Monday, January 09, 2006

53] Year of an Intelligent Parliament

Azly Rahman

Our culture of parliamentary debate has the great potential to evolve from a ‘circus’ and a Balinese cock-fighting arena to a problem-solving forum, if and when we begin to elect more intelligent, rational, and meaningfully-articulate politicians to represent our constituencies.

Our society is becoming more intelligent and our imitation of models of development has become more sophisticated, but some of our parliamentarians need to learn how to speak in public and how to talk sense based on a data-driven style of argumentation.

Must we continue to live with news reports concerning parliamentary debates that have representatives call each other “bodoh”, “berok”, “baboon”, “binatang” and other less than human designation, instead of calling upon facts and scientific reasoning to back up national issues that need to be resolved?

Must we tolerate a culture of shouting and yelling and cajoling in sessions that are supposed to be used to deliberate and mediate our most urgent and serious issues involving the social, economic, and political fate of millions of citizens who voted for those into power?
Must we let the culture permeate into our universities, schools, social and cultural institutions, and homes in which this brand of feudalism and ignorance and brute force rule in a half-baked democracy?

Why have parliamentarians who present well-researched issues in the most civil manner been shouted at and interrupted perpetually by those who cannot mount anything substantial other than foul language and a chorus of gangsterish rowdiness?

Why are we still seeing this culture at the time when our parliamentarians are becoming more and more educated either locally or abroad?

What kind of parliamentarians gets voted into power and do those with brutish public speaking skills really represent their constituencies? Or are they now becoming an embarrassment to their electorate and an insult to its intelligence?

I think this name-calling sessions that waste public money and glorify brute and arrogant ways of presenting opinion need to be ended.

But how? What must we do? Where do we begin?

"From Srivijaya to Putrajaya"

It will probably take a hundred years for this culture of intelligence amongst parliamentarians to evolve. It seems that to teach these people the art of listening while others are talking seem impossible.

Why are these rude parliamentarians called “Yang Berhormat’ when they do not even have the necessary intelligence to carry out reasoned and data-driven arguments and when they have not earned the respect of the people?

But there is hope.

We wrongly call brutish politicians “Yang Berhormat”. They should be called “Yang Tidak Patut di Hormati”.

We cannot immediately change the culture of unreasoned and brutish parliamentary debates. We paid the price for voting those species of parliamentarians into power. This is the disease that this nation has contracted since feudal times; from the brutishness of those who ruled since the times of Srivijaya and Majapahit to the modern times of Putrajaya and Cyberjaya.

There have been kings who tried to do their job well, using the power of statecraft-superstition of the “divine rights of kings”. And there were those who plundered less and think more and speak less brutishly. But there were only a few, who underwent major transformations like Ashoka or Pericles.

What has developed is the feudal culture that uses brute force when the human intellect began to be challenged in public debates.

The story of the mythical hero Hang Nadim tells us of the brutishness of the feudal brute who disliked intelligent suggestions. The story of Hang Jebat, the Malay anti-hero who revolted against the unintelligent, brutish, and libidinal Sultan of Melaka is another.

The author of Sejarah Melayu, Tun Seri Lanang should have been put to trial today for writing a myth that glorified Hang Tuah as the first Malay laksamana who I think possessed the poorest set of thinking skills. Obviously Hang Tuah was a clever creation to legitimise the continuation of the feudal system with a complex machinery of indoctrination of symbolic and cultural capitalism.

The feudal state has evolved into a post-modern state that hides its system of control into a sophisticated system of “disciplining and punishing”.

"Be a smarter voter"

Rude parliamentarians with substandard intelligence need not be respected. They need to be voted out in the next election, so that the “general will” of the people can proceed with maturity, leaving these mentally decaying parliamentarians behind.

Rude supporters of rude parliamentarians need not be respected en masse either. They will merely continue the intellectual destruction we the Malaysian people are trying to create as culture and as a legacy for our children who are becoming more and more intelligent and idealistic than the generation of rotting parliamentarians who get voted through unethical means.

How might we recognise a Cicero, a Sheikh Kadir Jelani, a Gandhi, a Patrick Henry, a Sun Yat Sen, a Ho Chi Minh, a Che Guevara, a Sukarno, a Vaclav Havel, a John F Kennedy amongst us - leaders who can articulate sense with the power of reason and social imagination?
Here’s a test for our would-be parliamentarians:

* Do our parliamentarians read philosophy?
* Can they reason scientifically?
* Can they think holistically?
* Can they understand the complexities of arguments?
* Can they gracefully link one idea to another and understand the deeper meaning of the
themes?
* Can they argue beyond the prison-house of “race and ethnicity” and bring arguments to a
different and more sophisticated level?
* Can they analyse past, present, and future systems of oppression?
* Can they recognise ethics in decision-making and move beyond partisan politics?
* Can they articulate what a utopia of a truly multicultural and ethical nation is, based on the
power of scientific rationality, transcultural ethical system, and social justice that evolve
out of the respect for the human intellect and the freedom to think without being punished
for speaking up?
* Do they read much at all to develop the power of their intellect that will be manifested
through their powerful oratory skills?
* Do they know how to mediate instead of merely aggravate?

A hundred years is not too long for us to have our parliament evolve into a respectable and ‘world-class’ institution. We must begin to look at what concepts and skills we need in order to educate the younger generation with. We also need to explore what politics mean and what species of politicians we must create.

The first step is to recognise the symptoms of a corrupt political system – how much is spent to put a leader into power.

The higher the office, the more the money is needed, seem to be the political wisdom of the day. Therefore, we now see the total enculturalisation of corruption – from the promotion system in our universities to the presenting of politically-charged ‘ang pau’ and ‘duit hari raya’ to children.

The postmodern system dictates that billions of ringgit is needed to prepare for the next general election. The network of political-economic control is getting more sophisticated and the system of manipulation of human consciousness is getting more glitzy and savvy.

The wealth of our resource-rich nation is used to maintain political hegemony. The ideological state apparatus is used to shut up citizens who speak up against various forms of injustices.
Political hegemony translates into the control of the educational institutions, so that we may reproduce the brand of arrogance and ignorance desired.

Our public universities are used to shut people up more stylistically and sophisticatedly, using better language of mental domination, using more totalitarian system of educating, utilising authoritarian methods of teaching.

"Is there a way we can reboot?"

It is not how much one knows but how much one has that is becoming a precondition for political success these days. This is how much we have been rotting deep inside the psyche of our political consciousness.

How do we dismantle the system? Is there a way to pull the plug and reboot? What anti-virus programme do we need to clean it up with and to build a firewall against the emergence of newer and more corrupted and virulent leaders who get younger by each general election?
We have created Hang Tuahs and even Hang Jebats who now fly private jets, happily laughing at the nation down below.

We must bring back more Hang Nadims into our parliament who could tell the then Raja of Kota Singa why the swordfish/todaks even attacked the country in the first place; why the emergency-response system was not in place.

And hence – dare we create a more intelligent parliament?

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