September 2, 2018
Observe Butterflies: Malaysian Politics in all its absurdity
by Dr. Azly Rahman@www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT | We live in a world patterned by randomness, of systems of organized chaos, of butterflies that flapped their wings in the ‘70s in the Amazonian jungle creating ripples surrounding them, which today indirectly created hurricanes, thunderstorms of a massive scale, creating tsunamis, and shifts in ocean floors that became chaos in the weather system.
There is no cause and effect, or causal relationship here, but there is a sense of inter-relationships of events, which may be discerned mathematically, of which fractal-geometric patterns could be constructed. We have complex systems of unpredictability at work, like the inner workings of fate and determinism, of deus ex machina, of the human agency and divine intervention. Music of the Newtonian spheres meets Buddhist koan music meets Jimi Hendrix’s and Eddie Van Halen’s guitar riffs.
I thought of my beloved country, Malaysia, today, after having a conversation with students on global issues and chaos theory, on how to read the world and interpret it, linking the idea that we cannot predict things, that there will be war and violence, interspersed by relative periods of peace, detente, ceasefires, but the bombings and maiming will continue, whether in Yemen by the US-Saudi-Israeli led coalition, or the mass-killings of the stateless Rohingya Muslims by the Buddhist-monk-led pogrom aided by the military, or the violence perpetually committed by the Zionist-state of Israel upon the Palestinians, especially in Gaza and the West Bank.
I thought of karma, of the world as perhaps a battleground of good versus evil, a Zarathustrian notion. A location of the reincarnations of avatars at war with one another. We live in a violent world, as if God had long ago left the scene, letting human beings slaughter one another using now meaningless arguments of race, religion, nationalism, wealth, power, inclusivity, exclusivity, this and that racial superiority – these as leitmotif and reason to dominate and annihilate one another.
A hopeless world we are living in? “Empty spaces, what are we living for? Abandoned spaces, I guess we know the score. … Doesn’t anybody know what we are living for?” I recall Freddy Mercury of the British rock group Queen lamenting in one of his songs.
Then, my long existential moment came a-visitin’. What is the meaning of all these? Of war, violence, poverty, of powerful individuals running the planet? Of the world getting hotter, weapons of mass destruction getting deadlier, of the world’s poverty and hunger getting closer to NO-EXIT, like an absurd play of the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.
I thought of Malaysian politics in all its absurdity as well. I tried to think about the meaning of the patterns of randomness and chaos, of the Butterfly Effect ,of her ‘Merdeka!’ or “independence” and what it means, or if it has any meaning at all. I only have questions, Socratic if you may, of what if and what then and why this and that. Or why has it come to this stage in our evolution. Merdeka questions. O’ merde! I exclaimed in silence, inside.
Here are my thoughts as I imagine myself that Amazonian butterfly thinking of the shape of things, events, as I whirl and whirl, like a drunk Sufi master dancing aimlessly into nothingness, hoping to reach god.
Merdeka! Are we really?
The massive debt inherited by the new regime, after a 60-year looting by the government of Ali Baba and the Forty robber-barons. The PAS-UMNO love affair in times of political cholera. One hundred days of solitude of the new regime crafting a labyrinth for a generalissimo rebranded. Themes of continuity of the Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ masterpieces. Orang Asli blockades and the struggle of the tribes against those with power and money, patroned by the government. The reported 2.1 billion ringgit left by a politician who died (mysteriously, I suppose) in a helicopter crash, en route to a friend’s wedding.
The continuing saga of Anwar Ibrahim and Mahathir Mohamad of the struggle to ensure the promised peaceful transfer of power will indeed happen, by human design or by divine intervention. The nagging debate on education and equal opportunity, such as the stubbornness of those in power to grant graduates of the UEC university entry. And the absurd technological fantasy of reviving a new car industry when all in the past have not been a glory. Check out the Multimedia Super Corridor.
Then of course, there is the new global Communist Chinese hegemony unleashing its capitalist libidinal-urgency in a “debt-trapping-Ah Long” economic strategy, imposed on poor countries.
You can add to the list to complexities plaguing this country as the forces of race, religion, class, and national identity play their role in structuring the “butterfly effect of things”.
How long will the Pakatan Harapan government last in the face of a forceful oppositional coalition resurfacing, subverting, buying politicians to switch allegiance, manufacturing crises, orchestrating the “bangkit Melayu” this and that, to nurture yet another mass provocation a la the prelude to May 13, 1969? How long?
We don’t have any answers to all these. This is the pattern of random chaos, of the Butterfly Effect of things as it plays with the Internet of things, with the politics of things, with the rise of political dynasties on both sides of the divide, whose family members all try not only to keep their political jobs given by the people, but perhaps pursue the Malaysian Dream of Merdeka – of being billionaires through the manoeuvring of wealth and power.
All this, while the rakyat moans and groans on promises unfulfilled, while the headlines appease the angry masses through yet another breaking news of 1MDB or Jho Low’s whereabouts. That’s entertainment.
Welcome to the show that never ends. Have a great Merdeka Day. Keep observing the butterfly, flapping its wings!
AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of seven books. He grew up in Johor Bahru, and holds a Columbia University doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in five areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, and creative writing.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.