Sunday March 3, 2013
A national obsession
On the Beat
By Wong Chun Wai
Politics seems to permeate all aspects of our life.
THEREíS no way I can get away from politics. Last week, when I went for my routine heart and stress check-up at a medical centre, a fellow patient walked over to me, introduced himself and asked when the general election would be held.
It was the last thing I needed, discuss politics with a total stranger, when my immediate concerns were my health and general well-being.
Our obsession with politics has badly divided the nation. It would not be wrong to say that we have had five years of non-stop campaigning by both sides following the 2008 political tsunami. And the political temperature is about to peak even before the actual election date is set.
I politely excused myself from entering into a discourse with this person, saying I wanted to take a rest before the treadmill test.
But when I finally met my doctor, the first thing he wanted to know was, yes, when the elections would be called and when he should be in the country to vote!
It was quite mind-boggling that he wanted me to share my prediction on the outcome of the polls, even as he was looking through my X-rays and other medical reports.
I had to calm him down and remind him that I was more interested in the outcome of the many tests that they had conducted on me. At least I would be able to get precise information in these circumstances because they are science-based.
Even the best political pundits cannot be that precise. Hello, who cares about the politicians?
This isnít as bad as my dental appointments. My dentist, who supports Pakatan Rakyat, angrily whacks the government while using the drilling apparatus in my mouth.
With the frightening shrill sound in the background, I do get a bit nervous over what might happen in the heat of his anger. Unable to talk, my mind would dwell on the 1976 film Marathon Man, where Sir Laurence Olivierís character Christian Szell, an ex-Nazi, used dental torture on Dustin Hoffmanís character Babe.
Then there is this Indian Muslim chef friend of mine. He is the only one outside my Penang home state who can fry a decent mee mamak.
He hates DAP and when he gets overly excited about it, he would add more salt into the wok. His mee mamak has become too salty and messed up over the past few months.
While on an overseas trip recently, a former Malaysian who now holds a British passport insisted on talking with me about politics. He hasnít been home for decades and isnít qualified to vote now but he still wants to give his two senís worth.
I had to remind him that I was on holiday and asked why he wanted to talk about Malaysia now that he has pledged his loyalty to the Queen.
Politics seems to permeate all aspects of our life and even my quiet time to worship is interrupted by eager church members asking me when the polls will be called.
Thanks to social media, almost everyone now has an opinion about how the country should be run.
Itís good because it means there is increased awareness of political development in the country, which is essential for a maturing democracy.
Politics should not be the monopoly of politicians, the media and civil servants. It should be the people who dictate the course. But in doing so, we need to engage in decent and reasonable discourse.
The black-and-white approach ferments hatred among the people when they belittle, ridicule and curse one another simply because of differences in fundamental beliefs and choice of political parties.
Fanatical supporters of both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat refuse to see the flaws of their own leaders while they magnify the flaws of the other side.
They cannot believe when their leaders are at fault, dismissing these as allegations to run down their idols. Some of these political idols are even seen as demi-gods or long-awaited saviours.
Amazingly, some tainted politicians, merely by changing their political affiliation, are transformed overnight into purported righteous, principled personalities who draw loud cheers at ceramahs.
Reading what is openly shared on social media, one can either laugh about it or allow it to push up oneís blood pressure.
And the problem is we are happily forwarding the links and e-mail to the people we know, thinking that they all think the same way we do and would appreciate our unsolicited sharing.
But this is not always the case, which may come as a surprise to the hardcore political supporters.
Politics in Malaysia has become tiring and tiresome. Can we just get the polls over with so that we can all go back to doing some real productive work?