By Augustine Anthony
I remember watching a movie sometime ago in which two friends were engaged in a conversation of a peculiar topic. The woman comes from an ideal family as opposed to the man who is from a family that has gone through indescribable hardship.
In the conversation the woman poses a question to the man,
The woman: If a wolf enters a house of a farmer and takes the farmer’s child away into the woods and eats up the child, do you think the wolf is bad?
The man: The answer depends on the question asked. Since the question is about the character of the wolf, you need to be a wolf yourself to get the right answer.
Perhaps in law one will call this a subjective test rather than an objective test as absolute certainty in human affairs is an unreliable guide thus a dangerous master.
The perception of many, that an alarming number of politicians from the ruling Barisan Nasional Coalition are corrupt beyond redemption is no longer uncommon. However the aftermath of the March 2008 General Election has added an unfortunate and unexpected twist to this stigma associated with the ruling Coalition. With power now concentrated in the hands of Federal Opposition Coalition in some states, even Pakatan Rakyat politicians are now being called the same devils in different cloaks. Loosely we have often heard the phrase “they are politicians and all politicians are the same”.
When my article Acceptance over Tolerance – The severed head of sacred cow, was published in limkitsiang.com, below is what at least one reader commented (in verbatim),
#24 by asra on September 1st, 2009 02:16
I am suprised why are you working closely with PKR. Everyone knows they are former UMNO members who are frustrated because their leader Anwar was sacked. Anwar when he was in UMNO was also corrupted what assuarance do we have that he wont be the same. When anwar was in UMNO he too made statements about championing the malays. Are we assured that we are going to have a real 1 Malaysia if anwar comes into power. You politicians are all the same because of power you guys can do anything. Make me sick.”
But it had taken a long period of reflection and an honest search from within to understand and admit that the fault lies in people as much as the politicians for having participated in the evolution of a system of governance that is veering out of its original axis of doing good for all.
As long as we have people who are unscrupulous opportunists roaming and seizing every advantage to enrich themselves in every unethical way possible, a government no matter how upright, will find it very hard indeed to implement effective policies for the good of all.
For as long as there are people who are prepared to sell their sacred constitutional rights of voting for even the smallest amount of money, we will continue to see the proliferation of these politicians that our society so often despise.
The allegations of vote buying are rampant during elections and just imagine if all Malaysians are prepared to say ‘no’ to every inducements or vote buying tactics of politicians desperate for votes to secure an election victory, I am sure all of us will have the peace and security of knowing that our parliament will be filled with only honest politicians.
I had been in the company of politicians and I really do not envy the term “Yang Berhormat” as it comes with an assortment of crippling demands and expectations, principal amongst them is the expectation of a sizeable group of people, that all politicians are Santa Claus except that Santa Claus is for Christmas season but politicians are for all seasons.
I have watched politicians in market coffee stalls with the intention of meeting people perhaps to resolve their problems and surrounded by a continuous stream of people. These people order food and drinks, enjoy it and in between rant and rave about all the woes in the country and leave the table but leaving behind the bills for the politicians to pick up.
I have heard politicians’ telephone ringing and yes! It’s another wedding and the third in a week and it must be attended together with a wedding gift befitting of a politician. Is it part of the requirement that politicians must attend every wedding in their constituency? Try saying “I can’t” and watch the withering of the politician’s reputation.
I have seen the invitation cards of social clubs, societies and various organizations where the politician is given the honor to cut the ribbon and yes along with the honor comes the expectation of donation that befits the guest of honor.
I have seen how politicians quiver with uneasiness when some charity dinner organizers call them up to sponsor dinner tables and there are charity dinners everywhere nowadays.
In a month the politicians are confronted by unimaginable financial expectations ranging from donation to temples, providing transportation to children going to school, tuition fees , footing the electricity and water bills, paying car loans of defaulters, even providing personal loans and what not, expected out of politicians’ own pockets.
These are the expectations of the ordinary simpletons who are voters but the appetites of those at the higher levels are somewhat much more voracious and sophisticated.
