Hindraf’s Right, But It Was A Middle Class Tsunami

By batsman 

Let me try and submit some ideas for discussion about the fading of the 2008 Tsunami, but from a class viewpoint. I don’t think anyone has looked at it from this angle yet.

Hindraf (as is Gobalakrishnan) seems to be exceptionally strident on Hindu temples and Tamil Schools. I suppose this must be a large part of their appeal and political platform. I suppose that at the beginning, such a appeal does have some rallying attraction for Indians who see their community as especially oppressed and marginalized, but unfortunately, it does not have sustainability. 

The reason I say this is that the Indian middle class is relatively large and their longer term political interests do not rest on Hindu temples and Tamil schools. I daresay they have since moved away from Tamil schools and placed their dependence for economic success on excellence in English. Even in the Indian subcontinent, English speakers control political, judicial and economic power, although I must admit that Hinduism has strong adherents from the Indian middle classes as well. 

I take a risk to say that Hindu temples and Tamil schools are more properly identified with poorer Indians, so that Hindraf’s political appeal is targeted towards (at least in part) poorer Indians. The alliance between poor Indians and middle class Indians was never properly forged and it deprived the movement of leadership. It seems to me that the Indian community is still casting around for unity and leadership, even as Hindraf leaders try and claim this mantle. 

As far as the Malay community is concerned, the tsunami affected the Malay middle class most in voting behaviour. This is because UMNO (and hence political, financial and economic power) is controlled by dick suckers as claimed by RPK. Apparently many of these are gate keepers, gardeners and the like. Imagine the resentment of Malay middle class persons who have been well-trained in their professions (but who are unwilling to stoop to dick sucking) having to report to gate keepers with gigantic egos and revengeful attitude but who monopolise power in UMNO crony institutions. 

Unfortunately, as with the Indian community, the alliance between poor Malays and middle class Malays have not been properly forged. This is because it is difficult to have a political platform that satisfies both poor Malays as well as middle class Malays. UMNO does it by having an advertising campaign called 1 Malaysia which claims that “Rakyat didahulukan dan pencapaian diutamakan” and then conveniently ignores the practical difficulties of achieving this. 

In similar fashion, our PM sees fit to claim that scholarships are given both to students with merit as well as for reasons of social justice. The reality that there is no practical manner of achieving this without massive intervention by a bloated and powerful bureaucracy is at the same time conveniently ignored. Also ignored are the future problems that are guaranteed to crop up when students with merit compete in the job market with students on social justice scholarships, not to mention universities which have to handle extremes in intelligence and capabilities amongst its students. This further justifies the existence of bureaucratic interference in the job (commercial) market and in the universities. So nothing has changed – only an additional advertising campaign. 

But this is how UMNO solves problems – by creating more and more bureaucratic departments to handle more and more issues that arise, thus becoming more communistic, demanding bigger and bigger budgets, interfering in more areas and getting increasingly powerful at the same time. It is a win-win situation for UMNO, but the country has to foot the bills and pay the price for problems that never really get solved but are just postponed to the future if only because UMNO is increasingly being controlled by extravagant incompetents with singular skills at playing dirty tricks and covering up crimes with the weapons of silence. 

UMNO needs incredible amounts of money to stay in power. These days military purchases are no longer enough to fund insatiable appetites so the tactics exposed by Dr. Kua’s book are already becoming outdated and mega projects such as multi-billion ringgit 100 storey towers and MRT projects are being favoured. Just compare Beijing’s new additional MRT lines 108 kilometers long and costing USD 9.2 billion with our own estimates. (xinhua

The cost to the country just takes on a different form. Instead of a military that cannot fight unidentified enemies because jet planes cannot fly and submarines cannot dive, we have multi-nationals which suffer billion ringgit losses unless of course it is a monopoly propped up by protective taxes. In addition, some people actually fear nuclear plants that have catastrophic accidents, but I suppose this is an irrational fear. 

The PR must realize that the 2008 tsunami was a middle class tsunami. The problem with this is that the Malaysian middle classes are not exactly one with a great deal of resolution and integrity. On its own, it can never bring proper reforms to fruition. It needs to forge strong alliances with the poor in order that the reform movement not only has leadership but strength and resolution. 

The problem again is that ego gets in the way. The needs and political interests of the poor are disdained as not sufficiently high class enough. Insufficient attention is paid to strengthening the alliance between the poor and the middle class and old UMNO ideas and policies are copied instead. The PR has not come up with its own customized solutions for the poor and copy instead the specious UMNO formula of excellence with social justice. 

Even now, the middle classes are already doubting their ability to carry out the 2008 tsunami to a successful conclusion. The PR really has its work cut out for it, if only it did not over-react to this pressure by treating non-party activists as outsiders and trying to kill off civil rights NGOs such as MCLM as well as copying UMNO’s use of weapons of silence. To me this is just preparing the excuses for the expected failure.