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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fishmongers & Scaremongers

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This may sound a bit odd, but two articles in The Nut Graph last Friday, by Jacqueline Ann Surin and Ding Jo-Ann respectively, got Walski to suddenly think about fishmongers. In particular, scary fishmongers.

Hopefully not coming to a fish market near you, image hosting by Photobucket

Not that he’s ever had the displeasure of bumping into any homicidal fishmonger at any point in time. Which is probably a good thing. But it’s probably the fascination with the sharp implements of hurt that a fishmonger uses as part of his or her daily tasks. The knives, in particular, and the filleting skills on top of that. Swish.

Logically, it should only be the fish that should be afraid of the fishmongers. But by the time they reach the market, the fish are already bereft of life. Do fish souls haunt fish markets? Walski honestly doesn’t know.

It should be made known to the uninitiated that Walski’s mind works in mysterious ways. Just ask the initiated – they, too, think that he can be a bit strange sometimes.

The reason for mentioning this is that when Walski got reminded of scary fishmongers by The Nut Graph articles, it’s not fish nor their mongers that he’s thinking about at all.
(politics, lies, and scaremongering, in the full post)

He was, in fact, thinking of Fishy Scaremongers. Like what these so-called journalists put up on the front page of local Malay language daily Berita Harian recently.

Image taken from The Malaysian Insider, hosting by Photobucket

As it turns out, the ratio of 1 newly-registered Malay voter to 40 non-Malays was not only inaccurate, but the real ratio is quite the opposite, based on actual data obtained from the Election Commission – there are actually TWICE as many newly-registered Malay voters compared to non-Malays. In other words, a blatant lie.

Of course, Berita Harian being owned by proxies of the ruling BN coalition will never have to face charges of publishing false news. That would be unthinkable.

So blatantly and grossly untrue was this report, that it was refuted by those within UMNO itself. Did BH even attempt to verify the story before splashing it as a front-page headline, or is that something too unreasonably professional to ask of the daily? And couldn’t it be said that Berita Harian, in this instance, was complicit in fear mongering?

But if Berita Harian (bad journalism practice and all) are just the bad acorns, the UMNO tree is not much better. Enter Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who of late has been trying to scare the bejesus out of the Malay Malaysian populace. With this, for instance.

The truth of the matter is that it is UMNO that is at risk of losing power. After 53 years of continuous rule, first via The Alliance, and from the early 1970s onwards through Barisan Nasional, the thought of losing ruling power isn’t a very savory one. That’s understandable.

Further signs of this fear can be sensed through another news report, again featuring Muhyiddin.

At least this time he doesn’t hide behind the almost-myth of Malay unity to say what he really means, that it is UMNO that’s at risk.

But again, here’s the odd thing: UMNO is an ethno-nationalist party whose basis of struggle has been anchored around championing the Malay race. The political landscape is changing towards what Walski sees as being more issue-driven, rather than being based along the lines of ethnicity. How can UMNO change to become more relevant in such a scenario? As we’ve seen in recent years, one strategy is to be more focused on religion as the recipe for success, which probably explains the recent recruitment of a number of young ulama into the party fold, in their bid to out-Islam PAS, or at the very least to bolster their “Islamic” credentials.

Well, to Walski it all sounds fishy. At the end of the day, it’s about power, and staying in power. That’s what Malaysian politics is about, make no mistake about it. Race and religion are merely means to achieve an end. That’s something Walski has come to realize in the last two decades since he came back to Malaysia.

But the side-effect of putting more religion into the mix is that it emboldens the religious authorities and other interested parties. And it emboldens them to do some not very intelligent things sometimes. That, however, is another story that we’ll talk about at another time.

Suffice it to say that after removing the fishy noise that surrounds the scaremongering, what remains is the desire to stay in power. And an increasingly desperate desire to do so, Walski might add. Realizing that as the landscape changes, all they can do is talk about how it is changing, and unable themselves to change, must be a very disheartening feeling.

The reality about what Malays think about the threat to the Malay political position? Last Friday, the Merdeka Centre released the results of a Malaysian Political Values 2010 survey, conducted between January and April this year. The survey covered various aspects of political views and values. The following finding, however, was interesting.

Among particular ethnic groups, the survey found that among Malay respondents, 70% agreed that corruption among the community’s leaders was the main threat to Malay/Bumiputra’s political position as opposed to “demands made by other races in the country”.
(source: Merdeka Center survey)

Merdeka Center survey result excerpt, hosting by Photobucket

Instead of trying hard to overcome their own inertia and face the real problems, the fishy scaremongers are more likely to blame others for their own predicament. It’s always easier to find fault in others than to admit one’s own deficiencies.

In the meantime, because UMNO is a major part of BN, which forms the current government, there is an overall lack of belief and trust in the ruling government, particularly when it comes to how public funds are spent.

Merdeka Center survey result excerpt, hosting by Photobucket

A trust level of 37% is very low, by any kind of reckoning. Datuk Jema Khan, through his regular column in The Malaysian Insider yesterday, calls it a situation of Trust Deficit. On top of that, Walski would add that it’s also a case of Credibility Deficit.

Overcoming these deficits with Fishy Scaremongering isn’t going to help in either case. In fact, it just compounds the perception of how desperate those currently in power are in wanting to stay in power, through any means possible.

Including fishy ones, like scaremongering, based on flimsy or non-existent “facts”.

Sadly, before any real positive change can be realized, Walski expects a lot more fishy scaremongering to come our way. Because proud idiots usually prefer to remain the way they are, rather than to admit that they are idiots.

It almost makes him look forward to actually meeting a scary fishmonger one day… at least a can of mace, a quick pair of legs, or a 357 Magnum can provide a fix.