Monday, February 28, 2011

Rethinking the myth of “consensus of the majority” - Part 2 : Politics and Democracy

Politics and Democracy

Democracy we say is the government of the people, by the people for the people. It is, we boast, a system that allows the people to form a government and run it by consensus. We say it is a majority rule government. Does that “majority” include you and me and the 15 year old child who does know where to get the money to go to school?

I have written extensively on the weakness and myth of the party system in a democracy on this blog and elsewhere, especially on the need for a radical reform of the political culture. Any system is workable only if the general culture is useful and positive. Where the general culture is primitive, the system becomes a tool of an elitist few. In a democracy, the party system too is controlled by the select few who determine who rise and fall as leaders. In other words, you are presented with the candidates to choose from. Most likely, these candidates rise in the party not through competency or ability but through money and patronage.

Many also vote along party lines without caring to analyse the long term consequences to their own future and the Nation. Due to various factors, including apathy, many do not really know why or whom they have voted.  Many more do not even vote thinking that it is a useless exercise without realising that by not voting, they too have made a decision which will impact the future of the nation. In such a scenario, the myth of the so-called majority government in a democracy formed by consensus of the People is clearly evident.

In a democracy, the effective competition for votes is largely confined to established parties even though there is a new trend around the world where independents are gaining greater acceptance by the voters. In the USA, for example, it is largely confined to Republican and Democratic, in UK it is Conservative and Labour while in Malaysia it is PAS and UMNO. Other parties that exist may align to any of these established parties. They get together by consensus among the top leaders of the respective parties and the general body of members generally accept the “consensus” which is then presented to the public as a “coalition consensus”. (Please note that in reality, the decisions are actually made by a few party officials)

Party consensus prevents party members from voicing and struggling for what is right if it is against party interests. In many instances, if you analyse, you will find that such party consensus has caused tremendous injustice and cruelty to mankind. You will find for example, political parties unashamedly diving citizens along racial and religious lines while at the same time they may utter that we are all “children of God”. Minorities are treated as if they do not exit on earth. Consensus allows seemingly “good” people to do evil things. When they hold power, evil values may be enacted as laws.

Elected representatives, either in Parliament or in State Assembly have the power to pass laws that affect the  ordinary citizen's life. Again, in the Parliament and the State Assembly, the laws are passed by the consensus of the majority. The issue is: have the representatives passed the laws in the interest of the Nation or for party  or vested interests? Even a bad or evil law is still law if passed. Did the voter also consent to bad laws to be passed when they voted? Is it not then the implicit responsibility of the representatives to seek the consent of their constituents? After all, they can make time to knock on every door to canvass for votes during election time. The truth of the matter is that many ordinary citizens do not know what laws are passed. The respective elected representatives also do not make it a point to explain the draft bills to their respective constituencies. Hence, the so called democratic consensus under our system is illusory and a myth. It is in fact power wielding by an elitist few under the guise of consensus.

Many ordinary citizens also fail to observe how the wealth of the Nation is distributed or they may have resigned themselves to accept it as a matter of fact beyond their control (where then is the consensus if this is so?). Is it a mere coincidence of talent that most of the wealth is in the hands of those who are either related to or aligned to those who hold political power? If indeed democracy is the government of the people, by the people for the people by consensus, did the People consent to the wealth being distributed to the leaders’ relatives and friends?

Where is the justice when we have the bulk of the wealth of the nation in the hands of the few whence we have the majority of the People struggling to have their families’ ends met? In this manner, the myth of consensus has visited cruelties on many ordinary families because the Nation’s resources have been cunningly and deceitfully taken away from them. While I bask in my RM6 million bungalow, you are struggling to pay the loan of your middle cost or low cost house! Obviously, they think their children deserve it more than yours or mine. I have merely given an example which is merely the tip of the iceberg!!!

To me, if indeed consensus is real and not a myth, based on the wealth that our country possessed, we should today have completely free education for all who want to study up to tertiary level. However, today almost every young adult is saddled with a study loan even before they begin to work! Is this not cruel? I can go on listing the things that could have been put in place if indeed consensus was real and not a myth, but I leave it to you to add the list on this blog.

