It’salready the age of Twitter and Facebook, and of Obama and his Blackberry, but some of our politicians have not moved with the times.
VISITING hospitals can be therapeutic and politically healthy. Our politicians should really make it a point to visit hospitals more regularly, not just for medical check-ups but also to talk to those who are really ill.
At the wards, it doesn’t really matter what the skin colour of your roommates is when you are fighting for your life. Your fate would be decided by the doctors and God, of course.
Nobody picks who should be their doctors or nurses. Race and religion do not matter because you want the best medical care.
If you have a massive heart attack, you want the best cardiologist to treat you. Racial preference is the last thing on your mind.
And if you need blood, nobody would ask the blood bank what the race of the donor is. The colour of blood is not black, white, brown or yellow. It’s the same red.
It’s the same with teachers. Parents don’t care about the race of teachers so long as they can give the best to their kids.
If you have a business, you want the best people to run your companies. You look for honest, dedicated, loyal and hardworking staff. That’s all that matters.
What good is having someone who is of the same race as the boss if he is impotent, lazy or, worse, steals money from the company?
Be colour blind
It’s the same with politicians who claim to fight for their race but are blatantly corrupt.
In Malaysia, given our multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural make-up, we have the best pool of talent to choose from. We are comfortable with each other as we understand each other’s religion and culture.
In the United States, big corporations require their employees, especially Caucasians, to attend “cultural sensitivity” courses to appreciate the growing pluralism there.
By right, after 50 years of independence, we should be able to think and live like Malaysians; one Malaysia, that is.
But we are still struggling with race relations, and some of us think it has worsened.
It doesn’t help that some of us prefer to overlook the implications of Barack Obama’s election as US president by saying the US has a 200-year history and ours is merely over 50 years.
Looking for excuses to cover our racial blemishes will not help us become a great nation. It won’t cultivate our best young people to have courage, hope and dreams instead of cynicism and pessimism.
When we say everyone can aspire for the highest office in the country, it shouldn’t be just lip service. We must believe in it and work to make it happen.
Great leaders of Malaysia would be remembered as those who gave every Malaysian, regardless of their race and religion, a chance. We would also remember those who make offensive racial statements that hurt the community.
Ordinary Malays, Chinese and Indians do not care about race. In the rural areas, predominantly Malay voters have chosen Chinese candidates, and vice-versa.
There are no Indian majority constituencies but the number of Indian elected representatives has increased. In many urban areas with a strong Malay presence, Indian MPs have been picked.
In states won by Pakatan Rakyat, non-Malays have actually been appointed to key portfolios, which represent a dramatic shift in policies. And in Kelantan, under Barisan Nasional, there was also a state exco post for a Chinese.
Whether it is the Barisan or Pakatan Rakyat, party has always come first for our electorate, never race or religion, which speaks volumes for ordinary Malaysians – if self-proclaimed communal heroes don’t get in the way.
Eight months have gone by and four years is hardly light years away. Umno has to decide whether the losses it sustained during the last general election were the result of a political fluke caused by a temporary swing to the opposition and internal sabotage or the result of an altered political landscape.
It has to do better than Pakatan if Barisan wants to win back the states it lost. As the rakyat feels more comfortable with the Pakatan state governments, with more saying Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim are doing a better job than their predecessors, the task becomes harder for the Barisan.
Caught up in its party elections, it is obvious that Umno has not spent enough time thinking of the consequences ahead; neither has it shown signs that it wants to change.
It would be an area that Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak needs to re-examine when he takes over the leadership in March.
In conversations with editors, he has demonstrated a good understanding of the changes in Malaysia and he realises that it cannot be business as usual.
Drumming up racial fears from the perceived or make-believe threat of losing one’s identity, economic position, race and language has been used before but it looks very much out of sync today. It cannot be more of the same.
Young voters and the shifting middle ground are just not interested in squabbles of the past and cultural wars, which never seem to be resolved or are resurrected endlessly by our politicians.
It’s already the age of Twitter and Facebook, and of Obama and his Blackberry, but some of our politicians have not moved with the times. They are still talking about issues of yesteryear and using the approach of the street politics of the 60s.
Worse, some younger politicians are echoing the elders, presumably to be in line, and are still telling us to read our history books. The only problem is that some of these history lessons are not even in the textbooks.
More importantly, if some of our politicians do not change, if they continue to use the political formula of the past, they could end up as history.