Battle of Ideas: Why BN keeps winning

New York

June 21, 2016

Battle of Ideas: Why BN keeps winning

The political language remains the same but the ideas that fuel the people have changed

by Art Harun

Why, despite the BN leadership drowning in an abyss of scandal and widespread condemnation from almost everybody that I know, did it still manage to carve out convincing victories in the just concluded by-elections in Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Besar?

Art Harun@ Raju’s in Pee Jay

This morning I remember what Tocqueville said: “…in party politics as in other matters, it is the crowd who dictates the language, and the crowd relinquishes the ideas it has been given more readily than the words it has learned.”

Yes. It is the crowd, the voters that matter. It is they who put ink to paper to choose whoever they want to represent them.Yes, the crowd dictates the language: that language is the language of the party that has ruled the crowd for a long, long time.

As we know, words have many meanings and connotations, bringing about many interpretations and understandings. The idea of “Perjuangan Melayu” has always been the language of UMNO. In 1957 that language was a war cry to unite the Malays against colonialism.

In the 70s, that idea was of course irrelevant. We had already gained independence. The language then fed the idea that there must be equality of opportunities for the Malay. “Perjuangan Bangsa Melayu” evolved into an economic struggle and social restructuring that was deemed necessary to prevent social and economic imbalances that may have brought the country into chaos.

In the 80s, “Perjuangan Bangsa Melayu” became premised not upon inequality or social justice any more but upon “hak keistimewaan” and “ketuanan Melayu.” This was the era when the late Tan Sri Abdullah Kok Lanas, out of the blue, in a speech in Singapore, started the “ketuanan Melayu” polemic.

In 2016, under the current leadership, “Perjuangan Bangsa Melayu” has again morphed into something new. The language does not change. The language has not been relinquished. But the idea instilled behind the language has changed, yet again.

Tocqueville was right. The people dictate the language. And the crowd does not easily abandon the language. It is the ideas behind the language that change.

“Perjuangan Bangsa Melayu” is now a rather myopic view of any party or individual who goes against the mainstream. That mainstream is dictated by the majority.

Thus the liberals, the moderates (despite the Prime Mimister saying he is a moderate), the constitutionalists, the new-age Muslims who dare to think and reinterpret beliefs and faiths, the non-Muslims who complain about transgression of their rights and just about anybody who is just different are now scooped into one hot boiling cauldron of prejudices and hatred.

And that is not even to mention the Christians, the Cina DAP, the Yahudis, the Illuminatis, the West, the Communists, the Shiites and a million others deemed oddities and peculiar.

“Perjuangan Bangsa Melayu” now brings the idea that the Melayu are now besieged by enemies: they must unite to protect themselves.

The binding agent for the Melayu now is no longer economic equality. It takes the form of Kedaulatan Raja-Raja Melayu, but that is inevitably superficial and when convenient they will “Mertabatkan Kedaulatan Raja-Raja Melayu”.

The more effective binding agent is of course, Islam, the religion of the Malay.Enter Haji Hadi Awang and his band of Islamists in PAS.

Coincidentally, Tocqueville also said: “…the priests, the old aristocracy and the people met in a common sentiment — a feeling of revenge, it is true, and not of affection; but even that is a great thing in politics, where a community of hatred is almost always the foundation of friendships.”

PAS’s hatred of DAP and PKR has been showing for quite some time. Now, in these two by-elections, it is without doubt that PAS is in cohort with Umno. So, here we have two sworn enemies – sworn due to an “amanat” or an edict by no other than Haji Hadi himself in the 80s – forming a community of hatred and laying the foundation of friendships.

Tocqueville would be happy to see that he was right. A confluence of hatred can indeed communitise themselves together and found a friendship.

So I view the results of the two by-elections as a manifestation of the current language among the rural Malay voters as well as the newly found binding agent that “unite” the Malays against the “enemies.” (There are of course many other binding agents, such as various “gifts”, government “bantuan” that suddenly sprang out from the government etc etc, but let’s not go into that).

What is heartening is to see is Amanah, a wholly new party, gaining quite substantial votes in their first showing. In fact, in Sungai Besar they have more votes then PAS! What happened to Haji Hadi’s godly prediction that Amanah would not be able to match PAS?

