Race, Class, Short or Long Term?

By batsman 

In his article Malays still the kingmakers RPK laments the inescapable fact that Malaysian politics cannot escape from racial considerations. This has triggered an avalanche of sore loser or even sour grapes responses from commentators.

One could say that such sore loser responses help feed the racial underpinnings of Malaysian politics because they do not show a way out and are essentially a surrender to the political facts of life in Malaysia. 

Obviously the start of any escape is not to surrender. One therefore needs a deeper understanding of the situation such that the next actions or efforts take better grasp of real conditions rather than thrash around blindly in misery. 

The 2008 tsunami was a middle class reform movement as much as a cry of dissatisfaction with Malaysian conditions and life. The middle class led the cry of dissatisfaction and the population followed along, but the middle class is only a small portion of the population. 

Unless the middle class leadership is able to offer answers or able to satisfy the demands of the majority of the population, the tsunami is doomed to dissipate into apathy and directionless thrashing about. 

This means the whole population needs to have a long term view in mind – so much that they are willing to sacrifice short term sense of security or UMNO’s placating goodies and promises. This means the population needs an ideal. 

Take Hindraf for example as an obvious case of the gulf between the middle class and the poor. Hindraf realizes the Indian Malaysian community needs to be uplifted, but the middle class leadership concentrated on Hindu Temples and Tamil Schools. In a sense it was limited to demand for land and money to build these institutions, but such demands fall short of the long term needs of poor and marginalized Indians. Poor and marginalized Indians need to have their social, economic and political conditions and status uplifted. They need jobs and continuous training, education and upgrading for better prospects and better jobs as time goes on. They also need to be free from discrimination and oppression from institutionalized racism of the public service. They need better access to finance, approvals and licenses as well as skills as well as equal opportunities all round. 

Without full civil liberties and freedom from discrimination and oppression, jobs and economic uplifting will also lose out. Lack of civil liberties and being discriminated against means the competition for economic uplifting is weighted against minorities. Unfortunately the middle class leadership of the reform movement were not able to offer such policies and programmes to satisfy the demands of the poor and marginalized. It was not able the offer hope and ideals to the majority of the population. 

The result is the way is wide open for UMNO to tempt and seduce  the poor with short term goodies and promises. Even a RM 50 ang pow or hamper during by-elections is better than nothing not to mention the promise of RM 1.5 billion spending on community services for middle income families. 

The problems of the Malays are essentially the same as those of the Indians. The Malays do not face racial discrimination but face discrimination from lack of VIP contacts and connections. They are also prone to being seduced by promises to build kampong roads, fishing jetties and bridges as well as cheap housing. Promises of scholarships to the large numbers of faceless new universities being built can seal the deal on voting loyalties. Promises of dead end clerical jobs with the public service is better than starving at home. 

The end result of all these short term seduction and populist policies and programmes which ensure the ruling clique some permanence and assurance of holding on to their power and wealth is the corruption and mediocritisation of Malaysia. The poor remain poor with only temporary relief during elections when goodies are freely offered. 

So the long term future is being sacrificed by short term lust or short term desperation for relief. 

This is not only the fault of the ruling clique but also of the middle class opposition which indulge in chauvinistic heroics without seriously looking into the plight and long term future of the masses of poor and marginalized as if the democratic, meritocratic or  hero cult issues they champion are also the issues that the great majority of the population also champion. 

As RPK says – do the voters of Tenang care 2 hoots for Kugan or TBH or even for DSAI’s sodomy difficulties for that matter? 

The people of Malaysia need to be empowered just as UMNO tries to empower the Malays with Ketuanan Melayu or the MIC tries to empower the Indians with promises of making them millionaires (with or without MAICA) or the MCA tries to empower the Chinese with Chinese chauvinism (with or without videos or gloves). The people need to be empowered with realistic programmes that they can seize hold of as the road to a better future – minus all the oppression, cheating, abuse, sin and corruption. 

It is no use having a nicely printed programme in an attractive booklet and then talk about everything else under the sun during elections except the programme. If this continues to be the case, it would be just another case of surrendering to the cult of the hero. It would be a worst case scenario of surrendering to short term mentality that the middle class reform leadership can be guilty of.