Shaping the Malaysian narrative

Here is a narrative about PH politics I came across today, written by a young twentysomething (or thereabouts) — When political idealism meets reality.

He sees that there are the idealists, PKR, DAP and Amanah. But they could not win without PPBM (Mahathir). And he says “Right now, Pakatan is in the Captain America sequel. More specifically, it’s at the scene where Capt realises that his enemy HYDRA has not only survived the first movie – it has infiltrated his allies.”

PPBM and Mahathir is of course HYDRA. UMNO is the sworn enemy; evil and corrupt. So he postulates about the good guys:

Because where they were able to make big political decisions as the opposition, they are (now) tied down by these facts: 1) They are now the government, and whatever bonds they break has lasting and damaging consequences and 2) They are very well aware that Tun M and Bersatu played a big role in their GE14 win, and warring with them could destroy everything they have built.

But at the same time, if they stand by and do nothing, and allow the face to compromise the overall coalition agreement, they risk losing the Captain America image they built for themselves, which may end up disenfranchising their support base.

And he ended with this observation about Nurul’s resignation:

I can’t pretend to know what are Nurul Izzah’s true reasons for leaving her party politics, but based on her statement, and in particular – her disappointment of the “derailment of the reformasi spirit” – there is some indication that Pakatan is at the crossroads of political idealism and the constraints of reality.

The Puteri Reformasi’s move to quit, at the height of her political career, to me, represents the idealism of the original coalition hunkering down without compromise, and choosing to believe that – like in the movies, good will triumph over the proverbial evil.

As romantic as that notion sounds, and as much as I hope things work out for the characters in this story – I have to remind myself: This isn’t a a movie. And good guys don’t always win.

And so, here we are at the end of a year of significant change. It seems so much time has gone by, yet GE14 was only this May, roughly half a year ago.

To listen to the narrative that has been told by civil society, politicians, commentators, analysts, this fledgling coalition would certainly fail to defeat the evil empire, and is certain to fail because Mahathir cannot change, and is certain to fail because Anwar is still impatient, and surely will fail because Mahathir hates Anwar and is working to put Azmin to be the next PM, and in fact has already failed because it has not fulfilled its promises in the Manifesto (someone estimated it to be more than 500 promises, and if you fulfil 1 promise a month it will take more than 40 years), no, PH has failed because it is now taking in UMNO defectors.

Is this what New Malaysia is all about, shouts everyone who disagrees with something or has a grievance. I did not vote for this — a common refrain.

It is a truth that good news does not sell newspapers. But perhaps those in the Fourth Estate should take a long hard look at what their role in society and nation building should be. To report as news what every idiot says, even a WhatsApp message from unnamed sources just to capture eyeballs is the height of irresponsible journalism.

And I’m sure the reading public must take some responsibility. But then are we shaped by and do we reinforce the prejudices of our readers, or do we inform, educate, transform and reinforce the good and condemn the bad?

But what is the point of writing stuff that no one reads?

Yes, that is also what I am asking myself.

The thing is, I know that no one is perfect, least of all politicians. But at least PH has demonstrated that it wants to uphold the good of the nation, not just the constituency that votes for them. It has demonstrated a disgust of corruption. It seeks to have a place for everyone, regardless of race and religion. It wants a fair deal for the man on the street.

These are things I care about deeply. And I want to hold them to it: to encourage them when they are doing right and criticise them when they are compromising. I don’t care about the bloody manifesto. I want PH to succeed, not because they are PH but because of what they seek to do.

I don’t care about the political games, whether in PH or elsewhere, unless they damage the ability of PH to do their job. Azmin may move, and Nurul can have breakfast with whomever, what they decide to do will happen whether I know about it beforehand or not. Nothing is true until it actually happens.

How PKR run their affairs is their business. If the president has authority to appoint, his exercise of it is not national news. If they do wrong it is the ROS’ business. I don’t care if they take in UMNO MPs unless it is illegal. But I care if the narrative assumes UMNO-> corrupt-> PH->corrupt- >End of New Malaysia. This is not cowboys and indians. Politics is reaching across the aisle and working with the other side because you cannot ignore other sides.

There’s just too much speculation about character and motive and too little about substance (which should then properly inform about character and motive). And yet these are the things that dominate the conversations to the point that our young people are getting disillusioned. But that is because they are not guided to see the picture clearly.

It is true. PH has not saved Malaysia in the 6 months. It is true New Malaysia has not arrived in the 6 months. It is true politicians are not perfect and they play political games. But it is foolish to expect otherwise in reality and it is also true that PH has made significant changes and improvements in these 6 months.

As the young writer wisely observed: we have no idea how the story will end. Which is why we should not be unduly influenced by that. We should focus on the journey, and the outcomes of each step. There will likely come a time when PH will become the enemy. But that is not the story at this time.

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