Hit Counter
Subject: The Politics of Contempt
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 1998 02:23:50 GMT
From: yfyap@pop.jaring.my (Yap Yok Foo)
Organization: Private
Newsgroups: jaring.general,soc.culture.singapore,soc.culture.malaysia

From Rehman Rashid
17th December 1998

The Politics of Contempt

Every new development in the Anwar Ibrahim trial deepens the disgust of it all. What next? Soiled underwear? Used condoms? The headlines local newspapers now run would curl the whiskers of a sewer rat. Does anyone up there care what this is doing to the Malays?

This is shaming the Malays. This is stripping them of their dignity and reminding them, as Mahathir Mohamad did in his book, “The Malay Dilemma”, that they’re a pathetic people. For some reason back then, 30 years and one generation ago, the Malays felt they needed the scolding. Perhaps they agreed that they had grown too complacent; too
soft and defeatist. Mahathir’ s contempt was invigorating. All children know that sometimes even the most loving parents are stern and cruel, but only to be kind. I thought so too. In my book I wrote that Mahathir “did not spare the rod, but only for fear of spoiling
the child.” He loved us really, and what truly motivated him was the desire to see his beloved people attain new levels of pride and dignity.

I was wrong.

How has this man raised the pride and dignity of the Malays? These highways and buildings? This booming economy? It’s all gone to hell, my friends. Look at us now: groping, angry, “concerned but helpless”, wondering whose heads will roll and whose will be kicked in to replace them. So much for the so-called “private sector”.

Very well: set aside the tottering Bumiputra economy and the screwy experiments in private-sectorism. It’s the politics, stupid. Again I ask: how has Mahathir raised the pride and dignity of the Malays? Heading out of his second decade of leadership, he now admits of no worthy successor. A mighty slap in the face of some veteran Malay
politicians, not to mention the 2.3 million party faithful who have kept them there. (Or even the entire Malay community, remembering that Mahathir once went foraging beyond the party for his successor.) Not one of them is fit to lead Mahathir's party and country. His deputy, he now says, must be an “exact replica” of himself. Some are like him in one way, he observes, others are like him in another, but no one matches him perfectly. (Which, to me, was the most promising thing about a post-Mahathir era: national leadership would come from a committee, not an individual.)

But now it seems Mahathir would wish to be president-for-life. He would wish to die in office, it seems. A man of his age can realistically entertain such notions, and perhaps the party and the country will too. What the hell, life goes on. But what has he done to
us? I can hear the rebuttal: it wasn’t Mahathir who betrayed our pride & dignity, it was Anwar. I disagree. IF Anwar is guilty, he is the devil’s own scoundrel. But it wasn’t Anwar who mimed those acts on television. Nor did Anwar write these headlines, or carry that stinking mattress to the court, or chase after it with a photojournalist’s zeal, or run the damned thing on the front page.

Even IF Anwar is guilty, this matter could and should have been conducted in a very different manner nonetheless, to preserve dignity, to save people’s shame; above all to show that the answer to dishonourable deeds is honourable deeds; that the base are redeemed by the noble. Not by miming buggery before a live audience.

Which leads me to conclude that Mahathir Mohamad has contempt for his people. Many have stood against him; none has prevailed. Whether they were institutions or individuals, their defeats have been total, crushing, humiliating. They have been consigned to political oblivion; reduced to non-existence. Now with Anwar, who is now both an individual and an institution, Mahathir has unveiled the most lurid spectacle of all. (Or perhaps I should reserve that for his performance at the Umno special assembly last weekend.)

Think, my friends, of those who have been felled by this man’s career. Not just politicians & nationalists, but businessmen, managers, technocrats, administrators, academics, educators, intellectuals (even, dare I say, journalists?). Think of those who have languished in the wilderness, spending the best years of their lives in limbo. Include all those whose development and maturation have been stunted and constrained by the way things are done in this country. And ask yourselves: how much longer will such Malaysian talent go to waste, torn out by the roots, nipped in the bud, left to wither on the vine and rot in the fields? Ah, but according to Mahathir, it seems we were never a very talented lot in the first place, so it’s no great loss.

Many in Mahathir’s defence attribute the successes of this country to him. (And the blame for the failures on just about everybody else.) Mahathir made this, they say. He dreamed it, and made it happen. I do not dispute that. But I say to them: If we grant that he has shaped modern Malaysia according to his vision, then he must also have a vision of we the people who inhabit the nation he created. Our problem, then, is that he thinks we’re all a bunch of jokers.

Rehman Rashid

**************From Uncle Yap**************
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