Monday, July 02, 2007

127] Letter to a respectable party leader

Should I leave the party?
Azly Rahman
Jul 2, 07 1:15pm
Untitled Document

DR AZLY RAHMAN is a transcultural philosopher rooted in the tradition of Critical and Chaos Theory. Born in Singapore, raised in Johor Baru, he was a child of Malaysia's experiment in humanistic education: Maktab Rendah Sains MARA Kuantan.

A member of The International Honor Society in Education, Azly holds a Doctorate in International Education Development from Columbia University, New York City, and Masters in four areas: International Affairs, Education, Communication, and Peace Studies.

He has taught in Malaysia and the United States in a multitude of settings and in diverse fields such as Politics/International Relations, Education, American Studies, Philosophy/ Humanities/Cultural Studies, and History/Foundations of Civilizations.

His interest lies in deconstructing 'hegemony and totalitarianism' and to explore the possibilities of creating one's personal republic that will challenge and transform the postmodern state.

He can be reached at:

Some time last year, I received a long letter from a respectable leader of a Malaysian political party seeking advice.

The contents of the letter are summarised and modified here for clarity and anonymity.

Sir, I don't know why I am telling you all this but I believe it is because I am under tremendous pressure by NGOs and friends to stand for a state seat in the next general elections. (…..) thinks I should stand under his party and another leader (…..) said I should go for his instead, as for me, on principle grounds I stand by my party which I know at the moment is depleted and have no financial resources whatsoever to take on the might of the (strong coalition party) .

Sir, when I read your article (‘Vote for Virtues not Vultures’) this morning it gave me the inspiration to carry on the struggle, what do you think? Please advise.

Here is my reply.

Dear ….,

Go where your heart tells you. If your 35 years have been about standing for the principles that have made you respectable, uncompromising, dignified, and dedicated, stay with it. You will die satisfied that you have not sold your soul to any other party in whose ideology you do not believe. There are so many ‘party jumpers’ and ‘party leavers’ whose intentions are not clear. What is clear is the medium and the message of these party elopers and political bungy-jumpers.

Back to your predicament. Think of how you can take you party - one of the oldest and most respectable radical-humanistic party - to new heights. Make it appealing to the younger generation of people. Study its origin and ideals and make it relevant to changing times. This is a necessity.

Most important is how you gather available resources to do this, given limited funding. You do not have the money, machinery, and the media at your disposal as means to influence the masses, but there is always the idea that ‘small is beautiful’ and that politics at the level of helping people with problem-solving ideas at the grassroots level can be the most rewarding.

Yours is about the ‘class’ struggle. How do you and other party members convince others that you are fighting for that ideal and for the future of the children that are going to be demoralised and dehumanised under this new class system. In this age of globalisation, your party needs to work harder in explaining to voters how they are being exploited in newer ways and why all the more there is the need to fight for the rights of the workers and to call for the implementation of the minimum wage.

What promises will you renew in the next general election and fulfill above and beyond the call of duty? Ask yourself what it means to be a party member? In my lecturers I call this the phenomenological question - one that concerns one's existence and how one makes meaning out of what one does for a living. Without meaning, reflection, and ethics, all is a political game and hypocrisy.

Being a party member is about doing charity work and not looking at people as objects of exploitation. It is not about getting state honours so that one can even plunder the nation in bigger and classier way, using sophisticated language. It is not about being ‘yes men and women’ to more powerful people with more money to buy votes or to make others beg for favours. It is not a road to stardom by doing useless things like planning sophisticated and evil schemes to hold on to power and to continue to honor Machiavellian ideals.

As you may have realised in your experience as a Christian, it is about the love of others and how to show others what the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) asked us to do. It is about living a life of simplicity. ‘Good’ will come out of it. Evil, even if it triumphs will be a cancerous victory. This is what the power elite of the ruling coaltion is about - social cancer.

But if you feel that you will lose your 35-year old work and your principles and regret later, do not shift allegiance or leave the party.

Effective campaigning

On the question of limited financial resources, here are some thoughts.

How could you use the Internet as a cheap and powerful tool of your campaign, besides traditional methods of maintaining the support of your constituency. How do you use the SMS system like 'multilevel marketing' to start your campaign early if you decide to run in the next election.

Brainstorm not only with your comrades, but also with the younger generation on what can be done with campaigning or even what can be done to bring your party to newer heights. Be creative. The greatest tool of human progress is the two pound universe one carries around - the human brain.

The great soul MK Gandhi did not have much at his disposal yet brought down the British empire. He was armed with a deep sense of spirituality and the principle of satyagraha. His last breath was a chant of "Ram … Ram…" leaving a nation dignified enough to govern itself.

I hope my thoughts help you and the cause you are doing for humanity, for the good of people of all races. Above all, one wants to leave this world known as a person with good principles and who is not easily swayed by the intentions and influence of others more powerful and more money to buy people and votes.

Ahmad Boestaman, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Dr Ismail, Onn Jaafar, Lee Lam Thye, Nik Aziz, Lim Kit Siang, V Rajaratnam, and others have shown us what dignity and ethics means in public service. Learn from them but enrich these concepts of ethics to meet the needs of changing times without losing sight and vision of political realism and practical utopia.

My advice to others would also be this: if you party has been on the road to destruction due to massive corruption of its leaders, by all means leave! You have one life to live - make it the best life, for yourself and for others.

Best wishes, my friend. I'd like to know what you decide.

Peace and justice,
Azly Rahman

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