Malaysia’s GPS for General Election-13
By Azly RahmanCome Malaysia’s general election No 13, how lucky will we be to have the entire nation bold enough to experiment with radical changes, a mega-trend, a paradigm shift, and the will to even replace the blue ocean in which sharks and piranhas battle against each other in a seemingly calm sea of change?
So – are Malaysians ready with a global positioning system that will leave behind that ancient regime calloused with the will to use religion, ethnicity, and race to cling on to power fast waning? As the Malaysian election approaches, people are talking about ‘the new politics’, ‘sustainable capitalism’, ‘new economic model’, ‘radical multiculturalism’, ‘politics of moderation’.
What are these? Are they merely another set of rhetoric, or are they signifiers to a new world of Malaysian political-economic realism? After fifty years of a Rostowian and Friedmanian developmentalist agenda – that we adopt and have a difficult time understanding, and yet we imitate – we are faced with a brand new old question: where do we go from here?
The most enduring model of national development is one that returns power to the people; development of the people, by the people, for the people, that is participatory, transformative, inclusive of the alienated, marginalised, powerless, and peoples of diverse cultures, prioritises needs over greed and wants; one that will help develop the citizens into thinking, feeling, and visioning beings – as happy citizens of a just republic.
Maybe we need a radically new architecture of the Malaysian mind, of deconstructionism of politics entirely, of de-schooling society, demilitarisation of youth, diversification of public administration, redefinition of needs versus wants, destruction of the old order, rewriting of history, re-imagining of economics, reconstructing social philosophy, reinterpreting religion, etc.
What we have been seeing is a top-down developmental agenda sugar-coated with rhetoric of progress that is meaningless essentially, as development projects are created to satisfy the insatiable greed of robber barons who come in different colors and from different ethnic groups. That’s what we have as a gift of Independence. We are given bread and circuses to make us happy.
Damaged on the inside
The problem with Malaysia is that the regime has been obsessed with the one-dimensionality of the ideology of development, out of the lack of critical sensibility and other perspectives in development, who profit from the developmental agenda, who has adopted the model of unsustainable capitalism throughout the decades.
A regime that designs an educational system based on a narrow understanding of the philosophies of education and the idea of schooling as social reproduction, that lets culture-industry dominate and decimate the cultures of the indigenous people, that allows hypocrisy to reign the implementation of the rule of law, that silences dissenting views that speak for the poor and the marginalised, that pay lip service to the issue of ‘brain drain’, and many more. We have a system damaged on the inside.
While in many advanced countries politics is public service and the rich get into politics to help the poor, in Malaysia the poor get into politics to get rich and make the poor poorer, becoming a public disservice. This is the culture of pathetic politics.
We are in a ‘technopoly’, a polity or an imagined community governed by the determinism of technology and ideology.
Growing up in Johor in the sixties, I used to follow my mother to wash clothes at a one-pipe kampong washing area. I helped my grandmother keep the embers glowing when she cooked, used a charcoal-fuelled iron, kept warm with kerosene lamps, watched black-and-white TV, saw the first computer in 1974.
Now I am reading classified documents on wikileaks while on Facebook too. How right was Marx with regard to technological determinism and the surrender of human autonomy to technology!
We live in a cybernetic world and trying to understand ourselves as existentialists while those who own the means of production own and control. The control revolution in Malaysia favoured the old regime, that now controls materials, mind, machinery, and the media. Luddites are required to dismantle the system; a Rambo-styled rakyat who will show its rage against the machine.
Party without an ideology
Malaysia presents an example of an autocratic-technocratic system of control in which the social relations of production are altered through political control. All this talk about progress is quite meaningless without the understanding of the base and superstructure of society and the political economy of controlling interests.
The issue is about ideology and institutions that support it. It is about a race-based ideology that is no longer in sync with changing times, as if the cognitive capacity of the nation will never progress and surpass the ideology of the Malay Agenda.
The overplayed doctrine of Malay dictatorship/hegemony/false sense of superiority (Ketuanan Melayu), an arrogant sounding developmentalist agenda pillared upon arrogant and truncated theories of development that brush off new findings on the ownership of the NEP, continue to dominate the mind of campaign strategists.
The biggest issue before this election is the ideological shift. Because Umno as the dominant party actually does not have an ideology, except sentimentality and authority to deploy the ideological state apparatuses, and because the dissatisfaction of the masses/rakyat is growing in leaps and bounds and is tsunami-ing the streets, we have got a national problem.
What will the election bring us? It is you and I who will decide.
Did Marx the historian not say that we must become makers of our own history?
Or – if we are to become a superstitious nation who believes in numerology, we must also believe in a mandate of heaven, where it rains change predictably.
Malaysians, get your GPS out for GE-13. You don’t have anything to lose except a wrong semiotic turn in your ongoing history of materiality.