Enriching the political culture

THERE is a popular perception that the human mind can be classified into three categories.

One that focuses on people, mostly hooked on negative thoughts. Another is on events or happenings as a form of grandstanding; while the last is predicated on "bold" ideas, enough to create positive and lasting impact in ensuring peaceful living, harmony and justice. Akin to "sehati sejiwa" selama-lamanya.

By far, the second type seems most prevalent. The unveiling and (re)launching of events are almost daily occurrences with full media coverage plus the added claim to "transform" something backed by numbers and figures crunched to support some kind of ranking or rating.

Of late, this tendency is paired up with the first type, where an event becomes a convenient platform to focus on a person or even group of individuals, caricaturised as rivals or competitors.

At times past events were "exhumed" for similar purpose directed not only to local or national audiences, but also for global consumption.

There seems to be no qualms to put Malaysia to shame by washing dirty political linen in public as it were.

Never mind if they used to be part of the larger team at one point before things went sour. While some called this "gutter" politics, others regarded it as politics of survival that ignores ethics and morality (if at all this applies to politics) for the sake of self-preservation.

This adds more colour as to what the three states of mind really imply. First it points to "mediocre" thinking: one that always harps on individuals or groups as a way to get even or assigning blame.

Second is "average" thinking, attuned to events as a kind of self-image building. The more the events the better, perceived as a popularity contest of sorts.

Sometimes, it is embellished by no-holds barred "personalised scrutiny" that aptly fits the description alluded to by a cabinet minister as "uncivilised" politics.

To be sure, it is so because it violates the established decorum or "adab" and "budi" as the core essence of cultural traits of the country. "Berbudi bahasa amalan kita" promoted to the citizens is ironically thrown to the wind.

Such phenomenon leads to yet another form of corruption, notably that of cultural values and norms – the very basis on how nation states are judged as "advanced" or otherwise.

The former is not merely materialistic-economic feats but goes far beyond. One can be economically wealthy, at the same time culturally impoverished and spiritually bankrupt – a by-product of "mediocre" minds.

A case in point is the "vandalism" reported to have taken place just days after the latest MRT launch dubbed as the world's best.

Unfortunately, it also assumes a stark contradiction marked by anti-cultural practices and norms which speak volumes about the "uncivilised" way.

MRT for them is "Menial Retrogressive Thinking" that somehow has been left unattended to even after 60 years of Merdeka.

It is hard to imagine how Malaysia as a "developed" (more exactly high-income) country would flourish with such "underdeveloped" ways that is now increasingly evident across all political divides.

We have not even broached the "ultimate" thinking that holds up the authority of ideas as superior to the ideas of authority.

The dichotomy is intended to separate the visionaries from the regular command-and-control freaks.

Unfortunately, we seem to imbibe more of the latter which goes a long way to explain the current state of affairs.

The decisions to ban stuff without any form of public consultation or forum is a further proof of such a mindset.

The sheer act of banning, censoring or side-lining is indeed a potent sign of insecurity against the very authority of ideas.

That being the case, the nation needs to brace itself for more "uncivilised" rhetoric and actions in the many days ahead.

In turn, Malaysians must assert that the 60th Merdeka as the point of departure towards enriching the political culture so that "Negaraku sehati sejiwa" is not just about empty sloganeering.

And that Merdeka is not a hollowed-out event for another grandstanding.

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that "another world is possible". Comments: letters@thesundaily.com