You've heard of a banana republic. Now, welcome to Malaysia's Durian Democracy. The author takes on the thorny ( and occasionally horny) realities of Malaysian politics and its woes; and tries to show that behind that sharp image, Malaysia, still has some succulent, touching, and very genuine goodness in it. Not an easy task indeed, but then again, Malaysia has always been a hard nut ( or durian?) to crack.
When I was younger I wanted to be a politician. I read about the backstabbing, the betrayals, the 180 degree turns and the populism. I saw the dirtiness of tactics, the flexible morality of principles, and the overwhelming sense of vote preservation that drove many a politician.
It requires immense moral strength to be a Gandhi.
Yet somehow I had a lofty idea that I could be that one in a million, some sort of fully dressed Gandhi, a Malaysian George Washington, a Mandela that would bring true national reconciliation to our oft divided world. I believed that I was good enough to rise above the muck, to be selfless and to be a kind of saint. In other words, I thought I would be like a lotus flower, growing out of mud yet pure and radiant.
I've had a few years to mull over things, to reflect and meditate on matters, and to embark on a journey of self-discovery.
And increasingly, I have to come to a gradual realisation that I should not be in politics. I simply have too many flaws, flaws that will probably only be exacerbated by a career in politics.
Might I be the next Ibrahim Ali?
For one, I love the spotlight. I crave the applause of a crowd, the cheers of a racuous audience, the pindrop silence that comes when touching upon shaky ground. My hearts beats a little faster as I see teary eyes or hearty laughs from those watching me. It's perhaps this that has led me to be quite active in public speaking, drama and debate. In other words, I am an attention whore. I won't mince my words, I love attention. And I can only imagine what kind of politics such tendencies will breed: The conspiracy theory spouting of Tian Chua? The senseless but fiery rhetoric of Ibrahim Ali? The publicity stunts of Waythamoorthy?
And then there's the fact that I often think of myself as smart. Sometimes, I may fall into the trap of believing I have the best answers to it all. That somehow I am in control of things and that I may outsmart people here and there. This tendency, coupled with my strong idealism, may result in me thinking that I alone have the best ideas, the best way to achieve a greater goal. Needless to say, it is a common trait amongst dictators: From Mao to Stalin, Hitler to Pol Pot, all believed passionately that they were achieving a greater good, that they had the best answer to everything, and therefore saw fit to wipe out all who opposed their twisted visions. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The worst dictators are always the ones who believe they are doing the world a favour.
Beautiful car... Bigger tempation?
I also love the luxuries of life. Good food, fancy restaurants, exotic cocktails. Seeing and driving classic Mercedes Benz in mint condition really just does wonders to my mood. Keeping to a diet of eating healthily is difficult enough for me... I shudder to think what the temptation of easy millions may do to my conscience.
Many people I know would brush these concerns of mine off, saying that I am by far, a good person and that they have confidence in me. But I also know I have deep, deep flaws. I can be insensitive, selfish and self-absorbed. I am often a master procrastinator and a lazy bum, and I sometimes don't take criticism kindly. And the list goes on. Those who have spent a longer period of time with me can testify to these flaws.
So why am I listing out all these flaws, baring myself to the world? I'm not looking for sympathy or reassurances. In fact, I'm looking for the exact opposite, I want to hear about how I may have offended you, or made a mistake, or just screwed up things without knowing. I want to put this on record, so that one day should I fool myself into thinking I can rise above it all, someone can shove this in my face and remind me of my flaws.
But more than that, it is because I hope I can change myself for the better. I would like to believe that I already have, by reflecting, by avoiding situations that exacerbate my flaws, and by acknowledging my problems in the first place. I've often thought about running away from the world, holing myself up some place remote, maybe high up in the Himalayas with a simple life, with the hours spent on just being.
But it's not a luxury I can afford for now, so my journey goes on. In the words of Mohandas K. Gandhi: "Be the change you want to see in the world."
Perhaps one day I will have changed enough to be ready to enter a career in truly serving the people. But until then... I will continue to reflect, to act, and hopefully, to change.