Friday, July 11, 2008
Can We Love Our Political Rivals?- Malaysiakini
The question of the day is not who among Anwar, Najib and Badawi will be the best leader for Malaysia as raised in a Malaysiakini letter. Rather, the crucial question today is the quality of intellectual ideas that we raise in the public forum of Parliament, media and blogosphere.
Malaysia's future as a fledgling democracy depends very much on the civility of its politicans, bloggers and citizens in discussing the political differences and resolving the conflicts of interests among its people.
What I refer as civility goes beyond having good manners. Civility means to have the goodwill in accepting other people's differences in opinion/values while at the same time, affirming your strongly-held values. In other words, our ability to agree to disagree in a civilised manner is the mark of a civil, democratic society.
Which is why the ideas presented by Dr Os Guinness in his latest book: "The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on it" may be just what Malaysians need in this hour of the nation.
Personally, I haven't read it yet but an interview with Dr Os Guinness shows his admiration of William Wilberforce who played a major role in eradicating slavery in Britain:
"There are scores of lessons we can learn from Wilberforce, but take just one: his civility. As a follower of the way of Jesus, he loved his enemies and always refused to demonize them. At one time he was the most vilified man in the world, but while he never minced words in speaking about the evils of slavery, he was always gracious, generous, modest, funny, witty, and genuinely loving toward his enemies. When one of his worst enemies died, he at once saw to it anonymously that his widow was cared for adequately."
Can our politicians and elected representatives regard their political rivals and fellow intellectuals with the same civility as Wilberforce? Between Anwar, Najib and Badawi, I think the latter is the most civil. Yet, he, among the three, is the one who needs most to step up the plate and provide some fresh intellectual solutions to this nation's crisis of ideas.
As for mere citizens like us: Ask not what your politicans can do for you, but ask what you can do for your family, friends and neighbours in this aspect of civility.