In response to Safely

IMG_0474.JPGOne of the best things i’ve found about having a blog is that it gives me an opportunity to intellectually engage with like-minded people. I am vested in each engagement, and i think i learn a lot from them.

Safely, had this to say about my piece on education in Malaysia:

UMNO/BN don’t have the political will to do right those things. So the best thing is to kick them out. I am beginning to suspect that you are a blogger funded by them. Your aim is to pain t a picture of helplessness for UMNO/BN and its not their fault for the current state of affairs in Malaysia

The following is my response:


Safely,

First of all, i take offense at your allegation that i’m a BN blogger. As you will notice from the VOI’s rich history of existence, i’m openly critical of everything and everyone. I wish i could say that i’m completely neutral, but i’m not — i admit i do have an agenda of my own which is to promote a culture of calm and analytical thinking. If we allow our emotions to make our decisions for us, we tend to make mistakes. Perhaps not all the time, but often when it matters the most.

For those who are angry and resentful at BN or PR or anyone else, and you want to use your power as a citizen to express this feeling, that’s your right; the ballot box is open to you. You’ve arrived at your decision your way, i’ll arrive at mine through my own methods. 

What i will say is that my constituency has a PR MP, and i’m very happy with the work that he has done for us. A good person is a good person, regardless of their party. Let’s not forget that.

Similarly, a good argument is a good argument, regardless of who makes it. The reverse is obviously going to be true as well.

I think for me to question PR’s position on the things that matter to me is valid. The burden of proof is always going to be higher, to the rational mind at least, on the person proposing change. If you’re going to make a difference, you need to convince me how you’re going to do it. 

Malaysia is not a simple place to live in. We’re not racially or religiously or even culturally homogenous, and like many other developing nations, we’ve got a large disparity between the haves and the have nots. 

Some may argue that BN is to blame for that — perhaps you’re right. BN has done some remarkably nasty things over the years. And, in a democracy, if the majority of people find they can no longer stomach these things, then they will have to go.

However, a change of Government does not necessarily mean a change of our country. It’s not as simple as that. Political powers regularly shift in two party system of the United States, roughly once every 8 years. America is still more or less the same it has ever been. Still starting wars, still got a huge budget deficit, still racially fractured. Similarly, Japan is another case in point — Governments change there as often as some people change their underwear, Japan is still Japan, still an Asian superpower, still unapologetic about WW2. Ditto France and their prevailing xenophobia.

In the case of education in Malaysia, regardless of whom we have in power, we will still have the ultra Malays fighting for the place of BM in our schools, we’ll still have an education ministry with thousands of real people entrenched in the teaching principles that we (and by “we” i mean, those who are sufficiently enlightened) want to change. 

Someone once told me that PR doesn’t have a magic wand to make these problems go away. I agree. Removing corruption from the government, maybe yes. Removing decades of racial marginalization and education dogma, not so easy.

If anything, what i’ve done is help manage the expectations of my readers. Should PR come to power, i daresay there will be many who will wonder why the country still feels the same; systemic change will take years, probably requiring several terms in power. If people know what to expect, they may be more inclined to give a new government the time they need to affect real change.

Safely,

The last thing i want to address you on is a symptom i see very common in people on either side of the political divide: the tendency to speak in absolutes.

The last thing you wrote was that Malaysia has “definitely” not progressed. I’ve heard the same from the other side as well: PR will “certainly” collapse.

I won’t say that you’re wrong. But i’ll leave you with a story.

I was watching Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith over the weekend, and one particular quote i found particularly interesting.

“The Dark Side of the Force deals in absolutes. That’s not the Jedi way.”

Perhaps there are things we all can learn from a fantasy show.

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