It’s 8:35am on a Thursday, and I’m browsing through the news.
A government building in Hong Kong was just sold for RM1.6 billion. An UMNO member is to be charged for assaulting a Chinese student. And between the highlights, a war is being waged about what was said about our current Prime Minister.
I yawn and take a sip of my coffee.
I don’t particularly have an interest in local news. The only reason I’m doing it today is because it’s part of a creative exercise I must complete for a job interview.
I’ve been unemployed for over a year now. I’ve managed to scrape by, doing freelance work for a regular client. But two weeks ago, he told me to take a break.
No work means no income.
I check my phone – a friend who promised to lend me money hasn’t said anything to me. I’m too embarrassed to ask her again for it.
Amidst the news and my financial predicament, I wonder – how are Malaysian politics so powerful?
Let me clarify; I’m a 30-something-year-old bumiputra, struggling to make ends meet. Watching a video of a Malay man – assaulting a Chinese student – who’s protesting a kleptocratic ex-Prime Minister, well…
It just doesn’t do anything for me.
Frankly, our local news feels like one giant PR war. Politicians say things to win over one group, while inciting the other. Then, another politician counters with something else to discredit them.
Rinse and repeat.
Meanwhile, the news is filled with reports of “look, here’s another mega project/ deal/ thing-which-costs-a-lot-money which is probably illegally benefiting a you-know-who.”
And I’m just wondering, Malaysians – aren’t you tired yet?
After seeing this cycle for the nth time now, can’t you predict what’s next? It’s always the same thing. Someone challenges something, someone plays the race-card, someone apologises, and the issue kind of gets… swept under the rug.
It feels like watching the same TV drama on repeat, except this stopped being entertaining a long time ago.
Here’s what I think would be really refreshing though – how about a politician who’s not interested in winning a PR war? You know, someone who just wants to get shit done.
Like, hey – are you a Malaysian citizen who’s not earning enough? Struggling to pay your bills and put your kids through school? Well, here’s our plan to address that. This bill will be tabled in parliament, and we expect it to become law by so-and-so date.
Sorry what? Do I think that this proposal is oppressive to the Malays? Will it give a competitive edge to the Chinese? Is it inclusive enough for Indians and other Malaysian minorities?
The only thing I have to say is – it will serve all Malaysian citizens. Thank you.
No further comment.
I know that’s an extremely simplified example. Practically, maybe nothing works like that.
But my point is, there doesn’t seem to be something that everyone as Malaysians can agree on, without attaching some sort of PR issue to it (unless it’s something like who has the better Nasi Lemak, Malaysia or Singapore).
Which is weird when you think about it. I mean, not being poor, isn’t that universal? Doesn’t everyone care about things like education and environmental conservation?
I know I know – politics is a complex maze of opposing interest groups, and it’s difficult to find a middle ground.
But it feels as though politicians and the media are too busy winning a Public Relations war. All the things currently being done is certainly benefitting someone, but there’s nothing which benefits everyone.
For once, I’d just like someone to get something done and can… ignore the politics of it all.
Yes, yes, the groups will rally, maybe a few keris will rise up, but then suddenly…
BAM. All our children are in school, getting quality education.
BAM. We stopped being the world’s biggest importer of recycled plastics.
BAM. Our unemployment rate falls and we started earning more than just RM2000 a month.
Maybe I’m being idealistic. Maybe it’s just impossible to bring up something without someone turning it into a (insert-problem-of-the-week) issue.
The question is – do we do this to ourselves?
Are we so easily distracted, so easily swayed, and so easily duped by all the ridiculous statements by the people in charge?
I once asked Joey (not his real name), a friend who works in the political arena –
“Why on earth is this politician saying something THIS stupid? It’s backward thinking! I thought we were better than this!”
I was outraged.
Joey on the other hand, sighed.
“People never think beyond the superficial. Do you actually think that that’s what that politician believes?
“That politician’s job is to just not get in the way of this OTHER politician. Their job is to say the unpopular things this other politician can’t say.
“At the end of the day, both of them – as a team – appeal to the entire demographic.”
So, I was right – it is our fault. Politicians do play the game, but it’s us who allow our fears and emotions get the better of us.
We can’t seem to be… objective about anything.
And maybe that’s our biggest weakness. Objectivity.
As long as we have a zero-sum mentality – the idea that Malaysia is a battleground and that only one race/ economic class/ demographic/ social group/ religion/ state/ WHATEVER can get out of this alive, then it actually becomes a zero-sum game.
I’m about to write more about this, but I realise I’m digressing. I haven’t sent in my creative exercise.
I settle on three clickbait-ey articles – non-political of course (as outlined by their exercise guide) with each involving juicy bits of either murder, sex, and drugs.
Hopefully, this gets me a job so I have a way to pay my bills next month.
Update: I didn’t get the job.