Sunday, March 1, 2009


There is clearly a need for a rethinking of current political thought, a redefining of the entire political system. Before I proceed, let me attempt to address a few points that will arise in the minds of some –

1) “Any system is fine, it is the people that matters”. This is a common objection whenever you suggest some change in the system. True, it is always the people that matter as it is the human that has to manage and work within the system. However, one must remember that the effectiveness and the quality of the system that is in place largely sets the standards and the parameters of behavior. For example, under the current political system, we have the “opposition and the Government party”. Under current political thought, you are EXPECTED to be foes of each other to the extent that cooperation between the two is almost forbidden even if it does not serve national interest. Our current political system (based on the perception of so-called realpolitik) is either racial or religious based. Hence, any aspiring politician must be able to tailor his behavior into either of these two categories – the system moulds the behavior. When the political thought itself is premised on racial and religious platforms, the fact that racism and religiosity will be perpetuated escapes the thinking of most. If I am correct, then the thinking that “any system is fine” must be incorrect.

2) “We must be practical, not idealistic”. This is another statement I often hear in my life. My experience has been the speaker does not really understand the full import of what he said. Practicality and pragmatism are two different concepts that give rise to different results. In its “original form”, “pragmatism” was a philosophical tradition that originated in the United States around 1870. The most important of the ‘classical pragmatists’ were Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914), William James (1842–1910) and John Dewey (1859-1952). Of course as most concepts experience, this concept too mutated into political and other sciences.

For example, it is practical that if you are alive, you will need to work to earn a living. It may be pragmatic that you earn your living through corrupt means if that gives you more and faster income than though decent means. Racial politics may be pragmatic but certainly not practical as it divides society. “End justifying the means” is pragmatism, not practicality. I believe we keep confusing the word “practical” with “pragmatic”. Is it then any wonder that there is ensuing confusion and chaos in our political world?

It has always perplexed me when I was younger and it continues to perplex me in my adult life that even so-called persons who are expected to be intellectuals fail to see that practicality need not be an antithesis to idealism. My perplexion subsides only when I realize that our education “system” has failed – thinking has low priority in our political thought. Idealism is covered under the next point.

3) “No wonder you cannot be in politics, you are idealistic”. I am sure, even you must have heard this line of thinking. Is it not frightening that collectively we seem to have accepted that idealism has no place in our political thought? This also implies that we accept and elect leaders with no ideals and reject those who have. But do we again know what we are saying? Idealism is the philosophical theory which maintains that the ultimate nature of reality is based on mind or ideas. It holds that the so-called external or "real world" is inseparable from mind, consciousness, or perception. Today of course, the word has, in our society, mutated to mean a “utopian” way of thinking. That is, something of a “perfection”.

Firstly, if we use the word as is rightly understood in political philosophy, are we saying that we want leaders that believe that the “real world” is unconnected to mind, consciousness or perception? This would be frighteningly ridiculous correct?

Secondly, if we use the word as is ordinarily understood today to mean something of a “perfection”, what is wrong with having an objective of attaining “perfection”? Of course perfection by definition may be unattainable but is that not setting high standards? If we reject idealism or idealistic thoughts, it seems to me that we condone mediocrity and mediocre thoughts. Frankly, our political system and thinking to me is at an extremely mediocre level. What is worrisome is that this mediocrity in political behavior and thought has through familiarity been accepted as THE political system. Fools reign supreme because the thinking ones are kicked aside by the rallying cry against “idealism”!

Thirdly, ideals are relative but it seems to suggest “high standards as perceived by the society at a certain thinking level”. For example, to the caveman who is hunting, it will be ideal for him that he can store up food for a certain period that will free him from daily hunting. I can imagine the caveman who speaks of this being brushed aside by his fellow caveman as being “not practical, idealistic”. Today, however, that caveman will be considered a visionary because we have invented the refrigerator. If you understand this example, then you will see that leaders must have ideals for society to truly progress (as opposed to “window dressing progress” - to be discussed another day). Our political thought must incorporate ideals in its philosophy. If you do not understand this, then either a) take your time and b) understand how powerful indoctrination of your mind has been.

4) “I am a party man”. It is our Malaysian malady that we love to say things that we do not fully understand. As I often say, thinking is not a trait taught by our education “system”. What does “party man” mean? Does that mean once we are “Party man”, we stop being fathers, mothers, citizens, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, humans, males, females, etc? Which is paramount and takes precedence – being a party man or a citizen? (To me being a Rapera takes precedence as this word (as I understand it) is comprehensive). Our current political thought forces us into a box. We have to be categorized and once categorized, you cannot behave in manners that may be construed as being outside your respective boxes.

Our current political thinking boxes us into “PAS”, “UMNO”, “DAP”, “PKR”, etc, overriding the more important commonality of being a citizen of the Nation. When I was in form four, I coined the term “victim of categorization” not realizing that this term will be equally useful to explain my views today about current political thought. Once we are boxed into “political party boxes” we, as normal citizens become victims of categorization. We are unable to speak out against our own party when they do wrong and unable to support another party when they do right. While this will allow political scores to be made, as a Nation we flounder. National Interest as a binding force between competing political parties is not permitted under our current political system. This must change, RADICALLY.

Due to citizens compelled to become victims of categorization under our current political thought and system, in the long run, the true losers are the ordinary citizens and ordinary party members.

Should it not be that even after you retire from politics, you must still be a responsible citizen? Only a "party man" has a time span on his responsibility to the Nation.




romerz said...

Jeez, you have to be long winded and make this posting in 4 parts. :-)

Now I have to spend the better part of 2 weeks reading your 2 blogs. :-) said...

Thank you for an excellent piece for civil education!

Will feature this post in our website and link our readers to read the part 2, 3... at your blog.

All the best!