Landslide victory or political immorality?

Azly Rahman

Isa Samad’s second coming – into Minangkabau politics – signifies the coming of a disturbing age of loosening morality. What does a landslide victory mean?

Will we see a kingdom of peace on earth that the Minangkabau people inhabited? Will this “landslide victory” of an avalanche of postal votes establish another forty years of the reign of One Malaysia?

Let us look at the semiotics of Bagan Pinang – of the sign, signifier and the signified of this by-election that is telling Malaysians something about the shape of things to come.

The Negri Sembilan people have spoken. They have voted for corruption to reign. What does the victory say about hegemony and political immorality?

Thus spake the Minangkabaus

Negri Sembilan politics is “Menang Kerbau” politics. Hence, the name Minangkabau. It’s a blood sport of Toros bullfighting, only that it is happening in a Third World country. Sometimes I do not know what all these mean – the elections, democracy, and the fierce struggle for regime change.

How must a corrupt regime be allowed to sustain itself? How must voters be allowed to continue to choose leaders that are corrupt to the bone? Political questions become philosophical musings – ultimately forces one to become an existentialist.

We are living in a world of cynicism and hopelessness. Of course, we do not expect every Malaysian to become an existentialist thinker and abandon the advancement of political will, but there must be a period in our evolution wherein we ought to step aside and think what is right and what is wrong in politics and how we address the question of meaningfulness, alienation, and revolution.

Existentialist thinkers such as Jean Paul Sartre, Franz Kafka, and Soren Kiekaargard have addressed the issue of human condition in a time of hopelessness and hegemony produced by the government of the day. In a world of big-time bullfighting – this “Menang Kerbau” and cowhead protest era – in which winning is a Machiavellian act, one is faced with an existential situation – what do all these mean?

Bagan Pinang was a game of high stakes and low stakes politics, as the anthropologist Clifford Geertz would put it, as analyzed in his work, “Deep Play: Notes on a Balinese cockfight”. It is an occasion to symbolize the arrogant return of the politics of despotism – of the decadence of that two-decade rule. In this sign of arrogance lies the symbolism of a world of money-media-machinery-mind control.

In this symbolism lies the signifier of the continuation of old school hegemony and yet another phase of its transition. In this continuum of sign, symbol, and signifier lies a representation; that the people of Bagan Pinang specifically and Negri Sembilan generally are still mesmerized by the spectacle of old school hegemony and blinded by the argument of the “technicality of corruption”.

If corruption can be turned into a technicist construct, what must other forms of expressions of dehumanization – the Internal Security Act, The University and University Colleges Act, The Official Secrets Act, etc. – be called? We will see more of the acts of rationalizing conducts that are blatantly irrational. How else can we explain police brutality, torture, religious intolerance, unexplained political murders, the rise of Malaysia’s Hitlerian youth, the nexus between politics and the underworld, and so forth?

Tsunami of political immorality

Existentialists have generally abandoned the hope for divine intervention in the resolution of deteriorating human condition. Conditions in French Algeria particularly during the Algerian War, and the aftermath of World War II gave an inspiration for philosophers and humanists like Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre, and Franz Kafka to lose hope in Fate to intervene.

But in our times, religion need not be an opiate for the masses, nor a ‘ganja’ for the delusional. From the experience of the liberation theologists in Latin America, South Africa, and the Philippines we can see the power of the collaboration between radical critical theorists and religious reconstructivists.

In the face of hegemony, such as in the outcome of Bagan Pinang in which landslide victories signify the march of big-time irrationality and political immorality, our own interpretation of liberation theology can be constructed between the revolutionary forces of change within the parties in the counter-hegemonic coalition.

What the rakyat want, to be part of a tsunami, is to wipe off corrupt individuals, institutions, installations, and ideologies that have become part of the landscape of even the Malaysian mind. What is needed is a reconstruction of the philosophy of counter-hegemony in this game of ‘Menang Kerbau’, or the Malaysian buffalo or cockfight so that the revolutionary and religious elements of radical change can be constructed and hence the chi or the inner harnessed energy, like in the training of the Shaolin warrior, can be harnessed and used to transform society.

As long as there is no reconstruction of this philosophy, race can still be used by the oppressors as a tool to dislodge, divide, disengage, and ultimately destroy the force of change.

Is Bagan Pinang the beginning of more landslide victories? Or is it a lull before a tsunami? As an existentialist, I would say that only time will tell, and only after there is a serious reconstruction in the philosophy of the forces of counter-hegemony.

While the opinion in the article is mine,
the comments are yours;
present them rationally and ethically.