Many politicians who had entered politics with ideals, had experienced the terrible realities of life as politicians, with some having to live with accusations of corruption to survive the end game whilst others had become very bitter with what had become of them.
There are many outstanding people with a great sense of honor and integrity with a decent lifestyle and financial means which is enough only for their family. These people are great assets to the nation but they usually refuse to enter politics as they are conscious of the fact that there are always people out there who will feast on their flesh and suck on their marrow leaving an empty bone for none to pick.
Politics had become a money game. It is a lonely and desolate road for honorable men and principled politicians. The one with plenty to throw is the toast of the town. No wonder there are people who shamelessly admit that their entry into politics is for business opportunities. In order to throw money to the demanding people, one needs to make the money first. Questionable land acquisitions that displace many poor people to the easy money making prospects in the import of luxury vehicles through AP’s are things that we have heard so often. With this mindset flourishing unsuspectingly, service to self rather than service to the nation is prioritized.
Thus the culture of materialism is imbued as the blue print of the nation. Children nurtured by parents with virtues and characters of intrinsic value and appeal consider politics as gutter and politicians as rats that ply the gutter.
Educationists, teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, accountants, other professionals and many social workers including people who are invaluable assets to the nation and who are fit to step into the shoes of politicians had been trampled in the stampede for material prosperity at the expense of values and virtues and they had now rebranded their service to public as members of non governmental organizations, writers and bloggers.
A small number of politicians who steadfastly hold on to their values, principles and ideals are maliciously scorned by powerful but unethical information channels and brutally spurned by a sizeable misled population and some were even forced to endure incarceration then, and still face the same threats and constant harassments from state sanctioned bodies.
The new breeds of politicians have now succumbed to the evils of their masters. Their evil masters are none other than the people with insatiable demands and needs for all the material comforts here and now, potentially leaving nothing for the future generations.
The politicians, who are unable to satisfy the needs of these unreasonable people either give up their service to the nation or give in to corruption, the very trait that they must avoid at all cost.
A deep sense of sadness engulfs watching people entering politics to serve the nation but slowly caving in to every undesirable qualities known to man just for their very survival as politicians who are now twirled in the whirlpool of demands by the people.
With corruption setting in, there is plenty to throw to the ever craving people but with a devastating chain reaction in which the people in power have the opportunity to take plenty more of what should rightfully be the treasures of the nation for the future generations.
Now the nation is confronted with a deeply disturbing question. Are we prepared to engage in excessive and unwarranted enjoyment now and permit our children and grandchildren to carry the cross for our sins?
The cravings of the people for today’s needs and the cravings of the corrupt politicians to hoard the intended reserves of the future generations are not creating a symbiotic and synergistic environment for the prosperity of the nation but for a sure paralysis of the very fabric of our society.
All is not lost. We can still reverse this destructive process.
We can start by treating politicians as policy makers or lawmakers in its strict sense and stop treating them as Santa Claus.
We should be demanding honesty, integrity and competency. We should not be seen either directly or by subtle means demanding handouts that may place financial burden on these politicians or compromise their position of power and authority.
Nobody is infallible and we all know that and can accept that, however for every mistake made we should demand accountability (which simply means acceptance of the mistake and taking responsibility for it) instead of demanding political patronage that will keep us silent and contented.
Many politicians are now at the crossroad between personal honesty and the preservation of their political positions but we do need the modern day Gurkhas in politics too, politicians who are brave enough to confront the people and tell them that the country had come to what it is now not because of the misdeeds of the politicians alone but of the misconducts of the people too.
Nation building is not only the job of politicians but of the people too. None should shirk their responsibilities. Educating people to have a sense of personal pride right down to paying for their own cup of coffee is the real challenge that confronts the successful future politicians. The measure of success will greatly depend on how pleasing the tone of the message in its transmission is and how widely it is accepted.
(This article was first published in Kit Siang’s blog: http://blog.limkitsiang.com/2009/09/04/politicians-are-rats-from-gutter-and-people/)