Of Angry Birds and angry Malaysians


By Wong Chun Wai, The Star

Even fugitive blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin has found out, and lamented, that when he exposes scandals involving the government, he is a hero but when he does the same with the opposition, he is turned into a political pariah instantly.

Partisanship is so strong on both sides of the political divide that we have become angry Malaysians. Can we stop being angry and try to make sense of the issues affecting the nation instead?

IF you watched the live proceedings of the British parliamentary hearings involving the Murdochs, you would agree that they were impressive.

Prime Minister David Cameron, in cutting short his trip to Africa to call for a special meeting of the Commons, was grilled incessantly by the Opposition. But he took it all in stride.

Although he could not bring himself to apologise for hiring a former staff of News of the World, Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper which has been accused of carrying out illegal hacking into mobile phones, he carried himself well, showing his willingness to take on his opponents.

The Speaker moderated the proceedings with finesse and we were shown what the Westminster parliamentary system, which our own Dewan Rakyat is modelled after, is all about.

A day earlier, also shown live, we watched the parliamentary select committees in action.

Never mind if there were disagreements, even accusations of perjury at times, but everyone spoke in measured tones. Everyone went out of their way to ensure there was dignity and decorum – except for the moment when a failed comic attacked Murdoch with a foam pie.

Now we all know about his young wife Wendi Deng. Her left hook and swift intervention by a constable were sufficient to wrest the loony away. Not much fuss there, and no need for an Emergency Order, for sure.

Compare that with our Malaysian politicians. With a general election looming, possibly by next March, the posturing seems to have become louder.

Don’t look far. Just read the blogs, the political websites and the comments posted. Many of us seem to contradict ourselves. We call for a better political culture with intellectual discourse and debate over policies and issues, but we often degenerate into name calling.

Instead of reading an entire commentary to consider the salient points raised, some enjoy picking up a single sentence or even a word to tear apart the writer’s opinion. There’s nothing wrong with this except that it often ends up in a distasteful round of name calling and personal attacks.

Regardless of our political affiliations, it is hardly the political road that we want for Malaysia.

If you support the opposition, you risk being labelled a traitor, communist, socialist, Jew or at least remotely Jewish-linked.

On the other hand, if you back the government, or are simply being neutral, you are called a running dog, coward, corrupt or a spineless person and your next three generations will be duly cursed. Of course, you would also be labelled a traitor.

In Parliament, MPs are suddenly transformed into verbal monsters with childish tantrums who, as they lunge at each other, call others by animal names.

If we read the postings on blogs and tweets, we can see many shouting about transparency and accountability but most opt to remain anonymous even as they run down others as cowards. So who is the coward in the end?

Perhaps it’s the fault of our education system, or our lack of proficiency to speak or debate in more than one language, or simply our political culture. Being articulate is surely not our strong point.

Maybe we have become so angry and fed up with what is happening that we no longer wish to be polite. Or have we really lost our marbles and are therefore unable to rationalise? Is it no longer politically correct to be moderate or neutral with the frightening emergence of the “us” or “them” syndrome?

The partisanship is so strong that both sides expect the media to be excessively pro-government or openly slanted to the opposition. An objective and unbiased media, to some, even means being openly hostile to the government. That has become the fastest way to be popular, fortunately or unfortunately.

Even fugitive blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin has found out, and lamented, that when he exposes scandals involving the government, he is a hero but when he does the same with the opposition, he is turned into a political pariah instantly.

If the government is regarded as being intolerant to dissent, the same attitude is also detected among the ranks of the opposition. In the fight for votes and power, the end seems to justify the means. Nothing is sacred.

So when we read about faked deaths in a recent demonstration, those who claimed to be righteous and demanded “truth and justice” can also become strangely silent. Malaysians do not know who and what to believe any more, what with new issues appearing one after the other.

There is too much contradiction and sacrificing of principles, all seemingly in the name of justice. Look at it carefully, however, and it is simply about the advancement of individual political careers and attempts to control Putrajaya.

The authorities have not been consistent. The police have stopped opposition ceramah, arrested those taking part in candlelight vigils and ridiculously nabbed politicians wearing yellow T-shirts with the word “Bersih”.

On the other hand, it is open knowledge that the opposition holds ceramah almost every other day. The demand for a 21-day campaigning period does not seem to gel. In fact, the ceramah is supposed to be a closed-door affair if its definition is strictly enforced, but many of them have turned into rallies.

In short, the rules are not consistent. Make it clear and easy for all parties to apply to hold such talks. Let there be fairness. The political and media landscapes have changed but many of our civil servants and leaders are still stuck in a time warp, and seemingly indifferent to it.

So we have officials who black out parts of an article in The Economist when one can easily access it online, or put hurdles out to ban the Bahasa Malaysia Bible when all it takes is a simple click to print the entire version from the Internet.

But emotions and scoring points seem to have become the obsession of many Malaysians. Is it any wonder that one of the popular pastimes among Malaysians is playing the “Angry Birds” game on their mobiles and tablets?

Can we stop being angry people and try to make sense of the issues affecting the nation instead? Or better still, just laugh at them? It’s just the run-up to the silly season, as cynical reporters call it.