UMNO and the BN may now go to town about the increase in Chinese and Indian votes for them. I don’t see anything big in that: more Chinese and Indians voted for the BN not because they love the BN or UMNO but they are just angry with PAS. They see Amanah as an off-shoot of PAS that cannot be trusted. Hence their vote for the BN.

In order to win the rural heartland, I think a new language must be introduced. The ideas behind the old language must be reinterpreted and new and fresh ideas introduced and instilled.

You just cannot continue fighting an opponent when it is the opponent who sets the tone and the rules, defines the language and dictates the discourse.

How do you do that? That’s for the politicians to think about and decide.

Reproduced from Art Harun’s page on Facebook at By-elections ramblings.

8 thoughts on “Battle of Ideas: Why BN keeps winning

  1. A very incisive and eloquent analysis. This article shows how racist UMNO has been, and still is, all these years. The language is little changed but the underlying story is. Their favourite weapon? To claim to be the protector of the race and to scare the Malays into believing that they are under seige, even under attack, by all the other Malaysians.

  2. Very long winded, verbose rationalization of something that’s actually quite simple. How about this:
    BN keeps on winning because the opposition refuses to face two realities:
    1. Its the rural Malay vote that determines the outcome in rural constituencies, and ultimately in Peninsular Malaysia;
    2. The rural Malay will vote for the party that champions their interest, or who at least say they will champion their interests.
    Or, to put it even more simply, as long as the opposition does not come out and categorically state their commitment to the NEP or whatever is the current form, they will remain in the opposition. Rural Malay voters are actually behaving quite naturally and rationally.
    So there you have it. My money is on BN for the next 50 years.

    It is time we think beyond the much abused and morally corroding NEP. The Malays must be empowered to be self reliant instead of being subservient to a corrupt nanny state led by UMNO. We have been taught to think that UMNO is the solution to all Malay problems. The truth be told that our UMNO-BN government is our main problem. One would have thought that as a man from Stanford you would be preaching the virtues of competition.

    We Malays have lost our maruah when we chose for convenience to become a people who depend on handouts from corrupt leaders who take more for themselves.Nobody owes us a living. We all fend for ourselves. There are no easy options in life.

    Finally, I agree that BN will be around; but only for a while. Eventually a corrupt regime crumbles thoroughly.–Din Merican

  3. Pray, what language change can take down the manipulation of the language of the Quran and Hadith wrapped around racism??

    Hadi’s PAS did this because they are religo-racist. Islam is not a necessary a religion of peace nor equality. It can and does hate and discrimination.

    Malay liberals better face what all non Malay has accepted, either learn to live as second class or find an exit.

  4. @Mazlan Felda is socialism, and a liberal ideal to help the meek to be self reliant. social liberal democrats would carry identical ideal also.

    Beyond the label, NEP has only been successful in being neoliberal ideology to enrich a few. Seriously, are the Felda settlers actually excited and take pride in committing into the Felda scheme? Is Felda a fair co-op win-win situation for the rural poor Malay, or perhaps it has become a transformed tool to enslave the nons for generations to come?

    Mazlan, do help correct me if I got the detail wrong? NEP, yes.. but better, more effectively done, and most of all, more inclusive. It must become a plan that all Malaysians would take pride.

  5. Whatever it is, what amazes me is how UMNO Lama and later UMNO Baru is able to educate the majority Malay population to actually consider the NEP as something to be proud about.

    However, we do in recent years see some inkling that the younger educated Malays are beginning to see the NEP as an insult, something which alarms UMNO because if the trend continues UMNO may become irrelevant, and hence perhaps it, UMNO, is now toying with religion as a gardening tool to cultivate another instrument to control the Malays regardless of whether PAS is a partner or not?
    You are right, Wayne.UMNO only knows how to bribe the Malays into submission. Educate wrongly so they remain intellectually retarded. Religion and bomoism are the new instruments–Din Merican

  6. Barisan keeps winning because many people who benefit from their being in power support BN- this includes all Malaysian races. Corruption is no barrier to governance when its a benefit.

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