May 1, 2016
Apathy an attractive option
by Dean Johns
Dean: There is now every reason to stay engaged–for reasons greater than yourself. Apathy means Surrender to the Darth Vader Types. Be a Master Yoda. –Din Merican in Cambodia
Some weeks, I have to confess, I totally lost my customary enthusiasm for criticising the power-freaks, incompetents, criminals and outright crazies who make life as miserable as possible for the majority of mankind by posing as political leaders.
And this past week I’ve been especially tempted to give up expressing my antipathy to these bleeders and misleaders, as for a couple of days my attention was diverted from the deadly state of politics by dire personal news.
My doctor doubtless had the best of intentions when she referred me for a chest X-ray. Whether this was a ploy on her part to panic me into stopping smoking after her all her attempts at persuasion had failed, or whether she genuinely suspected that 52 years of the filthy habit had finally given me lung cancer, I’m not sure.
In any event I got a call from her the moment she got the X-ray results, urgently requesting to see me the next day. So naturally I presumed the worst, and forgot politics in favour of frantically trying to figure-out what to do with what presumably precious little remained of my life.
Of course, as you can tell already by the fact that I’m back on deck here at Malaysiakini, the whole thing proved a false alarm.But the experience has proven salutary in some ways, one of which is to give me at least a shred of sympathy for those people I’m forever criticising for their pathetic political apathy.
Only the barest shred of sympathy, however, as it strikes me that the prospect of imminent death is a far better reason for no longer caring about political oppression than the petty self-absorption that appears to motivate most political apathetics.
But then, of course, as I mentioned up front in this column, there is the fact that the sheer quantity of political bad news, not to mention all the lying and spin by the crooks who cause it all, can be absolutely overwhelming of even the least apathetic among us.
To confine ourselves just to Malaysia for a start, it is absolutely paralysing to be continuously confronted by an endless string of political atrocities, currently ranging from the 1MDB fraud to the theft of yet another election, this time in Sarawak, and everything in between, including the retailing of guns and ammunition by a company co-owned by a daughter of the inspector-general of police, and a scheme involving the brother of the deputy prime minister to profit from the import of 1.5 million workers from Bangladesh.
What’s the Difference–Two sides of the same coin in Sarawak
And outside of Malaysia, much of the news is equally bad, if not worse. I can’t decide what’s the most extreme political turn-off in the world right now, but is surely has to be either the continuing destruction of Syria resulting from the al-Assad regime’s UMNO BN-style determination to cling to power, or the endless domination of the North Korean people by the deranged Kim dynasty.
The word ‘deranged’ inevitably takes us to other many other parts of the globe, too. To the Middle East and Africa, for example, where it is utterly impossible to overstate the ravages inflicted on people by Islamic State, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram and sundry other religio-political bands of homicidal maniacs.
By no means exempt from political idiocy
And the so-called ‘free’ world is by no means exempt from political idiocy, as evidenced by the determination by Donald Trump to ‘make America great again’ in even more idiotic ways than even previous Republican presidents like Nixon, Reagan, Bush Senior and Bush Junior have attempted to do it.
While in South-East Asia, the ever-ridiculously corrupt, inept and criminal UMNO BN regime seems about to get a run for its money from the Philippines, whose front-running candidate for the presidency, Rodrigo Duterte, is evidently addicted to making jokes about such deadly-serious issues as rape, and is also alleged to have operated death squads during his term as mayor of Davao.
As for the situation in Australia, words almost fail me. Admittedly it is still a pleasant country to live in for many if not most of us, thanks largely to the proper separation of powers between the government and other institutions, and general adherence to and respect for the rule of law.
But both sides of politics here apparently have a blind-spot for international refugee law, as thousands of asylum-seekers have been incarcerated in so-called ‘detention centres’ or in other words concentration camps for years.
So ridiculously and disgracefully determined have the major political parties been to deny these unfortunate human beings the chance of a new life in Australia that Cambodia, of all countries, was paid A$40 million to accept some of them.
A total of just five refugees have agreed to be resettled in Cambodia, and three of these have since left for their original homelands.In light of such outrageous waste, on top of the sheer inhumanity of it all, I can’t imagine how I could bring myself to vote for either the current Liberal-National Coalition federal government or the major alternative, Labor, so I guess I’ll have to go for the Greens.
Which of course brings me to the thought that at least I have an acceptable option to fall back on. Unlike the people of Sarawak, who are about to face a choice between an opposition composed of the hopelessly-conflicted PKR and DAP, not to mention the impossible PAS, and a long-ruling clique that has ruthlessly robbed the state of its timber resources and thus deprived the populace of its due social and economic progress.
Faced with such a stark choice between a pathetic opposition and a perennially parasitical and outright predatory UMNO BN-backed incumbent government, it’s hardly any wonder that even the most otherwise enthusiastic of voters might see apathy as their most attractive, indeed only option.
DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practises as a writing therapist. Published books of his columns for Malaysiakini include ‘Mad about Malaysia’, ‘Even Madder about Malaysia’, ‘Missing Malaysia’, ‘1Malaysia.con’ and ‘Malaysia Mania’.