The myth of consensus in politics is not understood by many because of the sophistication with which it is managed and engineered. It is also very intertwined with economic control of the Nation’s wealth. I dare say that it is an art beyond the comprehension of the average citizen. Politics is a sophisticated game of information and perception management swinging the citizens’ emotions between fear and hope. In politics, People in general are made to perceive that they are part of the consensus.

Why did you vote?

Many fail to realize that democracy today has been relegated to casting your votes at the ballot box. Once you vote, you have practiced democracy! By consensus, we seem to have agreed that once a person is elected as an MP or State Assemblyman, he has the mandate to do what he or his party pleases.

When you voted, did you give a blank cheque to the candidate to do what he or his party pleases or did you have something else on your mind? If so, what recourse do you have as a voter to oust or punish him if he breaches your mandate? These are matters which even the political scientists have not sorted out because most people seem to have accepted the system as it is. Since merdeka, I have not heard of any seminars or forums to address this issue! Hence, political thought in this country remains puerile and status quo.  With the greatest of respect, I note that even those political scientists in this country who analyse such things do so within the framework of the existing model which we inherited from our colonial masters or from those who graduate from syllabuses crafted by our colonial masters. This being the case, there will not be any radical improvements, maybe just cosmetic or short term.

When you analyse the workings of the so-called democratic system in this country you will conclude this: that every citizen has delegated the absolute right to the elected “representatives” to do as they or their party pleases during the duration of their term. You give them the absolute political power to shape your life. I say “absolute right” because our society has not put in place any user friendly counter measure for the ordinary voter to have recourse to in the event there is a breach of mandate. You just have to wait for the next election by which time; you will be successfully manipulated to repeat the error. (Yes, I do not have confidence in the majority of the voters to think or to care as yet.)

I have often said that the voters are like rats in a maze that has only three exits. The rats think they are struggling to find the exit and that they are making a choice of which exit. They do not know that the choices have already been made for them. Like the rats, voters never pause to think that maybe they want to redesign the maze or even do away with it. Unfortunately, many who think they are thinking outside the box are actually still within the box but in a different corner.

The truth of the matter is this: democracy gives you the illusion of the consensus of the People. Hence, it is a myth and not a fact.

Peace !

Rethinking the myth of “consensus of the majority” - Part 3: Religion

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rethinking the myth of “consensus of the majority” - 1

Image thanks to here.

At the very outset, I would like to state this – consensus has its relevance and role. Now my thoughts on the subject:

Is the so called consensus real and founded on sound knowledge?

We like to think that one of the marks of a civilized society is the ability to reach consensus on important issues affecting society. In fact, consensus has today become as normal and unconscious as breathing in many important aspects of our life. Consensus indicates agreement in the judgment or opinion reached by a group as a whole.  The masses then adjust and manage their lives within the framework of consensus that has been presented to them – unthinkingly.

In almost every aspect of our lives – corporate, family, politics, religion, etc – consensus determines and controls our perspective of things.

It is generally accepted that consensus is vital for life to progress and the opposite of it will be chaos. If you belong to any social unit, you are expected to adhere to consensus; otherwise you will be ostracized as a trouble maker. The mindset of consensus is so ingrained in most of us that we are unable to see its clear and present dangers.

Consensus is also equated with “decision of the majority”. We have been brought up to think that decisions made by the majority are always good for all of us. We therefore must “respect” or adhere to the norms of the majority. Minority views are suppressed, not given any thought or even ridiculed.

I can understand the usefulness of consensus to achieve certain objectives in society. However, I will not extol it to be the “high virtue” that many seem to have unthinkingly accepted. Consensus is only useful when you understand its consequences and limitations. It appears to me that preference for consensus alone (to the exclusion of differing views) is indicative of the human being’s failure to rise from mental primitiveness.

Consensus, as practiced in our lives universally, has created more problems than benefits. My informal study of human history seems to suggest that consensus has been a major tool of oppression of the masses, reformers and intellectuals causing untold confusion, misery and cruelties.  Shocked at this proposition? Let me explain.

I view the unthinking obsession with consensus as people’s readiness to surrender their lives to a very small elitist group in their society. Most people actually live their life allowing it to be shaped by unseen human hands under the convenient tool called “consensus”.

