Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Relate Change to Reality

Written by johnleemk on 6:42:23 am May 5, 2007.

The Malaysian opposition parties have constantly been talking about change. They tie this idea very closely to themselves, insisting that a vote for them is a vote for change.

Now, this is all well and good. But the question running through many voters' minds must be: why change? Few things are as reviled by mankind as change.

After all, who likes giving up the status quo? Even if the status quo is impossible to maintain, even if giving it up would mean moving on to something better, people always have an innate bias towards the way things currently are rather than the way things might be.

What many people I know think is, "Well, yeah, things aren't so good and this government isn't doing its job properly, but we're getting by, aren't we?" If the man on the street can survive with the present situation, he isn't going to possibly jeopardise this survival by going out on a limb and voting for change.

In the first place, a lot of the opposition's rhetoric about change sounds meaningless to people. Basically, the opposition is seeking change for the sake of change — or at least that's how it sounds.

After all, the opposition is constantly doing nothing but smearing the government. However, is this really the best use of their limited time and resources? Most Malaysians are already aware that things could be a lot better, and the few who think we're absolutely unbeatable are so stubborn and closeminded (believe me, I've argued with a number of them before) that there's no point trying to convince them otherwise.

What the opposition should be concentrating its efforts on is how it wants to change the country, and why this change is necessary. These two basic questions must be dealt with before anything else, and if you cannot answer them, then maybe you should stop blowing the trumpet of change.

Now, how should these questions be answered? I won't pretend I'm some political genius or an incredible mindreader who knows exactly what the people want, but I have a feeling that people won't really consider voting for change if all change entails is some macro policy reforms which will not have an immediate impact on their lives.

That's why it's important to tie change to real aspects of their daily lives. You must relate change to reality for the man on the street.

In urban areas, don't just talk about huge policy initiatives or cleaning up corruption. Talk about seeing to it that the streets are paved properly, that the playgrounds are kept clean, that the civil service gets its act together, that public transport is made more widely available, and so forth.

Not being much of a rural person myself, I will refrain from suggesting any possible ideas for how to change the lives of rural constituents. But I think the general gist is clear — it's not enough to talk about change at the macro level. This change must be related to micro change — change in the everyday lives of Malaysians.

But what about the why of change? Again, the formula is exactly the same. Don't just talk about abstract reasons for why we need local government elections or why we need to hold our Members of Parliament accountable. Tie these in with why we need change in the lives of everyday Malaysians.

If the opposition can succeed in doing these things, it will be able to secure a substantial portion of the voters. At the moment, the opposition's tactics pander far too much to its base of hardcore advocates for change — people who already understand the need for change at the abstract macro level. But this is not tenable if the opposition wants to form the government. We need to relate change to the reality of Malaysians' daily lives.

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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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