This time it’s for real! Fresh off the GarageBand oven, with all the requisites bells and whistles. Enjoy it, and please share it!
On May 8th, an incredibly large amount of Malaysians trudged to the Kelana Jaya stadium in Petaling Jaya to show their support for the nation’s political Opposition. I was amongst them. I wanted to hear if the Pakatan Rakyat coalition had a plan to harness the power of the people to see that the newly-appointed, ruling Government would pay for the fraud that it pulled off during the recently concluded 13th General Elections just three days prior to the rally.
At least, it seemed that way to me. Speaker after speaker took the stage to reiterate, rinse and repeat the rhetoric that the Government was being a cheat, that the Prime Minister had to step down, and that the nation’s Election Commission needed a severe overhaul, whilst also calling for its Chairman to step down.
Now, I’m a simpleton, and I get bored very easily. My attention span is such that — anyway, it was the same message drilled into our heads. Now, there were people who were lapping it up, and I can understand why. People were gathered there to find a common ground — and they did. But my innocent curiousity was not piqued [I had voted for the Opposition, by the way], and my friend and I who had gone to listen felt a bit underwhelmed.
Is groupthink more pervasive now in the way that we view things than five years ago?
After everything that’s happened between the 12th and 13th General Elections, the Government has blundered its way through scandal after scandal. There’s a form of widespread anti-Government hysteria going round, and it’s hit a fever pitch. A casual glance at your social media feeds will already show you this. After more than a week, there’s still enough user-generated content to last for a long while more.
All this is fair and good, but now we’re getting more and more people who actively share content without properly verifying and validating what it is they’re sharing. The time for conscientious media consumption is over, I suppose. More and more of us are starting to become even more polarised, and the middle ground isn’t sacred anymore — in fact, it’s starting to erode away.
Can the younger bunch take any of this seriously?
There’s a wealth of untapped voters when you consider young Malaysians who haven’t come of age yet. I saw a younger set of people all around me at the rally, and it sort of momentarily freaked me out in the sense that they were treating it like a massive social event: kawaii posing, peace signs and a heap of Instagramming a-plenty. I don’t mind it that much, but it honestly made me wonder about how well informed they were about the issues at hand, or if they knew why the rally was being organised the first place.
I mean, yes, it’s good that there’s some sort of populist angle there to get them hooked on it, but the amount of political slacktivism that rampant social media sharing has garnered might devalue their presence there. I’m just saying that we, the old farts [I can’t believe I’m labeling myself as this] have to take it upon ourselves to try to sort give a bit of levelheadedness towards everything that’s being said.
Cooler heads will prevail, and as condescending as I might be sounding, we need to breathe a bit.
What’s the plan, then?
I’m just a bit peeved that I felt that my time was wasted at the rally. It was hastily organised, and you could tell — there wasn’t a proper route out of the stadium grounds [it was a tight squeeze to leave the inner workings of the place, from the field to the rafters]. People were edgy, and despite coming together for a unifying cause, I could see people scuffling about.
There were also encouraging signs. It’s always good to have throngs and throngs of people coming together and sharing positive vibes. And I’m all for that. My only issue is that there was no real plan. No agenda. No statement of intent. Nothing. Just a constant stream of chanting. It came to a point where I couldn’t hear anything anymore, though that was equally attributed to a lackluster sound system and a riled-up crowd.
I just wish that more could have been done. Something meatier, without the fat. I know that it was only 3 days after the election, but I’m quite convinced that the powers-that-be in the Opposition would already have been able to cook something up for us to sip on. Anything, really.
Are we going to start seeding out vote counters and election staff in the next election? Are we going to embark on some rural community outreach to explain why we want to vote for the Other Guy? What can we start formulating on to ensure that the majority doesn’t embark on another round of election fraud in the future? There’s no time like the present for the Opposition to tackle these problems. A blueprint should have been kickstarted on the night the power got blacked out.
We’re impatient. We need a solution: now.[Yes, I know I’m harbouring on being a pure irritant, but it’s only because I have faith in the Opposition to provide hard, fast, final solutions in a jiff.]
All in all, most people around you would probably state that they went to the 508 rally and loved it immensely.
