Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Unhealthy Pessimism for Malaysia's Future

Written by johnleemk on 2:28:09 pm Apr 24, 2007.
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It is difficult to escape the stench of pessimism that permeates significant quarters of the educated and informed Malaysian public. There is an unmistakeable feeling about Malaysia's future — a feeling that the country is doomed.

I'm actually a natural pessimist. I'm a "prepare for the worst" kind of guy. Whenever something bad happens, I'm rarely surprised. To me, life is something that isn't fair, and isn't going to treat you kindly.

But I'm also a "hope for the best" kind of person. I don't revel in predicting doom, nor do I believe that a dire situation is cause for despair or apathy.

The worst thing we can possibly do when confronted with a surmountable challenge is to give up. As the old adage goes, if you give up without trying, you've already lost.

The question then is, is reforming Malaysia's governance a surmountable challenge? I confess that I don't think there is a solid and conclusive answer to this question.

There are very credible arguments for both pessimism and optimism. I won't bother to delve into them, because I think most Malaysians would be familiar with what they are.

Let's be clear: the prognosis for Malaysia isn't very bright. But that doesn't mean the prognosis is by any means unalterable. A 60-year-old smoker might not significantly reduce his chances of lung cancer by quitting then — but does that mean he shouldn't quit? Does that mean he shouldn't grab every chance he has for possibly leading a healthy life?

Still, I think most arguments about whether we should be striving to change Malaysia's unhealthy outlook are academic. They might mean something to, say, a Malaysian emigre who has better things to do with his or her time than fight a losing battle.

But for every Malaysian who still lives in his or her tanah air, the question of joining the fight is purely academic. We have no choice. Even if the cause is a futile one — and that is by no means guaranteed — it is one we must support, because the present status quo is plainly unacceptable.

Perhaps you don't want to expend effort on campaigning for the political opposition. Perhaps you don't want to take the time to contribute ideas. Maybe you might not even want to talk to your friends and family about change. But you can certainly vote for change, and it takes no more than one day of your life away from you.

Is that really so much to ask? You can be pessimistic all you like, but as long as you live in this country, you shouldn't let that pessimism turn into apathy. You have no choice about this, because if this country really is doomed, so are you — and in such a case, you might as well go down fighting.

My pessimism about this country's future is well-documented; it's already been the subject of a heated debate, mainly because it was misconstrued as an argument for apathy. But I firmly believe that the future of our country is malleable — the point of my pessimism is purely to encourage people to believe that things can and should be better.

Our country is still a democracy. It's an authoritarian democracy, it's a flawed democracy, but it's still one nonetheless. When we go to the polls, it is our voice that is heard — nobody is pointing a gun at us and telling us who to vote for, as actually occurred in the recent Nigerian elections.

Be pessimistic all you like. But don't let that pessimism turn into apathy. Use it to tell yourself that things can be better, and will be better, as long as you don't lay down your arms, and keep fighting the good fight. Cast your vote wisely — because it costs you nothing, and it may win you everything.


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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.


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