Mandela-isation of Anwar?
by Azly Rahman
"Man proposes, god disposes"
Thomas a Kempis, 'Of The Imitation of Christ'
While America awaits The Super Bowl, Malaysia awaits The Super Trial II this week to listen to the arguments concerning the predicament of Anwar Ibrahim.
Philosophically, what ought to be the shape of things to come? Where do we go from here, as a nation? Where do we wish to bring this nation that is in need of deep reflection on the meaning of nationhood and democracy?
Maturity after Mahathirism
If we take 1998 as a framework in looking at the changes this country is seeing politically, Anwar can be seen as an embodiment of Nelson Mandela.
His spirit did not die for the six years he was jailed and upon his release a momentum was created that grew in strength to first, become institutionalised in the form of a strong Parti Keadilan Rakyat and next, of Pakatan Rakyat.
Divine intervention and human design propelled such changes - the evolution of a one-party Mahathiristic construct to an emerging two-party counter-hegemonic system that is making the current regime fearful and tremble.
Indeed from 1998 to 2010, Malaysians not also saw an evolution of critical sensibility but waves upon waves of loud protests on the streets, in parliament, in cyberspace, and in the minds of Malaysians against the excesses of the Mahathirist-inspired totalitarianism and autocraticism.
Malaysians have matured, in a way. Only the civil servants and those employed and caressed to obedience by the ruling regime have not fully matured in terms of civil libertarianism. Understandably one cannot bite the hands that feed, as the iron hands will pound violently once bitten.
If twelve to fifteen years ago, Malaysians dared not speak of Malay rights, corruption, controlling interests in Barisan Nasional, definition of bumiputera, and the means and methods of thought-control and sword of Damocles of the ruling regime - the situation has dramatically changed.
It is as if the release of Anwar from his six years of incarceration signify, as postmodernists such as Frederic Jameson would say, a 'rupture' and the 'waning of effect of the ruling totalitarian regime.
The Internet, a Frankenstein of postmodern times and an avatar of chaos and complexity and a protean technology of both democratic and demagogic thinking, aided the Malaysian revolution in thinking.
What is revealed on the Internet becomes a launching pad for real-time street protests and many times too, prosecution of this or that person for corruption and other forms of 'transgressions' done in the name of politics; transgression ala a political version, Tiger Woods-stylised, in which revelations can become ugly, cancerous and financially disastrous.
Anwar Ibrahim has become a rallying point for this new wave of revolution - not merely a reformation in fact - of a new form of consciousness albeit plagued with consistent cluster-bombing and carpet-bombings done by those who wish to stop it on its tracks, Machiavellian-styled.
How has the new consciousness eroded the sense of obedience to authority, particularly of the Malays - often considered the most obedient human beings on Earth?
Like those rallying behind Nelson Mandela circa apartheid in South Africa, Malaysians are seeing the Mandela-isation of Anwar Ibrahim particularly his second trial.
It is not Anwar who is on trial - it is the will of Malaysians of all walks of life, ethnic groups, religious conviction, class, and caste, that are on trial. It is the growing urge to come together and dismantle the excesses of race-based politics and the ugly manifestations of greed via political creed that is on trial.
Beginning from the political 'honey-mooning' years of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his failure to make reforms to all forms of repressive and intolerable acts right up to this day wherein all's-not-well-ends-not well' is the feature of the present government that is quite certain seeing its demise.
Beginning from the show of arrogance of UMNO particularly to an even worse show of that same arrogance in issues of combating corruption, fixing the judiciary, improving the universities, egalitarian-ising and equilibrium-ising the education system, teaching religious and racial tolerance - Malaysian have seen enough of a breakdown of what once looked like a showcase of 'civil society'.
The rallies, the water cannons, the chemical-laced sprays, the deaths of Altantuya, Kugan, Teoh Beng Hock, and the Perak parliamentary plague - all these are amongst the demonic verses of the narrative of this nation that are inspiring the rise of 'civil disobedience'. "Dissent, is the highest form of patriotism," said the American philosopher-president-statesman Thomas Jefferson - and this is what Malaysians are embodying as a cultural-political philosophy.
Maybe we are seeing the Mandela-isation of Anwar Ibrahim. And we ought to see that as a philosophical global-positioning-system circa the next general election. The coming election will see total rupture after a fierce struggle over the mandate to rule.
Change can be painful, but change must a nation go through. It is through the regimented swallowing of bitter pill can maladies be cured. For too long, especially during the Mahathirist years, Malaysians have been given Prozac and serenaded with feel-good stories of being grateful and not biting the hands that feed to a point of numbness and total obedience, that it takes this country to the verge of destruction for us to wake up and to smell the Napalm in all its morning glory - as our own 'Apocalypse Now'.
It will be an interesting week ahead. May we continue to live in interesting times, as what Chairman Mao Zedong would say. How this weeks' episode will end will depend on how: "Man proposes, God disposes".
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