Misreading the Death of Malaysia
Astute and long-time followers of this site might remember the controversially-titled Death of Malaysia. It is probably unlikely, however, that they might also be aware that it has recently been causing a bit of a stir in the blogosphere.
The chain of events started when a tighter, edited version of the article was published in theCicak, a website for Malaysian youth, early this month. The immediate reactions were generally skepticism that the country is truly on the ropes — sentiments I responded to in the comments section, but hope to further address in a future article.
Not long after, however, Nathaniel Tan, who recently edited a compilation of essays on the spat between former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the current premier, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, responded to the piece in theCicak as well. His response painted a false choice (in my opinion) between sitting back and penning meaningless rants, and taking up the cause of social activism.
I have already written about this before — it is my opinion that there is a third way between the two. There is a dearth of constructive commentary in Malaysian politics and governance, and it's a niche worth filling. You have a lot of complaining, a lot of ranting, and not much in the way of solid (if boring and unsexy) suggestions for fixing the country's problems from the bottom up.
After Nat's response came a reply from Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, special assistant to Anwar Ibrahim. Nik's rebuttal seemed to unfairly assume that I was attempting to persuade people not to support the opposition, and that it was a hopeless cause.
Nik also did a bit of a history lesson, noting that the AMCJA-PUTERA opposition coalition made some major achievements in the post-World War II period. I would argue that they failed where it counted, in that their hartal (general strike) to oppose the Federation of Malaya did not succeed, even though it temporarily crippled the economy.
Ironically, Nik cited a Wikipedia article on early Malay nationalism which was written almost entirely by me. I'm really well aware of the early opposition's contributions and that the Alliance's prominence is a mere accident of history.
It's quite unfortunate that Nik misread my article, because this misleading interpretation of the piece based on selective quoting became the base for more unfair criticisms predicated on the presumption that I was suggesting we might as well give up and emigrate or not vote at all.
I find this terribly ironic, because the whole point of the article was to convince the average Malaysian that his voice matters and that he cannot afford to be apathetic. I know there's no malice involved, but it really annoyed me that so many took an "either you're for us or against us" attitude.
The criticisms of the opposition in my article were not supposed to discourage people from joining the opposition. If anything, they were a clarion call for the opposition to step up its efforts, and to work together with the average Malaysian to fight for Malaysian interests. By choosing to focus on the negatives, many opposition supporters have overlooked the crux of my piece — that the opposition needs to go on the offensive, to deal with the bread and butter issues that voters care about. And worst of all, they have completely missed the main message, which is that if you are a Malaysian who loves his country, you will not sit on your ass and wait for it to go to the dogs.