Seeing is believing

Note one thing: your perception is influenced by your values and standards. It is not about what the other person is. It is about what you are. If you think drinking is bad then your perception of someone who drinks would be bad. If you think that capitalism is bad then your perception of a capitalist would be bad. If you think that fundamentalism is bad then your perception of a fundamentalist Muslim would be bad.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

And Malaysia’s 2012 Word of the Year is …


That is what a Malaysian is told this year when reporting a robbery or a snatch theft and believing that this means crime is on the rise in what has been one of the safest countries in Southeast Asia.

That is what a Malaysian is told this year when complaining about rising graft or rising cost of living and thinking that the country is sinking through global indices in what is supposedly an Asian tiger of a nation.

Perception. The reality, according to the authorities, is that statistics this year shows that crime in Malaysia has dipped. Graft in Malaysia has also dipped and the authorities are going after those in the private sector now.

And the economy is rising, so that means more money in the pocket. Not only that, the government has been dishing one-off cash handouts of RM500 to households earning up to RM3,000 a month.

Yet, how many cases of robberies and snatch theft have we heard that occur in urban areas, especially near traffic lights? Is it a case of being more aware because of social media, as some authorities claim, despite official statistics showing a drop in crime?

How about living costs outstripping wages? How do you try to fathom a nation with an annual five per cent economic expansion and a policy of subsidising food and fuel that still needs to give cash handouts?

And the cheek to tell someone who has been robbed, or having to pay a bribe or pay more for groceries that it is just their perception that it is getting worse is just putting salt to the wound.

It is too easy to blame social media for such tales to turn viral. It is too easy to tell people to be more careful and take steps to be more vigilant and complain about corrupt practices and profiteering.

Also too easy to just announce policies and initiatives without ensuring they are implemented to the letter. Putting more boots on the ground, going after the big fish in corruption cases and targeting subsidies to specific demographics rather than an elephant gun spray of goodies for news headlines.

To be fair, Putrajaya has been taking action. There is a raft of policies and laws in place to cut crime, reduce graft and living costs. But the efforts do not seem to bear fruit as fast as they have been promised or implemented.

And this is where the word “perception” can bite the authorities or the government of the day.

The perception that it isn’t doing enough or doing things fast enough to make a difference.

There are a slew of projects under various abbreviations but the change isn’t being felt because it takes time for housing projects to finish or industries to rise and people to get better paying jobs.

Therein lies the irony, that nothing is as instant as perception.

Jahabar Sadiq, The Malaysian Insider


Yes, what Jahabar Sadiq wrote today in his editorial in The Malaysian Insider is very true. Everything in life is about perception — and more so when it comes to politics. Politics is built on perception.

The perception that Communism is bad and Capitalism is good is what we grew up with. So, if we want to frighten someone, all we need to do is accuse him or her of being a Communist and he/she will back off and tone down.

My question would be: so what if I am a Communist? What is wrong with being a Communist? If I declare that I am a Communist that is as good as declaring that I am a Pariah because the perception is that those who are Communists are Pariahs. Hence if someone accuses me of being a Communist I would deny it even if I do believe in Communism because Communists are outcasts.

Do you believe in God? Many people do. But not all humans believe in God. It is estimated that only about half of humankind believe in God. But less than 10% of the people will openly admit that they do not believe in God. And this is because the perception is if you do not believe in God then you cannot be a good person. Hence, to avoid being labelled as a bad person, you will never admit that you do not believe in God although in reality you do not believe in God.

Do you know that 30 years ago back in the 1980s Mercedes Benz started assembling its S Class in Malaysia? This is because Malaysians used to buy (I do not know whether they still do) the most number of S Class models per capita in the world. Hence Malaysia was the only other country outside Germany that assembled the S Class.

To Malaysians, if you drive the S Class Mercedes Benz or the 7 series BMW then the perception would be you have arrived. You have made it. You are successful. Maybe your liabilities exceed your assets, which means you are technically bankrupt, but the car you drive gives people the perception that you are successful so everyone wants to do business with you.

There is also the perception that if we change the government, meaning we kick out Barisan Nasional, Malaysia would be a better place to live. Foreigners who come to Malaysia for the first time and who see the way Malaysians behave would probably never come to that conclusion. For example, seeing the way Malaysians drive is evidence enough that Malaysians are inconsiderate, rude, arrogant, only care about themselves, and much more.

Malaysians are absolutely ill bred and uncultured. Hence changing the government will not make Malaysia a better place.  It may help to reduce corruption slightly but not eliminate it totally. But it will never make Malaysia a better place.

A better country is not just subject to the government it has. It is very dependent on the people in that country. England changed its system of government more than 400 years ago back in 1649. It kicked out its monarch and turned England into a republic.

