So Where Do We Go From Here?

I think it is time for PAS to stop dodging the issues that every Malaysian wants to know and state its short, medium and long term objectives very clearly.

By batsman


Although I would like to agree with RPK in his write-up about Islam, PAS and politics, ( It is not about Islam; it is about religion ) I must also voice some serious reservations. I contend that, after all, if one only used the text books to try and build a bridge, it would most likely be a failure, since theory and practice are almost 2 different things altogether. Building bridges not only involves structural engineering, but also environmental impact assessment, town planning, hydrology and a host of other considerations including getting the views of those most affected (such as isolated indigenous native tribes), traffic and disaster loading estimates, land acquisition and not to mention the person or agency who is going to foot the bill. 

In a sense, my argument also touches upon Dr. Azly’s write-up on Chin Peng (What Chin Peng’s story can teach us ). It is all and well to say that Marxist theory can teach us something, but the practice of revolution and its associated violence is revolting, but were we living in the times and conditions of the insurrectionists when we comment so highly and mightily about them? 

So it is that we should try and understand the conditions of the past before we take a stand based on modern conditions and modern values to condemn the people of the occasion. This would be tantamount to the US condemning Saddam as a dictator and then trying to rescue Iraq from Saddam’s clutches at the point of guns, tanks, warplanes, depleted uranium ammunition and smart bombs and then succeed very effectively in throwing the Iraqis into even greater misery and genocide than the dictator himself. It is this high and mighty attitude that I have serious objections to. Often it is worse than a dictatorial attitude. 

All engineers know that for a project to work, a lot of fine tuning, modifications and alterations are necessary, yet when we look at history, we do it as if it existed in a theoretical vacuum that something we have no accountability for. 

When the great religions came into the scene, Rome was a dying empire, yet it was no longer possible to go back to an age where people lived in close knit small communities. Human history had reached the age of empires and a dying empire used the most viable and popular, toughest, most resilient and obsessive religious ideals of the period to try and save itself. 

If Christianity had not existed, the Roman emperors would have used the next best thing or surrender the empire to destruction. The brutality of the Roman Empire ensured that there was continuity in brutality in the religious order that followed for large scale organization of society demanded that the strictest discipline and control be imposed on the citizenry. There was no other viable equilibrium – either the brutality of the large empire or the brutality of destruction and slavery under a myriad of warring barbarian states. 

This does not mean that mankind must accept life under brutal dictatorships. There is always the hope for better things and hence the motivation to come up with ideal social organizations and communities. 

But as the engineer knows, the ideal and theory is not always implementable in practice and there is the need to fit idealism to practice or vice versa. But if the engineers gave up when faced with the myriad of practical problems, we would have no bridges in this world. 

When Dr. Azly says that Marxism can teach us something, he is also saying that the theory of Marxism is nice, but the practice is not so nice. This is because the conditions during the time that the theory first came into being was not so good and the adherents of the theory had to use engineering techniques, wickedly sharp sickles and deadly sledge hammers to try and fit practice into theory. This was also the conditions that gave rise to the split in Marxism between those that believed economics needed to lead Marxism and those who believed that politics need to lead Marxism and then go on to create the economic conditions needed for Marxism to succeed. Obviously one group was so patient that they were prepared to wait for the fruits to drop on their laps while the other group was so impatient that they were prepared to forcibly seize the fruits (and even the land, the property and the capital) from those who owned them. 

This is not all; often history does not tell us about the conditions that these people faced and what they decided to do in response to those conditions. Most of the people who joined the communists during China’s fight against Japanese invaders had little or no knowledge of communism, yet they were prepared to risk their lives to fight alongside and even join the ranks of the communists. In fact the ranks of the communists swelled hundred folds even as the Japanese committed genocide and reduced the Chinese population to a fraction of what it was. Were these people who joined the communists bad people who enjoyed committing acts of violence? I am sure quite a few were as the western media are fond of telling us ad nauseum. 

A few decades later, these same people were busy establishing a rigid upper class for themselves and enjoying benefits and privileges far in excess of the ignorant peasants in the countryside to the extent that Mao decided to launch a Cultural Revolution and risk the destruction of the communist party which he himself helped found and helped put into power. Even Mao’s great prestige and influence was not enough to change the course of history and those entrenched bureaucrats and party cadres who survived Mao’s purges helped bring about the current conditions in China today. Were these people evil? 

I don’t think so, at least for those who are not corrupt or abused their power. History had to run its course. It is the same with communists as it is with religionists. So it is with PAS. 

Here I have to agree with RPK in the sense that PAS has to decide to grow up and make practical choices. Ideals and theories are nice, but we do not live in an ideal world. If we did, we do not need the nice theories anyway. However, throwing the ideals away to achieve just any practical solution is also not a good thing. It would be like the engineer throwing away theory and trying to build a bridge based on practical gut feel. We might as well compromise with the devil and UMNO is the devil in human form. 

UMNO’s tricky and hypocritical jumps between UMNO style secularism and UMNO style religious extremism is turning off most Malaysians. If PAS wants to avoid falling into this trap it should have very clear and very public objectives about how it wishes to resolve this conflict between secularism and religiosity. Malaysians too, should not just put all the responsibility on the shoulders on PAS and should have some idea also about how such a conflict between hypocritical secularism and strict religiosity be overcome, as it seems to be at the root of a quite a lot of our problems and form a large part of our lives. Faith is not just about studying the theory of religion and implemented / lived without any conscience. Religion must be lived and practiced in a practical world and with full conscience and compassion for the suffering and weakness of others. This will always be the challenge facing persons with a religious bent. 

I think it is time for PAS to stop dodging the issues that every Malaysian wants to know and state its short, medium and long term objectives very clearly. Even if PAS wants to take a 3 dimensional view (objectives dependent on conditions present) instead of a linear view (thinking in a straight line), it is still acceptable. Even if PAS wants to add a 4th dimension or a 5th dimension (objectives dependent on unforeseen circumstances or responses or actions of coalitions partners), it is still acceptable so long as we need not ding dong between the 2 extremes of secularism and religiosity. 

On the other hand, hopefully Malaysians will not take the cowardly way out and put the entire burden on PAS’s shoulders and will actively and constructively work together to resolve this prickly issue of having a religiously neutral Malaysian state without suppression of any religious expression. Needless to say, failure to achieve such a paradigm shift is by default an acceptance of the status quo of UMNO style hypocrisy and continuation of the rule of the devil.