Monday, August 7, 2023

Compassion in politics: Bridging divides and fostering humanity

 ONE of the fundamental traits to look for in a leader is his sense of compassion. Does his normal behaviour, ideas, vision and speeches exhibit compassion?

Stop selecting leaders who talk the loudest or those who spread fear, hatred and toxicity among the citizens, or those who rely on elitism.

These are political vultures whose desire for power, glory and wealth is so dominant that they do not understand the sufferings and hopes of the ordinary people of the nation. They will hurt others to fulfill their political desires without any loss of sleep.

According to the Rapera movement, which encourages compassion among Malaysians, the concept of compassion that a leader should have is an understanding of other people’s suffering accompanied by the desire to remove that suffering. In other words, genuine empathy followed by effective action.

In the often turbulent world of politics, compassion may seem like an elusive and naive ideal. However, with the complex challenges that we face now, it is becoming increasingly clear that compassion is not only desirable but also essential for effective governance and societal well- being.

We need to understand that compassion in politics encompasses understanding, empathy, and the willingness to alleviate the suffering of others.

Compassion in the political sphere can bridge divides, foster humanity, and pave the way for a more inclusive and just society.

Firstly, compassion in politics begins with embracing empathy and understanding. Political leaders and policymakers must strive to comprehend the diverse experiences and perspectives of constituents and citizens.

By placing themselves in the shoes of those they represent, politicians can gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by various communities. This understanding enables leaders to develop policies that address the root causes of societal issues and prioritise the needs of vulnerable populations.

Empathy fosters a culture of respect and inclusivity, diminishing the animosity often associated with political divisions. Leaders who are compassionate are able to transcend the borders of prejudice, racism, religious bigotry and extremism. They will see their constituents as human beings with human problems, not just as numbers of votes.

A compassionate political strategy places the welfare of citizens above personal gain, above ideological objectives, and above purely partisan interests.

Leaders are more likely to implement policies that uplift the marginalised, advance social justice, and create opportunities for all if they place human dignity and well-being at the core of their decision-making process.

Secondly, a compassionate political agenda seeks to reduce poverty, provide access to quality education and healthcare, and protect the rights of minorities and vulnerable groups.

Leaders are more likely to implement policies that uplift the marginalised, advance social justice, and create opportunities for all if they place human dignity and well-being at the core of their decision-making process.

A compassionate political agenda seeks to reduce poverty, provide access to quality education and healthcare, and protect the rights of minorities and vulnerable groups.

Compassionate politics builds trust and strengthens the bond between government and citizens by putting the needs of the people first.

Thirdly, ideological, cultural, and socioeconomic differences are frequently seen in politics. These gaps can be bridged by compassion, which fosters productive communication and promotes cooperation.

Leaders who are compassionate look for common ground and create coalitions that cut across party lines rather than sustaining divisive rhetoric. The divisive narratives that politicians generate are clear evidence of their lack of compassion.

Politicians can develop a more unified and peaceful political environment by identifying shared principles and working toward similar objectives. Such a compassionate approach becomes even more relevant when leading a diverse nation like Malaysia.

Fourthly, even when there are disagreements, compassionate politics promotes courteous dialogue and constructive debate.

Compassionate leaders like to concentrate on the core of problems rather than using aggressive words or personal attacks. This strategy promotes civil discourse among citizens and sets a good example for them, increasing public involvement and democratic decision-making.

An environment where different viewpoints are welcomed and celebrated, rather than ignored or derided, is fostered by a political culture that places a high emphasis on compassion.

Fifthly, global challenges such as climate change, humanitarian crises, and pandemics demand coordinated efforts and collective action. Compassionate politics goes beyond national boundaries and encourages leaders to collaborate with other nations to tackle these challenges with cooperation.

By offering a helping hand to those in need, encouraging diplomacy over hostility, and embracing international solidarity, compassionate politics can lead to more effective global solutions.

Finally, history has shown that political decisions and actions can create wounds that last for generations. Compassionate politics acknowledges historical injustices, seeks reconciliation, and works towards healing societal trauma.

I am truly concerned – as are many others – that our country is slowly being torn apart by personal politics between individuals or political and economic “clans”. Selective perception and interpretations of the nation’s history is being used to fragment the nation. By addressing past wrongs and acknowledging the pain experienced by different communities, leaders can build a foundation for a more united and harmonious future.

Compassionate policies focus on restorative justice and aim to right historical wrongs, fostering a sense of closure and healing. This is what Malaysia truly needs.

Politicians who show compassion are not weak or naive; rather, they demonstrate the strength of the human spirit and a capacity for positive change.