Did that make England a better place? The people were still the same. The mentality was still the same. The people never changed. Hence, while they may have changed the government, the country did not become a better place. Therefore the perception that by changing the government the country becomes a better place is a fallacy if the people themselves refuse to change.

And what perception do you get from this statement I just made? Your perception would be therefore I am saying DO NOT change the government. Is this what I said? This is the perception you get although this is not what I said.

And why do you get this perception? You get this perception because you refuse to admit that the fault with the country lies with its people. You want to believe that what is wrong with the country is someone else’s fault, not your own fault. Hence you put the blame on the government. If not then you will have to admit that it is your own fault.

This is due to a disease called denial syndrome. Most Malaysians suffer from this disease. It is a disease where you blame others for what went wrong rather than admit that what went wrong is your fault.

Most Muslims will say that Islam suffers from a perception problem. Islam is a victim of bad publicity. And they will blame the western media for this. The western media is giving the perception that ‘Islam is the new Communism’. And since Communism is the Pariah therefore Islam would also be perceived as the Pariah.

But it is not Islam that is at fault, Muslims will say. It is the fault of a minority of Muslims who have given Islam a bad name. This minority has dragged Islam through the mud. The majority of Muslims are not like that. But the western media is giving the perception that it is Islam and not a minority of Muslims that is bad.

However, that is not the perception that the non-Muslims have. Most non-Muslims perceive Islam as a bad religion. The fruit of a poisonous tree would be poisonous, they will argue. Hence it is Islam itself and not just a handful of Muslims who is at fault.

So, is Islam the victim of negative perception that has given the religion a bad image? Or is Islam itself fundamentally flawed? The answer depends on whether you are a Muslim or not and hence how you perceive Islam is subject to this crucial point.

We perceive PERKASA as a racist organisation. We do not perceive Dong Zong and Hindraf as also racist organisations. Why is that? PERKASA fights for Islam and the Malay language. Dong Zong fights for Chinese education and the Chinese language. Hindraf fights for the Tamils and Hinduism. So why are not all three organisations classified as racist organisations? Why is only PERKASA a racist organisation but not the others?

Barisan Nasional is a racist party. Pakatan Rakyat is not a racist party. Has Pakatan Rakyat agreed to remove Islam as the official religion of Malaysia? Has Pakatan Rakyat agreed to remove the Malay language as the official language of Malaysia? Why do we even need an official religion and official language when other democracies all over the world do not have official religions and official languages?

Education Ministers have always been Malay. Why is that? In a democracy where meritocracy should prevail the abilities and not the race of that person should be the deciding factor.

Can Pakatan Rakyat announce that it would appoint a Chinese as the Education Minister? Why not? Why can’t a Chinese become the Education Minister and why can’t Pakatan Rakyat agree to this and make a public announcement on the matter?

In fact, why can’t we have a non-politician as an Education Minister? Can we give that job to one of the leading academicians? We want the best education system. We do not want education to be used as a political tool and to brainwash Malaysians.

The problem with Malaysia is the mentality and attitude of its people. Changing the government will not help if the mindset of the people remain the same. Hence we need to do a massive overhaul of our education system. And we can’t trust a politician to do this.

Yes, it is all about perception. And the perception is that everything involving the government is bad while everything involving the opposition is good. And PERKASA supports the government so it is bad. Dong Zong and Hindraf support the opposition so they are good.

What if Dong Zong and Hindraf announce that they will support anyone who agrees to their agenda? And what if Pakatan Rakyat disagrees with their agenda while Barisan Nasional agrees to it? And since their agenda is what matters Dong Zong and Hindraf now support Barisan Nasional and they announce so. Would Dong Zong and Hindraf still be considered good or are they now just like PERKASA, a racist organisation? What will your perception of Dong Zong and Hindraf be?

Note one thing: your perception is influenced by your values and standards. It is not about what the other person is. It is about what you are. If you think drinking is bad then your perception of someone who drinks would be bad. If you think that capitalism is bad then your perception of a capitalist would be bad. If you think that fundamentalism is bad then your perception of a fundamentalist Muslim would be bad.

Whether something or someone is good or bad is not about whether it is really good or bad but about your interpretation of good and bad. If I perceive all religions as bad then I would have a very low opinion of religionists. Religionists, however, would perceive me as a Godless person and someone who cannot be trusted.

And if I support Hindraf on it latest stand that it will not support either Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat unless they support Hindraf’s agenda how would you perceive me? Am I a true democrat who fights for the oppressed minority or am I a traitor to the cause? The question is: which cause are you using to come to this conclusion, Hindraf’s cause or your own cause?

Yes, your perception is guided by your interest. You will have a good perception of someone when it suits your agenda and you will have a bad perception of that person when it conflicts with your agenda. Perceptions are not real. And that is why most of you perceive that you are going to heaven because you are following the true and correct religion. And is this not why Malaysians are fighting over who has the right to use the word ‘Allah’?