Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Malaysian mind change

In the short run, the old policy of  "divide and rule" may succeed but the future lies with the new forces.

TO the social observer, subtle changes are taking place in society. I refer to the opening of the Malaysian mind.

This is a relatively new phenomenon, but an important one with significant ramifications for the socio-economic-political future of the country.

On one hand, there is the closing of the Malaysian mind that is oblivious to the changing world and its consequences for the country.

These are the reactionary forces who are unable to understand the global forces at work. They continue to live in the past, buttressed by archaic structures and outmoded forces.

They believe they can retain the past and enjoy their privileges. These forces are still strong and wield much power, taking advantage of ignorance and divisions within society.

They seemingly champion changes but in reality, manipulate the system to maintain the status quo. It is important to recognise this group for what they are, lest we are taken in by their rhetorics.

The exciting development is not the closing of the Malaysian mind but its opening, which offers tremendous potential for the future growth and direction of the country.

We see a new thinking taking shape among Malaysians that cuts across race, religion and rural-urban divide. This is a growing group, mostly young but not solely.

They have an open mind to religious freedom, transparency, equal opportunity, competition, authority and personal freedom. They represent a breath of fresh air. Admittedly, their number is small but growing.

Paradoxically, it is the past policies and initiatives of the Barisan government that have laid the foundation for the emergence of this new social change.

The change is led not by the elite that is heavily beholden to vested interests and have lost the capacity to provide objective leadership.

Neither is the change coming from the academic corridors. Sadly, academics have become partisan and have compromised their independence to lead change.

The public bureaucracy, too, has lost its neutrality to initiate meaningful changes. Many of the civil society organisations have also become aligned to interest groups.

Interestingly, the change is coming from ordinary people in the streets and coffeeshops with common sense, decency and innocence. Because they have not been spoilt by power, money and position, they are able to see the changes necessary to shape the future of Malaysia.

These are the people, for example, who see the importance of an English education for their children and the broader issues in religion, culture, race and public accountability.

They are politically streetwise and see the trees for the forest. They are becoming hard to be manipulated by the elite through promises of goodies. This is not people power but street wisdom.

As this group grows in size and reaches a critical mass, we will see a gradual change in the politics of the country for the better.

The old and the new emerging forces are at loggerheads. One stands for real change and the other for pseudo change.

The new forces are genuine, cut across race and are global.

They see a Malaysia losing out to the region and the world unless there is real economic, social and political change.

Irrespective of who wants to govern Malaysia, the secret to success lies in how one manages the new social forces.

In the short run, the old policy of divide and rule may succeed but the future lies with the new forces.

The political leaders of both camps seem to be unable to understand the implications of the new emerging forces.

One thing is clear though, the opening of the Malaysian mind is a welcome change and augurs well for the country. Also, it is a force that cannot be contained or suppressed for too long. It can only grow with time.

Will our leaders rise to the occasion and harvest the forces of change for the sake of the country or will they continue to indulge in manipulation and rhetoric for political interest?

Petaling Jaya.

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