Basically, compassionate politics emphasises the need to embrace empathy, focusing on the welfare of citizens, bridging divides, fostering civil dialogue, tackling global crises with humanity, and mending rifts.

We can create a Malaysia that is more just, equal, and inclusive by incorporating compassion into politics. Political leaders who practice compassion have the ability to improve humankind for future generations, inspire hope, and heal divisions.

Demanding and fostering compassionate politics is in our collective best interest because it is essential to creating a world that is better and more compassionate for all. I believe that if we are unable to create collective happiness in our country, we will be collectively miserable.

This article first appeared in The Sunday Star


Tuesday, January 3, 2023

What people expect in this brand new year - 2023.

It may be a new year may but I believe the hopes and expectations of the Rakyat remain the same in principle. 

Firstly, we all want to be able to live a life of dignity and have equal opportunities. Dignity is something essential to all human beings. It means being worthy of respect and honour. The opposite of this clearly means being treated as worthless or being disrespected. A true leader would do his/her utmost to ensure that the citizens have the opportunity to lead dignified lives. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”. 

A person’s self-worth and dignity can be lifted or destroyed by government policies and the laws of the land. A child who grows up being discrimination or ostracized from mainstream society simply because of the accident of his/her birth may become unhappy adult who feels oppressed. Only a leader with compassion, good conscience and who truly “fears” God can understand this. Therefore, a compassionate government should ensure that policies and processes exist that provide ample opportunities for those with talent to thrive. Policies should also exist to ensure the less fortunate among us, whether socially or economically, can lift themselves by way of positive assistance. 

Cruel discrimination in the name of race, religion or social status should never be allowed to be part of society, especially in a society that has a majority Muslim population like Malaysia. This is because any policy which is race based is clearly against the teachings of Islam. 

Furthermore, under the heading of “human dignity” are also economic and employment opportunities, positive working conditions, and equitable distribution of resources. I think it is time the government focuses again on small and medium enterprises, and cottage industries. There has been so much focus on mega projects that do not seem to benefit the common rakyat. Development in the country has also been too Klang valley-centric while the rest of Malaysia does not benefit. A proper policy would be able to create employment opportunities outside the Klang valley so that more balanced development can take place in Malaysia. 

Secondly, the government and political leaders should properly understand the provisions of fundamental liberties enshrined in Part II of the Federal Constitution – articles 5 to 13. Citizens themselves should familiarize themselves with these important provisions. You can only protect your rights if you know you have them. 

The Government should ensure that whatever policies that are passed strengthen these fundamental rights and not whittle them away. Parliamentarians should be engaging intelligently in debates and committed in ensuring that whatever bills that the Government passes does not contravene these Constitutional provisions. The Rakyat would be pleased to benefit from positive contributions from the minds of the parliamentarians rather than annoying sounds from their mouths. 

Thirdly, I hope that this Government is serious about and courageous in fostering true national unity. It is very sad that after more than 60 years of being independent we still allow blatantly divisive speeches, statements and politics to flourish in this country. 

I am not only referring to unity between the Malays and the non-Malays but between every Malaysian. And the Government ought to be wary of efforts to divide the Malays themselves for political reasons. They should also be vigilant of the rise of religious extremism which seems to be creeping quietly into Malaysia, posing serious security threats. 

Hence, it is my hope that this government addresses the issue of national unity substantially and designs long term policies that can unite Malaysians in striving for a common Malaysian Dream. Obviously, this effort must begin in the formative periods of Malaysian children. 

Fourthly, there needs to be serious efforts made to halt or reduce corrupt practices in all of our institutions and in all spheres of society. Corruption is not only cruel in the sense that scarce resources are diverted to feed the greedy rather that help the rakyat, but it also increases the costs of living. The negative effects of corruption are well known and I would not want to repeat it here. However, I have to emphasize that if there is real political will and efforts made, corruption can be significantly reduced. 

The Government should establish a task force or a committee with powers to come up with a way to tackle corruption in all institutions in the country. It is no doubt a major task but one that needs to be urgently undertaken. The corruption agency can audit lifestyles of even past political leaders to take back wealth that has been stolen through corrupt practices. If there is will, there is a way. The laws are certainly there.

Lastly, there needs to be continued respect for and upholding of the rule of law. Rule of law is a vast area that includes equality before the law, equal access to the law and so on. Essentially, adherence to the rule of law is the ordinary citizen’s last line of defence against oppression by the privileged or the powerful. Hence, our parliamentarians must ensure that any law approved is just. 

It is also important to ensure that whenever discretionary powers are given, as may be necessary, there are effective checks and balances. This is because, discretionary powers may also result in corruption, abuse and oppression. 

With this, I wish the readers: Happy new Year ! 

Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos.