What price loyalty?
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, hounded by scandal and facing open rebellion within his ranks, made an impassioned plea at his party’s general assembly last week for unity and support. He demanded loyalty and obedience from all. He invoked God, race and country to justify his leadership.
But what price loyalty and obedience?
Great leaders appeal for support on the basis of a great cause, in defence of righteous principles or to uphold great ideals. They inspire support by their vision, by their integrity, by their example, by their commitment to great national goals.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill, for example, in his nation’s darkest hour, inspired his countrymen to stand firm against Nazi tyranny despite the odds. Mahatma Gandhi summoned his nation to the great ideals of tolerance and respect for diversity and human dignity. President John F. Kennedy appealed, in his inaugural address, for sacrifice and commitment to make America that shining light upon a hill, an inspiration to the world. Nelson Mandela urged a nation divided by decades of apartheid to reconcile, to build a new nation based on justice and inclusiveness.
They invited their countrymen to join them in a great quest and millions freely and willingly rallied to them.
Despots, dictators and demagogues, on the other hand, bankrupt of vision, devoid of principle, blinded by avarice and ambition, demand mindless obedience, blind loyalty and passive submission.
They create imaginary threats to cover up their misdeeds and invoke race and religion to justify their oppressive rule. Criticism becomes a crime. Dissent is equated with disloyalty. Opposition is considered sedition. If you are not with them, you are against them.
They boast of popular support, of working for the common good, but depend upon repressive laws to stay in power. The more authoritarian they become, the more laws they need.
And the yearning of every human being for liberty and justice which people throughout history have fought and died to gain and keep, suddenly becomes a sinister and dangerous thing that needs to be eradicated like the plague.
One would have thought, for example, that at such a crucial time in our nation’s history – when our nation is beset with scandal, corruption and chicanery in high places, when our national institutions have been hollowed out, when corruption and mismanagement is rampant, when our constitutional rights are under threat, when racial and religious extremism is growing, when our citizens are increasingly hard-pressed to make ends meet – that the governing party would be seized by high policy issues and anxious to restore confidence and hope to a beleaguered nation.
Instead, we were treated to meaningless hubris, empty rhetoric and mendacious propaganda. They took pride in all the wrong things. They regurgitated tired old formulas, cheered the absurd, applauded bigotry and ended with feudalistic appeals for fealty and submission to a leader who has become a liability to our nation.