Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Nathaniel Tan, A Leader For Change and Against the Herd?

Written by johnleemk on 12:23:41 pm Jul 15, 2007.

In response to What Does Malaysia Stand For?, Say Lee says (pun unintended):

"But should we be happy with going two steps forward, while taking one step backward?"

But that's still progressive, moving one step forward in the nett. Occasionally that's a strategic stance, taking a step back and look at the whole picture. Allow yourself some breathing space.

On the other hand, going one step forward and taking two steps backward is retrograding, and is more congruent with the overall tone of your assessment.

That semantics aside, you did not dwell on unity, the other quality enshrined in our National Anthem, perhaps tacitly acknowledging the fact that we are already a divided nation.

It must be tough living under the cloak of an absolute police state. Not many people can live beyond the conformist mentality. So one either numbs oneself with work or cops out. In that respect, you're exceptional.
There is nothing wrong, strictly speaking, with taking two steps forward and one step backward. That is, if you ask me, an accurate depiction of how Malaysia has progressed since independence.

The problem is that, as I stated in the next sentence, "Should we be happy with continually running the risk of decelerating, and eventually halting our progress?" In recent times, our backward steps have been growing in size, while our forward steps shrink. Our economy has never fully recovered from the 1997 financial crisis; our judiciary has never recovered from its 1988 emasculation; the list goes on and on.

Unity, like progress, represents a lofty ideal enshrined in our national anthem. However, I believe that the two are inextricable — without unity, we cannot progress, and without progress, we cannot be united.

That is why I unintentionally avoided the problem of unity — because it should be understood that if we want to progress, we have to work together. And if we want to work together, there is no better incentive than the promise of progress.

Unfortunately, as you point out, in a "democracy" that is fast becoming a police state, it is difficult to avoid the destructive herd mentality urging you to lie low. But if the country becomes a police state, we are all doomed anyway. The question is whether you want to risk doom now for a chance of progress, or lie low for now and go down in the future.

To overcome the herd, we need a leader. Quoth Goethe, "Divide and rule, a sound motto. Unite and lead, a better one." At the moment, efforts for change are stalling because there is just no leadership.

People from a new generation, born after the formation of Malaysia, like Nathaniel Tan and Tony Pua represent our best hope for finding a leader who can unite the country. Young and free of the hang-ups that haunt the current leaders of the fight for change, it is people like Nat and Tony and many others like them who must rise to the challenge of being true Malaysian leaders.

A leader can never be successful without followers to delegate to. And that is why those of us who seek a leader must first join the cause of change in some small way. What is the use of groaning and bitching if at the end of the day, you come up with ten useless reasons to vote for the ruling regime? We must be committed to the cause of change, and we must fight to change Malaysia for the better in whatever way we can.

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