I must confess that I began analysing the usefulness of consensus when I was compelled to think of the following verse from the Quran, some 15 years back:

“And if you obey most of those in the earth, they will lead you astray from Allah's way; they follow but conjecture and they only lie”. (Quran 6:116)

The above verse seems to suggest that majority views are often a result of conjectures (assumptions/guesswork) and untruths/lies/unfounded premises. I suppose this makes sense as any fact or truth is independent of the numbers who believe in it. As we often hear, a lie repeated a million times is still a lie and a truth of one is still the truth.

Since the Quran seems to suggest that majority views are a result of conjectures, it is therefore incumbent upon the thinking person to verify, ascertain and evaluate the views, norms or anything that he hears or experiences (see Quran 17:36).

In this paper, I shall attempt to analyse various aspects of our lives that have been wrecked by the myth of consensus and the untold misery and injustices that has unfolded.

Politics and Democracy

Democracy we say is the government of the people, by the people for the people. It is, we boast, a system that allows the people to form a government and run it by consensus. We say it is a majority rule government. Does that “majority” include you and me and the 15 year old child who does not know where to get the money to go to school? 

To be continued in Part 2.
Peace !

Monday, February 14, 2011

Reforms or ad-hoc solutions? Leaders or Opportunists?

Some people want to be controversial even though the subject matter of their controversy is puerile, insulting to the mind or simply idiotic. They do it because they have a ready made audience which is equally puerile, weak minded or simply ignorant. Through the controversy that they create they become heroes of some sort to the weak minded crowd, especially if such a crowd is actually big.

The sane, intelligent ones will either have to count their blessings that they are not weak minded or pray and hope that hero will soon be exposed for the charlatan that he or she is.

True reformers are difficult (not impossible) to have a significant impact on a society that is blind to many things, especially the rotten aspects of their society. It is a major challenge to invite a society  that has a blinkered view of life to see beyond the horizon. It is challenging to make a slave realise his slavery until he himself is prepared to think out the circumstances he is in and understand the alternatives available.

However, the sad fact is: people often get the leaders in society that they deserve. Generally, if the society is made up of members who do not have high self esteem, they will end up having rogue leaders who will manipulate their weaknesses. If the members have deliberately kept their minds in cold storage, then charlatans will be held up being clever. As the saying goes, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed person is king! 

Nature works in such a way that a good tree will not come forth from a bad seed. It is pointless trimming the tree, putting manure, watering it if the seed is rotten. Trimming, watering, putting manure, etc makes us all very busy and gives us the illusion of doing something to improve the tree. It will not work. The tree will forever be a source of problem. Obviously, many heroes often rise from this mindless, futile effort of endless ad hoc problem solving activity. Through time, many become blind to the real, fundamental problem - the bad seed.

It is mind-boggling when you think of the problems that can branch out from a bad tree and the ad hoc solutions it will entail.

The tree from the bad seed has to be uprooted for a good tree to grow. This is problem solving at the fundamental level. 

However, many will prefer the bad tree to stay. They are more concerned with the trimming, putting water, manure, etc opportunities that a bad tree provides. If the tree is uprooted, their role and hence their importance (and economic opportunities) becomes equally extinct.

Much boasted reforms unfortunately are confined to maintaining the bad tree rather than reforming the tree itself.  Planting a new seed appears to have escaped many people's minds.

However, to reform the tree itself, the people must be prepared to recognize the bad tree for what it is and have the knowledge of what a good or a bad seed can produce. For this, they need to - think !  

Having thought, they would then need the courage, the persistence and the sincerity to have the bad tree uprooted and to plant the good seed.

Peace !

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Are You A Child, An Adult, or a Mentally Retarded Adult by Choice (MRAC)?

If you ask anyone if they are proud of themselves, the almost defensive answer will be: “of course. I am proud of who I am”. But who are you?  How would you define yourself? Even if you have not consciously defined yourself, the fact is you have been defining yourself by the life you live.  I will bet my last dollar that many of us have been defining ourselves completely contrary to what we think we are most parts of our lives.

When you were in kindergarten, you just behaved as you would behave. You can get along with some friends and with some others you cannot get along. Most probably, you never even knew why you could not get along other than being just uncomfortable. Sometimes, it is probably because you figured the other boy or girl is just not sharing her toys or things with you. Or maybe, being a child, you have not yet developed social and discerning skills. It is acceptable and sometimes it can be cute to hear a child say: “ I am going to complain to my papa about you”. Or, “I don’t know, let me ask my mama about it”.

