour one another based on status and symbols. Our cultural system is now operating based upon who gets to control the most strategic resources; who owns the material and cultural capital. It is the utilitarianism of John Stuart Mill (the ends justify the means) that is forming the basis of our political-economic psyche.

Our politics continues to cement the ideology based on the structure of inter-locking directorate-ships and the political-economy of transnational capitalism that feeds the elites with wealth and weapons to guard territories and to build personal empires and new Malaysian dynasties.

"National puberty"

We are at the puberty stage - one that is a historical consequence of neo-colonialism. Because we do not understand the material basis of our politics, we allow the politics of race and religion to rear its ugly head. Even worse, because we are so blinded by the base and superstructural reality of our existence entire, we have evolved from looking at things from the lens of race and ethnicity to the projecting our anger based on religious fear and sentimentality.

We are taking the opiates produced by our own misunderstanding of what religion should constitute. We cannot tell, as Jean Jacques Rousseau might say, the difference between ‘religion of the State’ and ‘the religion of the Man’, in which the former becomes a powerful tool of domination.

The greatest enemy of knowledge, said Socrates, is ignorance. It is dangerous to leave politics merely to politicians and political economy to university professors, said a modern political theorist. We are at the puberty stage of communalism and religious understanding, with the different degrees of pain we are trying to overcome as a nation attempting to define itself as independent.

We might be growing up as ‘at-risk youths’ if, as a nation we do not go for some kind of a ‘peak performance psychological counseling’.

We cannot remain educated and call ourselves professionals, or even university graduates if our hearts and minds are not touched and transformed by the sensitivity of race relations and religious tolerance. In fact, we cannot even call ourselves good Muslims or Christians or Catholics, Hindus or Jews or Buddhists or Taoists or Jains or Sikhs, if hatred is what we propagate.

We cannot become good educators if our lives are about teaching others to fear others and if our lives as teachers are about making sure the other races fail as an individual and as a population. Education is a gentle profession that ought to give us a sense of what diversity or tolerance means, not to be graduated into more sophisticated paradigm of intolerance and suspicions. Our nation was borne out of the womb of colonialism and still inheriting the ills of neo-colonialism, and moving onto this difficult period of coming to terms with the ‘Balkanisation of Malaysian politics in the Age of Post-Hegemony created by the Mahathir (Mohamad) administration’.

We are experiencing the phenomena of the fall of the Berlin Wall right in our backyard. We must be prepared for its ramifications. We must read the graffiti on those falling walls! The handing over of Independence, on a silver platter, after a convenient post-colonialist arrangement of power relations, in the form of the formation of the National Alliance, prepared a transcultural flow of a somewhat ‘flawless’ political design that exacerbates and alleviates, in a nationalistic form, the divide and rule political economy.

The practice of keeping political leaders the longest in power and installing the variegated and systems of control, from the traditionalism of cultural politics to computer-mediated systems of controlling human beings, has its price. This practice has cost us the growing up pains we are experiencing - from the way we build our highways to the way we architecture the mind of our children and we broadcast live the ingredients of our state propaganda.

"Epochs of mind control"

We have lived in epochs of mind control - from the mythically-useful idea of daulat (sovereignty) in the clever invention called the divine rights of kings to the mantra of cybernetic technology, installed and institutionalised through the smart partnership with international profiteers skilled in the design of the post-modern slavery system.

If one analyses the system of international labour in Malaysia since we were granted independence, one may conclude a similar pattern of modern slavery on a global scale - international capitalist collaborate with the local elites in transforming the natives and imported natives into indentured servants.

We continue to switch masters, in accordance with the flow of ‘paxes’ - Pax Brittanica, Pax Americana, to Pax Nipponica, to Pax Corporate-Crony Malaysiana.

We are not yet independent. Our leaders are now the neo-colonialists treating us like little brown brothers. The treatment extends itself even in our public universities. The universities need total overhaul - from the ministry of higher education to the way we educate our young intellectuals to nurture higher and higher thinking skills.

Without a thinking citizenry - one that can skillfully apply creativity, critical thinking and ethics in their daily lives, we will have a population of cattle grazing in the pastures of Information Technology harvesting fields, programmed by the local elites and the International Advisory Panel we set to make global exploitation easier and more classy. We become cybernetic beings and selves whose lives are digitized and produced and reproduced as templates. We are made to become ‘Agent Smiths’ of the movie The Matrix.

The nature of our oppositional politics, as I see it, is navigating us towards another form of hegemony; one that might be even more dangerous that what is currently prevailing in its most corrupt practice. It is taking shape in the form of ‘illiberalism’ grounded in the politics of vengeance, and alliance based on the insatiable urge to impose some form of theocratic rule that is scaring those of us who are strong believers of radical and social multi-culturalism.

Even our morality is corrupted. "Everything is good in the hands of the Author of Things, everything degenerates in the hands of Man," said the French Enlightenment thinker Jean Jacques Rousseau.

We must also read critically into the coalition of opposition we are seeing taking control. We must learn to critically read it as a text and next, like the mythical poet Vyasa, write our own history. If the newer opposition is going to be based on the leadership of one that is still in love with the caviar and the Cadillac given by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), we have got a lot of problem as a nation still in puberty and plagued by psychological issues.

If our oppositional politics consists of an unlikely collaboration between the ideological cronies and crooners of the World Bank and the IMF and the stubborn and shallow promoters of a theocratic state, we have got a bigger problem.

We are charting our future ruins based on the politics of desperados inspired by a decadent ideology no longer in synchrony with the real issue of the day - the emergence of cultural classes of people, silently reproduced by the post-industrial and hyper-modernising state. It is as if, judging from the varied nature of arguments and counter-arguments we pose in regard to how we treat our children is schools, academicians in universities, and youth in camps, as a nation, we are living a life as teenagers bordering into gang wars over material and territorial disputes, peddling democracy in the process.

"Moments of reflection"

We need, as a nation, deep moments of reflection before outside forces - that love to profitably further divide and rule - break us into smaller and smaller pieces into enclaves and post-industrial tribes that will endanger each other and next, destroy each other in decades to come. In our economic practices lie the seed of destruction.

We are heading towards our downfall. Have we not been seeing this all around us in the way we design our pattern of consumption? Is not conspicuous consumption now the norm in our daily lives. Are we not seeing the grand showcase of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer? We may become Europe and its ugly nationalism at the brink of the two world wars.

We may see the Balkanisation of Malaysia if we do not urgently address the needs of the multiple voices yearning to be free from delusional politics based on the jealous guarding of power so that more power can bring more money to the least number of people.

We must decolonise ourselves. We may begin with ourselves and next, transform our social and intellectual communities.

"Know thyself, know thy enemies, one hundred battles one hundred victories", said Sun Tzu.

The battles are within ourselves. We must find ways to alleviate our growing up pains.

Let us do it together.

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