July 25, 2012
Campaign on Policy
R. Nadeswaran (07-24-12)
A SATIRICAL piece that appeared in an anonymous blog made some important “discoveries”. Contrary to popular belief, it argued, it is not the open burning in Indonesia that is causing the haze across the Malacca Straits. It quotes an imaginative university professor and expert on the environment as saying: “The large plumes of toxic, nauseating smoke that permeate every crevice in the city are a direct result – nay a direct product – of the carp coming out of people’s mouths, especially politicians and the media from all sides, plus quick rich scheme con artists.”
This perhaps articulates how society perceives the verbal deliverances by personalities when taking part in popularity contests. While the occasional Freudian slip is acceptable, the continuous barrage of untruths, half-truths and misinformation that come out from the mouths of some personalities need little explanation. What needs to be explained is how experienced, educated and trained professionals reproduce and embellish them without even thinking about its truthfulness and the consequences.
When the headquarters of the European Food Safety Authority was moved from Finland to Italy, the then Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi took credit for it, saying: “I had to dust off my playboy skills with the Finnish President Taria Halonen to convince her to locate in Parma.” These remarks made headlines the world over.
But when Hillary Clinton said that North Korea acts like “small children or unruly teenagers”, she got what she deserved from the late Kim Jong Il stating that “he cannot but regard Clinton as a funny lady as she likes to utter such rhetoric, unaware of elementary etiquette in the international community. Sometimes, she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping”. North Koreans paid tribute to their “great leader” for taking on whom they perceived as an “imperialist”.
Most of us will laugh at such gaffes, but when political rhetoric crosses the border and intentional remarks and innuendo become the order of the day, people sit up and make their own conclusions.
It is election time and it is fair game to be making all kinds of statements, allegations and charges. Saying the right thing at the right place may be a vote-gaining move, but saying the wrong thing at the right place or the right thing at the wrong place may have dire consequences.
A slip of the tongue, it is said, is no fault of the mind but when politicians hand out verbal diarrhoea and the media knowingly reproduces the nonsensical statements made by all and sundry – is it political expediency or personal survival?
It is natural for one section of the populace to swallow everything hook, line and sinker, there’s another section which takes it with more than a generous portion of salt. There’s always sympathy for the person who admits his digression, owns up and says: “I made a mistake, please forgive me.”
But when people justify their erroneous ways and validate their indiscretions by bringing in the family and brazenly declaring that “I am very proud of what I did”, society looks at it in a different way.
Campaigning for self and the party is part of the democratic system but it is not a carte blanche for lies and slander. Daily, we are pounded with a flow of this and much more. After 54 years and 12 elections, it is time to take cognisance of the fact that the larger electorate will no longer be convinced by personal attacks.
Over the years, we believe that we have grown into a mature society where policies which improve our quality of life would be the deciding factor. So, let’s have healthy discourses to make us understand what you plan to do.
Running down opponents may even scare the fence-sitters who have yet to make their decision.
R. Nadeswaran hopes to keep an eye on the Malaysian scene while he is in London to cover the Olympics. He is reachable at: firstname.lastname@example.org