When a child or even teenager says something like; “ I have get my parent’s permission first before I can do it”, we consider them well brought up and disciplined. What if an adult says something like that all the time?

For instance, in deciding what clothes to wear or what speech to make, the adult tells you: “I have to ask the permission of Mr X”. And Mr X is a stranger to him! Or say, you ask him, “What do you think of freedom of thought?”. And he replies, “Can you give me two days to get Mr X’s views of that please? I do not want to get it wrong”.

What am I talking about? I am talking about adults who live a child’s life. An adult who lives like a child is not cute but mentally retarded. I am sure this is an acceptable proposition? Let me illustrate:

Somewhere in the growth path of your life, someone comes along and tells you that since you are a Muslim, you cannot do this and that. Or cannot say this or that or wear this and that. In fact this person even tries to control what you think and feel. Now, this person who is telling you how to live your life is not even your father or mother. He is not even your remote neighbour. He is some paid civil servant whom you are meeting for the first time. He does not only tell you, he has been given the legal power to punish you if you do not abide by his dictations. He can have you caned like a child for disobeying him.

Remember, while with your own parents, you may disagree with their view of things since you feel that you have now become an adult, it is not necessarily the case with the paid civil servants. Your parents may finally accept that you have grown up, capable of making responsible decisions and after all you are now supporting them. It is not so with the paid civil servants. Their word, their world view and their interpretation of life is law. You have no choice but to abide by their views unless you want to commit a crime.

Yes, a crime for not agreeing to someone’s world view of how you should live your life. It does not matter that your world view does not cause any physical or moral harm to someone. It also does not matter that you have a higher level of intelligence and better discerning powers than the paid civil servants. The point is: they have been given authority to treat you like a child and somewhere along the line, you had, either ignorantly or recklessly, given them that authority.

And just like everything else in life, a nightmare or fantasy actually acted out in daily life ultimately becomes a norm. You even tend to forget that you are being treated like a child. You become what you are and you accept that as a fact of life. Once you do this, unconsciously you have limited your thinking capacity to that of a child. However, since bodily you are not a child, your behaviour is actually idiotic or at best childish.

Your mind tells itself not to develop and you find normal adult things complex. Just like a child you get used to being dependent on the very thing that limits and controls your life – the paid civil servants.

Try to multiply this childlike people into a group or a community and see what you get.

You would probably get a community of people who have child-like fears that adults should not have. They would forever need to be protected by someone else to whom they consider superior or capable of protecting them. They would want someone else to get them the toys that they want without having to work for it like adults.

They will ask for permission before they want to speak on something in case they are rebuked. Maybe too like a child, they do have the capacity to distinguish between foolishness and maturity. Unlike a child who is growing, they, the child-like adult have surrendered their thinking responsibility to the paid civil servants – and are happy with it!

I have often said that everyone grows old and few grow up. However, when the growth ability of human beings are systematically retarded by the system, we have imbecilic adults and a culture of mediocrity. Such a community actually legalizes institutions that treats them like a child (or imbeciles, since they are now adults) without realizing that they are lowering their dignity and surrendering their lives to paid civil servants.

What seems to escape everyone’s attention is that the paid civil servants are also a product of the very system that created the mediocrity culture. Hence you have mediocre people in authority creating an even more mediocre environment for the rest. You, the adult become subjected to this because of the label that you are legally given.

In other words, you have allowed the law to turn you into a child-like state where people in authority can dictate to you how you live. Adults are supposed to have the ability to think for themselves and decide on personal matters without external interference. However, once the law says that something is no longer personal but it concerns the interest of the State, then your personal liberty is now taken away. Like a child, you become a custodian of the disciplinarian, the State officials. They now have power over your lives. You are trained to stop thinking for yourselves.

In a mediocre, child-like environment, the adult who chooses to behave like an adult is frowned upon by the MRACs. When you go to a kindergarten, you will find the children playing with the children, away from the adults.

Do you understand what I am saying and if you do, does this in anyway affect your dignity as an adult?

Are you comfortable being an MRAC?

Or maybe like a child, you lack the ability to think and lack maturity?