A MUST READ for all Malaysians going to the polls.
By Azly Rahman
Who owns the media and what impact will this have on the process of indoctrination and the dissemination of propaganda as election approaches? Will the media give each candidate equal access during campaigning?
How dynastic should politics be? Can anybody’s sister-in-law become the prime minister? Why shouldn’t a non-Malay with excellent values become the prime minister?
How do we better prepare the public psychologically and educationally for the election process?
What do the people want? Do they understand what the government is doing to ensure that tolerance and social justice become the guiding principles of national development? How ready are they to choose the next regime?
For the last 50 years, we have failed to educate our children on the importance of democracy and elections.
Our textbooks on civics education are perhaps written from the point of view of telling the citizens what a government is, based on selected history packaged as official knowledge, to be memorised as facts and to be regurgitated when the time comes for teachers to demand for the right answers from our children.
We have failed to ask them what it means to be a Malaysian, how to think like a Malaysian, and how to elect governments that will serve the interest of all Malaysians. There is no debate in schools on the merit of what our various political parties stand for.
We therefore cannot blame voters for this disease called ‘voter apathy’. Children’s understanding of politics has become truncated and limited to the idea that politics is only about political parties, dying dictators, and deadwood wakil rakyat; politics is not to be discussed in schools let alone be used as a platform of learning about good citizenship.
We therefore cannot blame university students for being more interested in passing exams, acquiring the latest electronic gadgets, idolising gangsta rappers and Death Metallists, or chanting slogans during rallies.
They are not able to articulate diverse viewpoints, let alone define a just society or conjure up the essence of a Malaysian-inspired ‘republic of virtue’. Ironically, the moment they are interested in politics and the fate of the nation, they get hunted down by university authorities!
We have only ourselves to blame. We deserve the government we elect because we have been conditioned to believe that one race is superior to others. The false sense of superiority demands, by any means necessary, that a fresh mandate be given in this ritual called election.
Education is a tedious process, a long haul, and an enterprise in which one makes one step ahead and perhaps go back three steps backwards. Education for democracy in a country such as Malaysia is going to be a tedious process not only because he have failed to prepare our citizens with the concepts and skills necessary to become informed voters, but also because we have successfully instill the fear of change in them.
It is ironic that we often talk about critical thinking and creativity in schools and structure these concepts into the curriculum and the learning process across all disciplines, but we have not seen the manifestations of this idea of education for social imagination.
What we have successfully done is to instill fear of each other based on the racial construct or religious constructs and economic condition we are born into. We not only have race-based political parties in fact playing their role in dividing and conquering the people, but also powerful related agencies working closely with structures of race-based ideology. These institutions are employed to turn our citizens into what American sociologist Herbert Marcuse call “one-dimensional beings”.
However, all is not lost. Let us at least hold the election next year. Let all the information be out in the open, so that we will have all the facts and informed opinions before each one of us votes. There is still time to educate, not aggravate. In education, there will always be hope.
As for our elections, let us set it for May 13, 2009 – a symbolic date of building bridges in a new era of change. It will be a more predictable date.
We can then open a new peaceful chapter of our epic story on race relations in a country of broken promises run by politicians demanding a fresh mandate.