|The Machiavellis in Malaysian politics|
Against my will, my fate,
A throne unsettled, and an infant state,
Bid me defend my realms with all my pow'rs,
And guard with these severities my shores.
- from Machiavelli's The Prince, Chapter XVII
‘But it is necessary to know well how to disguise this characteristic, and to be a great pretender and dissembler; and men are so simple, and so subject to present necessities, that he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived. One recent example I cannot pass over in silence. Alexander VI did nothing else but deceive men, nor ever thought of doing otherwise, and he always found victims; for there never was a man who had greater power in asserting, or who with greater oaths would affirm a thing, yet would observe it less; nevertheless his deceits always succeeded according to his wishes, because he well understood this side of mankind.
‘Therefore it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them. And I shall dare to say this also, that to have them and always to observe them is injurious, and that to appear to have them is useful; to appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright, and to be so, but with a mind so framed that should you require not to be so, you may be able and know how to change to the opposite. - from, Machiavelli's The Prince, Chapter XVIII
One of the best strategies to keep a political party in power is to keep the voters ‘educated’ only to a certain level of intelligence, and to give them enough goodies for them to want more at every cycle of election. Give them money, ‘kain pelika’t, ‘kain batik’, rice, cigarettes, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds, RM200 and instant ‘development packages’ – new roads, new playgrounds, new schools, new promises, etc, so that they will be happier voters. Let them corrode their own moral character and let the children of these voters learn that this are what democracy, politics, and elections is all about.
This is the structure of dependency. This is the systematic programme of the maintenance of the ‘welfare’ mentality – the ideology of the ‘hand that feed’. This, too, is the current paradigm and ideology of technology transfer from global corporations wishing to develop the Iskandar Development Region or the Multimedia Super Corridor. The advanced, industrialised countries will give aid and some help with technology to the industrialising countries so that the former will continue to control and manipulate while the latter will be continue to be controlled and be manipulated.
The structure of dependency constitutes ‘structural violence’. The paternal relationship forged structures the relationship between the giver and the receiver, the oppressor and the oppressed. This curriculum of totalitarianism is hidden.
Until voters are intelligent enough to understand this structure of dependency and are wise and ethical enough to reject the goodies from the ‘hands that giveth’, we will still see corrupt politicians installed to further transform the lives of others through development projects created so that it is not that the people that will benefit, but the few people that will make sure that they themselves will reap the benefits.
Far too much we hear the word ‘progress and development’ these days. We hear of our economy doing well. We hear of the ‘jihad’ against corruption and poverty being intensified. We hear slogans, rhetoric and ‘managed perception’. We do not know what is real and what is invention anymore. We see an intensifying effort to divide, subdivide, fragment, and dissipate progressive parties that are trying to bring about immediate and radical change.
Machiavelli, our guru?
Where do the powerful ones in our society learn how to control the mind and the body of the people governed? Perhaps through arrogant knowledge that advises rulers to be brutal, pretentious, hypocritical, and shrewd – as long as power is acquired, consolidated, maintained, and held on as long as possible. One can then rule for five, 10, 15, or even 22 or 35 years. One can even declare oneself dictator or emperor or ‘maharajah’.
One piece of arrogant knowledge that one must study, to understand how Malaysia as well as global politics work is The Prince by Nicollo Machiavelli, an essential treatise on the nature and manifestation of power.
We take too much from the teachings of Machiavelli. We use force to hold on to power. We let our leader use whatever means necessary for them to cling on to power.
In Machiavelli we can see the ideology of Islam Hadhari, slogans of ‘cemerlang, gemilang terbilang’, the Internal Security Act, The University and University Colleges Act, the fascistic ‘Surat Akujanji’ for civil servants, the Biro Tata Negara, the National Service programme, Media Prima, the Election Commission, the constant play and ‘sandiwara’ of race-based politics – all these and more in the overall Machiavellian scheme of realpolitik borrowed from the colonial masters. The ideological state apparatuses, German critical theorist Althusser’s term, is employed to structure the pattern of dependency.
In fact, Malaysian politics these days, might be even worse than during colonial times – the oppressors have become invisible and have evolved into a system of thought control.
In the current ideology, neo-liberalism mystified in the term Islam Hadhari, constitutes a life support system to legitimise foreign domination, unequal distribution of wealth, perfection of subsidy and rent-seeking ideology, cultivation of mediocrity and blind loyalty even amongst the most highly-educated in our public universities.
Accounts of vote-buying illustrates a total mockery of democracy. Those giving money and make promises aplenty are charting their own destruction.
‘By all means necessary,’ said Malcolm X – is the ideology of Machiavelli.
In the world of Machiavelli we embrace, winning is everything. It is better to be feared than to be loved, as the author would say. In today's world in which bloggers are now feared, it is better to be loved by projecting an image/perception of being loved, of being benevolent, pious, caring, and selfless so that power will be gently but surely acquired. It is also necessary to maintain such a perception so that one can still be remembered as a benevolent ruler even though one has plundered billions of ringgit; it is necessary so that one will not be prosecuted for such plundering.
What then must we do
We must educate ourselves to be well-informed voters and to help each other understand how power works through institutions and ideology that permeate the psyche and the physical landscape of society.
We need to engage in the establishment of a republic of virtue – one runs on the philosophy of virtue - and terror. Let our children learn that it is terrifying to be corrupt; such as to build palaces while the homes of the poor demolished. Let us teach them to vote with their conscience.
The current regime cannot solve the problems it creates. It must dismantle itself, die a natural death, destroy the symbols of power it has abused, and let a peaceful renewal take its natural course. The will to be corrupt will only intensify if we do not perform a frontal lobotomy of its source. The source is the locus of control – the center of power.
Beware, the multiplying and morphing Machiavellis amongst us. Let us design a programme of counter-hegemony so that we can play and wrestle with authority.
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