Me? I felt like was the donkey that was being ridden hard, without a carrot dangling. Come on. At least give me a carrot.
I’m all for equality, even though I skirt on things such as whether or not men should still be considered breadwinner numero uno (I obviously fall along with the 1% of Chinese men who think it’s okay not to do anything bread-winning — I don’t know how to bake). Non-populist sentiments aside, Malaysian politics doesn’t have an Iron Lady with the “girth” of a Thatcher (where are you now, Rafidah?).
Here’s a bit of food for thought — happy eating.
Time to leave the kitchen — and still take the heat
THE year 2011 ended on a low note for women in Malaysia as the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development, Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, got herself entangled in controversy involving members of her family and the National Feedlot Centre.
The only other woman minister, Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen, did not fare any better. Ng spent much of the year under pressure over her ministry’s exorbitant disbursement for a Facebook campaign to promote tourism.
In Pakatan Rakyat, Malaysia’s sole woman political party president, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail continued to be overshadowed by her male contemporaries and husband, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. In fact, in 2008 she resigned from her parliamentary seat and post as the country’s first ever woman opposition leader to make way for Anwar’s re-entry into politics.
Dr Wan Azizah’s position was an important one for women. Had Pakatan Rakyat won majority seats in Parliament in March 2008, Malaysia could have seen her first woman prime minister. Whatever the result in the upcoming general elections, it seems highly unlikely now that any woman politician would stand a chance at the premiership.
What shall we make of this then, when the upper echelons of women political leadership in Malaysia (that is, women in the position to shift national policies) fail to inspire the nation, much less bring radical change in national leadership? Perhaps we should look to civil society instead.
Bersih 2.0, whatever one’s views may be, was one movement that saw active women participation and leadership last year. Led by Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, the movement managed to force the formation of a parliamentary select committee to study the country’s electoral system, following a massive rally in Kuala Lumpur calling for electoral reform endorsed by more than 60 civil society organisations including several prominent women’s groups.
Nevertheless, Ambiga — and fellow Bersih 2.0 committee member, Maria Chin Abdullah — took a lot of heat for the event. Their secretariat based at the Empower office (an organisation that promotes women’s political participation) was raided by the police, and they too were eventually arrested.
This kind of harassment is not new as the women in Sisters in Islam would testify.
Alicia Izharuddin, a Malaysian post-graduate student in Gender Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, said harassment is one of the main reasons women feel discouraged from participating in public discourse.
While this may be true, one might want to ask. At what cost to Malaysia?
Well, until and unless the average Malaysian woman participates in national discourse, child and forced marriages will continue to be sanctioned by the state. Our office space will continue to be unfriendly to working mothers and the trend of mass exodus among young professional women will persist at the expense of our economy and Wawasan 2020.
These are among the many outstanding issues that need to be addressed urgently in Malaysia. Organised women’s groups are doing all they can to affect change in an environment that continues to be resistant, despite all political talk of national transformation and calls to jom ubah (let’s change). They need help.
To put all our hopes for change in the hands of women politicians has proven to be futile. They seem so easily whipped as we have seen within their own parties and in federal and state legislative bodies. It is evident now more than ever that the average Malaysian woman must rise and take ownership of issues that concern them directly and the nation as a whole.
Malaysian women must be brave and actively join, if not initiate, positive discourse at their workplace, home, online and in the media. Ya, that also means possibly taking the heat and harassment that comes with it.
It is already 2012. The time to engage is now.
I’m going to watch Kula Shaker tonight. In all honesty, the only knowledge I have of Kula Shaker would be their debut, K, which came out a millennium of moons ago. I had no idea that they were still around until the gang brought up their gig a few weeks back.
I suppose I’m going for nostalgia’s sake — I can only remember about three songs from K. It doesn’t help that I still have the CD case for the album, but the CD itself is missing. And I couldn’t be bummed enough to have downloaded a bootlet (surprisingly). I now remember that I bought K secondhand from a classmate back in art class.
Nay, I’m going simply to enjoy some newfangled spirituality (and a bit of 90’s retro psychedelic kaleidoscopic groovy hysteria) with my friends.
They think that I’m a woman, when I feel like a man.