Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ends & Means Out of Malaysia's Stalemate

The problem that Malaysia, as a nation (inclusive of politicians, community leaders and institutions), and as individual citizens, face today is a well-known philosophical dilemma between Ends and Means.

Do the Ends justify the Means ? (e.g. the Communists stole from the rich and suppressed the intellectuals in order to have a truly eqalitarian utopia on earth) Or do the Means justify the Ends? (e.g. the capitalist system allows free enterprise for all without any market inteference, resulting in a more prosperous, more vibrant and more democratic society in the end).

Looking at the political and civil problems that has captured Malaysia's media and blogs objectively, we can reframe the issues into the following facts:

1. About half of voting citizens voted for BN.

2. The other half (slightly lower) voted for the Opposition.

3. Both parties do not have a two thirds majority.

4. Both parties are trying to gain more political power. (this is a tactical means to a desired end: Power of the Few or Good for All Malaysians?)
(a) BN by retaking some of the five states it lost through a snap election or a potential cross-over by PAS.

(b) PR by forming the government through cross-overs or a snap election.
5. Both political parties and their leaders represent the interests of their voters with differences in policies, methods, objectives, etc.

6. Both parties and the voting public share one common aim: the harmonious prosperity and progress of Malaysia.

7. Human nature is prone to evil and corruption. Especially those who eventually wield power, whether economic or political.

8. The system of checks and balances is still weak. The judiciary and the media are still not fully independent of the government's influence. (This is a situational environment which is used by manipulative parties to checkmate or gain advantage over their rivals).

Given these facts, let us separate the facts from the value statements with the latter in colour and the facts in black as shown above. The blue statements are the ends (objectives) while the red statement are the means (methods/tactics/strategies).

Politicians often justify unethical methods in favour of idealistic goals

Is the pursuit and successful acquisition of power more important than the way power is obtained? This is similar to ancient histories of generals who assasinate/imprison their Kings in order to sit on the throne. The general justifies to the people that the King was evil and would have ruined the country. Any politican these days would justify their questionable methods of aquiring/maintaining power by saying that it was done for the sake of the "country's security, for unity of race or for the preservation of a multi-racial harmony."

Given that both BN and PR (whose future depends on its leaders) are actively engaged in a power struggle for control of the Government, the best case scenario is for all parties to go back to their foundational values, declare to the voting public what they really represent (Power of the Few or Good for All?). Once the public is confident we have politicans who are at least honest and transparent about their goals and promises for the Rakyat, they can declare a snap election. This is the pre-condition for fair and transparent elections besides having an independent elections commission and an independent press.

The Seven Eleven Test

The test of a good and wise government is to talk to the working young man in the street (e.g. the McDonald's delivery man, the illegal VCD vendor or the Seven Eleven cashier earning RM700 a month). Ask them what is their greatest aspiration in the next five years? If the majority of the young working class say they do not cherish any long-term dreams such as saving enough for a college education or to start a business, then that is a reflection of a mediocre Government and a weak economic system.

Mostly probably, the replies would be: "I am trying to make ends meet." or "I hope the government lowers the price of petrol." or "I hope more people will be willing to work at these low salaries so that they can help me cope with my workload." (One car salesman actually told me: "I can't trust what this government says anymore. They say one thing today, and do the opposite the next day.")

The short-term challenge of any Government that deserves to govern Malaysia for the Good of All Malaysians (a worthy End) is one that can inspire (through ethical and pragmatic policies) its young people (of all races and all economic classes) to cherish and work smart for a viable future (a worthy End).
And that future is neither secular or Islamic. It is neither a PR or BN future. It is neither an Anwar-annointed or Badawi-annointed future. It is a viable future for all Malaysians who can trust the wisdom of their leaders based on the intelligence and fairness of their policies/methods today.

Conclusion: Never trust politicians/religious leaders who advocate or adopt dubious means to achieve a supposedly great objective. The test of the ethics and honesty of politicians is the effectiveness and soundness of their methods. Everyone can have a great vision like Vision 2020 but look how the politicians have clouded that vision with poor policies. That's probably why Obama is considered to be a smarter and more adaptive politician in regards to his Middle East policy compared to McCain or Bush.

Update: One of the latest unsavoury methods of political power-grabbing is the agenda of the talks between PAS-UMNO based on the unity of a certain race. Says TK Tan in this article Signs of Disunity: "Our country continues to be undermined by the self-interests of many. Agents of disunity abound. And very few work for the good of all." I agree that very few politicians work for the good of all, but that is why good politicians who do not appeal to our lowest instincs are a rare and much desired breed in this country today.


AL said...

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Jeremiah said...

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